A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason is a Regency-era historical romance novel with a plot revolving around espionage, hidden identities, and a forced marriage.
Book Series: Sin Trilogy #2
Published by: Avon
Genres: Historical Romance, Georgian Era Romance
Format: eBook, Paperback
Buy on: Amazon, AbeBooks
Reviewed by: Introvert Reader
TOTAL SPOILER ALERT ⚠
Having read a few Connie Mason books in the past and (more or less) being entertained by them, I picked up A Breath of Scandal expecting some ahistorical yet sexy, romantic fun. Sadly, except for the wallpaper Georgian background, the second book in her “Sin Trilogy” series lacked all those standard Mason elements.
Chock-full of my most hated pet peeves, I should’ve put this book down when the hero raised the ire of my inner Ron Swanson by vehemently proclaiming that smugglers were cheating the Crown and the English government out of their right to collect taxes on French wine.
This is not a good sign of things to come.
Julian, Earl and Spy
Julian, Earl of Mansfield, is known as the Scorpion (pet peeves number 2 and 3: English nobleman is a spy, plus an animal alias for extra lameness), and he’s posing undercover to catch the evil smuggler, the Jackal (there’s another stupid animal codename).
The Jackal tried to kill Julian years earlier but instead killed Julian’s pregnant fiancée.
Julian vowed revenge for the only woman he ever cared for. (Pet peeve number 4: the hero is obsessed with his dead fiancee and lover all throughout the entire book. So much so that he cannot acknowledge his feelings for the heroine).
Julian, the Spy Lord, and Lara, the Gypsy Lady
A Breath of Scandal begins with Julian on a mission. His identity is exposed, and he is shot by the Jackal’s men. Julian jumps off a boat and washes ashore, only to be discovered by some traveling gypsies.
Mason stretches the bounds of credibility here when Julian is found by lovely Lady Lara, the illegitimate daughter of a gypsy and an English Earl, who first knew of her father’s identity when her mother died.
She showed up on her father’s doorstep at age 13. He accepted her and made her legitimate. Now she spends most of the year with her father but is allowed to spend summers with her Gypsy family before settling down with an English husband.
Other than caravans and the word “gadjo” for an outsider, it doesn’t appear as if Mason did any real research on Roma people, but as I said, this is wallpaper historical at its worst.
A Forced Marriage
Lara is drawn to the stranger and helps heal him back to health. In a twist of events, Julian and Lara are married in typical gypsy wedding fashion. (?) Lara declares Julian is her husband three times in front of men who are pursuing Julian, and Julian doesn’t deny it.
With his black hair (another pet peeve—it’s nit-picky and shallow, I know—his hair doesn’t match the reddish-brown hair on the back cover) and walnut-stained skin, Julian pretends to be a gypsy while his wounds heal.
Meanwhile, he takes advantage of his marriage to Lara by banging her, banging her, and banging her some more.
He doesn’t consider his marriage to Lara binding because she’s only a gypsy, after all. He hides his true identity from his “wife” and is known solely as Drago. And, of course, Lara doesn’t tell him that she is the half-English daughter of an Earl.
Julian goes on and on about how he is an honorable man. What’s that saying about how a man with honor doesn’t call himself one? Well, that applies to Julian, as his repeated actions belie his claims. Such a shame because I like stuffed-shirt, uptight heroes and was expecting Julian to be rigidly noble. Alas, he was just a lame-ass loser.
Scandalous Secrets Revealed in A Breath of Scandal
Eventually, Julian leaves Lara to go back to his home in England. Lara is headed there as well to enter society and find a husband. Lara’s fortune-telling grandmother predicts that she will not see Drago in England.
Of course, she does see him—not as Drago, but in his true form as Julian, Lord Mansfield. Upon realizing Lara is the daughter of an Earl, Julian’s supposed honor kicks in, and he vows to marry Lara for real. Because gypsies don’t deserve respect, even if they save your life! (That is sarcasm, in case your detector is broken.)
The Jerky Hero
Julian does all he can to convince her into matrimony. This consists of:
- Compromising Lara in a carriage in a public park
- Accusing her father of being the nefarious Jackal
- Putting her in danger several times
- Absconding with Lara to Scotland and leaving her Daddy a note
- All this while having as much sex with Lara as he can and telling her he doesn’t love her. He will say he probably never love her due to the pain of losing his fiancée.
Honorable man indeed.
The worst is when he hides in the woods like a coward while Lara and her family convince the Jackal’s henchmen that Julian isn’t there. Some hero.
Another pet peeve of mine rears its head as Lara declares emphatically that if Julian does not love her, she won’t marry him. But she’ll keep on sleeping with him, because he’s too irresistible!
Final Analysis of A Breath of Scandal
To be fair, the first 100 pages of A Breath of Scandal were okay. Connie Mason has an erotic way with love scenes. I was on board to give it a 3-star rating, as there was a Lindsey-like vibe that appealed to my bad taste.
Unfortunately, this was a 400-page book, and the story went in circles for the last 300 pages. There were glaring errors that were hard to ignore.
When Julian and Lara meet up with her gypsy family, Lara’s grandmother happily exclaims, “I told you that you’d meet Drago again!” No, she had said the freaking opposite!
For an Avon paperback, this was riddled with errors galore. What were the highly-paid New York editors smoking? In 2001, it was probably mass-produced BC bud.
Julian is referred to as Lord Manchester a few times, but he’s Lord Mansfield!
Plus, the anachronisms were painful to deal with.
If a story has charm, appealing characters, or an engaging WTF vibe, I can overlook bad history, but when there are none of those qualities present, then I just can’t enjoy the ride. Sorry, A Breath of Scandal.
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She claimed him as her husband without even knowing his name. Now she will risk everything to keep his secret—but can she give her heart without having his love in return?
Lord Julian Thornton, Earl of Mansfield by day and secret agent of the crown by night, has sworn never to love another woman. But then a mission goes wrong, and Julian is left for dead, his only hope a seductively mysterious gypsy woman named Lara. And when she marries him under gypsy law for his own protection, Julian is too entranced with the dark beauty to deny himself the benefits of their marriage.
Yet even as he longs for their idyllic interlude to last, Julian knows his presence alone puts her very life in danger. Until he discovers Lara in the one place he never expected to see his wild gypsy enchantress…the one place where he isn’t sure he can protect her—or his own heart.
From the moment Lady Lara, half-gypsy daughter of the Earl of Stanhope, finds a wounded stranger washed up on Scotland’s rugged shore, she knows their destinies will be forever entangled. So when a band of smugglers comes looking for the dashing stranger, Lara doesn’t hesitate to claim him as her husband “Drago.”
But when her mysterious husband goes back to his own world—and its dark secrets—Lara returns to her father to take her place as his heiress…never expecting to find her Drago across the earl’s crowded ballroom. And although he still enthralls her, Lara is determined that she will never truly be his wife until he surrenders his heart as well.A Breath of Scandal by Connie Mason