Jennifer Ashley's "Scandal and the Duchess" (#6.5 in the MacKenzies and McBrides series)

Scandal and the Duchess -  Jennifer Ashley


This story is novella-length and quite a lot of fun. Steven McBride is scrumptious as the hero and his heroine, Rose Barclay, the dowager Duchess of Southdown, is a delight. Their initial meeting, with Steven literally falling at her feet on the street in a drunken stupor, is priceless. The next day, after spending the night in Rose's coachman's apartment and sleeping off his hangover, Steven decides he has to help Rose regain what she is rightfully owed as the widow of the Duke of Southdown, because her stepson, the new Duke of Southdown, detests her and wants to cut her out of what is owed to her entirely. The dead duke set up his bequest to Rose as something of a scavenger hunt - this part is quite fun and interesting, and of course only Ian Mackenzie, with his extraordinary gifts for deduction and detail orientation, can solve the final piece of the puzzle. The only drawback to all this is the characterization of the stepson, the new Duke of Southdown, who is portrayed as being practically psychotic - but this is surely not necessary, because an unpleasant character is usually more effective when portrayed as a rational being instead of a half-crazed one.