I have a love / hate relationship with novellas. On the whole, I generally find that they don’t tend to have characters who are fleshed out enough, or a plot that is satisfying. I’m happy to say that’s not the case here. Douglas Bennet is your typical young gentleman who enjoys, among other things, women and wagers. When an opportunity presents itself that involves both, he can’t resist. At a ball, a friend wagers that he won’t be able to convince the aloof widow, Madeline Wilde, to dance. Sure of his charms, he takes the bet, only to be turned down.
Rather than become discouraged, he finds himself intrigued by the beautiful lady, who doesn’t dance or socialize. The stakes are upped when his friend tells him that he suspects Madeline of being the mysterious author of a scandalous publication called 50 Ways to Sin. There is a substantial reward offered for being able to prove the author’s true identity, so Douglas is even more intrigued. I found Douglas to be charming, if a bit shallow at the beginning. But the more he pursued Madeline and got to know her, the more he developed as a person. I love that he realized and admitted his feelings for Madeline and became protective. Madeline was a bit of a mystery for most of the story. She was widowed, but not a whole lot of information about her first marriage was given. I got the impression that it was not an unhappy union, though not a great love match. I wondered what it was that made her so aloof. Why would she attend all these functions if she didn’t dance or socialize, or if she weren’t looking for a husband or lover? I enjoyed watching her walls crumble as Douglas wore down her resistance.
All’s Fair in Love and Scandal is a must read if you’re following Caroline Linden’s Scandalous series, and the continuing saga of the mysterious 50 Ways to Sin. You can read this as a standalone, but will appreciate it much more if you’ve read the previous novels. I enjoyed watching the passion and love develop in two very different personalities. As far as Madeline’s mysterious behavior, you’ll have to read and discover the answer for yourself. I recommend that you do, as it’s a lovely and enjoyable journey.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short Reviews. It has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.