Spencer. Minerva. Infamous (Rebels of the Ton, #3). Kensington, 2021. 352 pp. ISBN 9781496732873 $15.95
A prank gone wrong results in a marriage of convenience, banishment, and hurt feelings; can the perpetrator be redeemed? Celia Trent, a nasty backstabbing debutante trying desperately win a rich husband to raise her station in life, meant to trap her intended’s annoying and odious twin Richard with the dull wallflower Phyllida Singleton as a joke at a ball, but instead it’s Lucien (Lord Davenport) who is comprised overnight in a locked room with Phyl. They make the best of it, marry, and even have two children, but something is off.
It takes sister Toni’s engagement to the unsavory bully Sebastian, Lord Dowden–the mastermind behind the mean behavior so many years ago–to uncover and set right the wrongs of ten years ago. Celia, now a widowed working girl playing maid to an ornery, elderly member of the ton, has been invited to the wedding festivities, to take place over the Christmas holiday. If she can just make it to the year’s end a bonus is hers. Once back in society’s orbit, Celia is shocked to feel a pull not towards Luce, but to Richard, now an naturalist whose risque paper on the breeding imperative makes him still weird, but not as odious as in his gawky young adulthood. She slowly realizations her fascination with him may have been chemistry, not aversion, all those years ago. One by one, Celia makes her apologies to each wronged party and is wonderfully accountable.She is reluctant to disclose the existence of her daughter (results of an unplanned pregnancy via Dowden), her history as a mistress, and her growing feelings for Richard, resulting in an air of mysteries unravelled throughout the novel. Will she–or someone else?–spill the beans about Dowden’s true nature, or will young, naive Toni marry in haste?
The story takes part in winter on an estate in regency England and captures the long weekend feeling with its’ food, fun and games; rivalries and romances. Period details feel authentic, as does the unsavory behavior. For the most part, the characters are quirky and interesting. I haven’t read the others in the series, but did not find it a hindrance to enjoying this novel.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #Infamous from #NetGalley.