Published by Avon on September 27th 2016
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
New York Times bestselling author Jennifer McQuiston continues her enchanting Seduction Diaries series as a bookish spinster and an unrepentant rogue unite to unmask a traitor.
Every girl dreams of a hero . . .
No one loves books more than Miss Mary Channing. Perhaps that’s why she’s reached the ripe old age of six-and-twenty without ever being kissed. Her future may be as bland as milk toast, but Mary is content to simply dream about the heroes and adventures she reads about in her books. That way she won’t end up with a villain instead.
But sometimes only a scoundrel will do.
When she unexpectedly finds herself in the arms of Geoffrey Westmore, London’s most notorious scoundrel, it feels a bit like a plot from one of her favorite novels. Suddenly, Mary understands why even the smartest heroines can fall prey to a handsome face. And Westmore is more handsome than most. But far worse than the damage to her reputation, the moment’s indiscretion uncovers an assassination plot that reaches to the highest levels of society and threatens the course of the entire country.
When a tight-laced miss and a scoundrel of epic proportions put their minds together, nothing can stand in their way. But unless they put their hearts together as well, a happy ending is anything but assured.
Jennifer, what was your inspiration for The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel, which has more action and intrigue than the previous novels of this series?
I am not sure if I can point to a specific inspiration… my stories generally unfold as they want to, and for some reason, this one insisted on going down a path of intrigue. I do love strong plotlines in my romance novels, and have always loved “swashbuckling” kinds of heroes with a dash of the scoundrel in them (think: Indiana Jones). I loved adding elements of mystery and suspense to my novels and I strive to add some kind of surprise for my readers in every ending. Intrigue fits right in there!
What can you tell us about our characters, Mary and Geoffrey?
Mary is an utter bookworm, and always has her nose in a book. Thanks to her reading history, she always imagines the worst in her situations—and in her heroes. When she first meets Geoffrey Westmore (known to his friends as “West”), she is convinced he must actually be a villain.
In contrast, West spends his time chasing skirts across London and playing the most outlandish pranks. He’s well-earned his reputation as a scoundrel, but keeps his inner demons locked tightly away.
Thanks to West’s scandalous reputation and Mary’s inventive imagination, when they overhear the details of a nefarious assassination plot, no one will believe them, and it is left up to them to track down the killers. As they are forced to work together, they get to know each other, and soon discover there is more to each of their characters than they ever imagined.
Mary and Geoffrey have one of the most intriguing initial meetings – Geoffrey…uh… relieving himself on Mary’s sister’s flowers – how did you tackle Geoffrey’s transformation from wastrel to hero material by the end?
In the opening scene, Mary meets West as he is drunkenly urinating on a rose bush. How can a hero recover from such an initial blunder, you may ask? With West, It was important to me to show him as a fun-loving wastrel, rather than one who is debauched for debauchery’s sake. He is suffering from invisible wounds suffered during his time in the Crimean War, and he drowns his pain with a bit of “happy”. To the world, he looks like a rake seeking his pleasure, but in truth, he is trying to outrun his demons. His transformation to true hero material requires him to put aside his self-preoccupation and focus instead on something more important than himself. In the end, that thing is not only thwarting the assassination plot, but Mary herself.
If you have to choose, other than Mary and Geoffrey, who is your favorite secondary character in the book and why?
Without a doubt, my favorite secondary character is West’s stodgy old butler, Wilson. He has been in West’s family for decades, and he cares for the entire family deeply. He makes an appearance in each book in the series… and plays a pivotal role in the emotional transformation of each Westmore sibling.
From the Diary of Miss Mary Channing
May 24, 1858
Eleanor wrote today. I should have been glad to hear from her, given that she is my twin sister and I love her dearly, but it would be untruthful to say the contents of her letter pleased me. Her new husband, Lord Ashington, has been called away on business and she’s asked me to come to London to keep her company during the last two months of her confinement.
Can you imagine? Me, in London?
My family says I must get my nose out of my books and begin to live in the world around me. It is true I’ve never been further afield than a day trip from home, and that I have never slept a night outside my own bed. But why would I ever want to leave, when I have my books to keep me company? And a trip to London is not without its perils. I could very well end up like one of the characters in my beloved stories, snubbed by the popular crowd. Whispered about behind lace fans. Or worse . . . led astray by a handsome villain and then abandoned to my fate.
Yet, how could I not go? Eleanor is my sister, and she needs me. So I shall put on a brave face. Pack a trunk. Smile, if I must. But I can’t help but wonder . . . which worries me more?
The many things that could happen in London?
Or the thought of seeing Eleanor, with her handsome new husband, and her shining, lovely life, and everything I am afraid of wanting?
London, May 29, 1858
The smell should have been worse.
She’d expected something foul, air made surly by the summer heat. Just last week she’d read about the Thames, that great, roiling river that carried with it the filth of the entire city and choked its inhabitants to tears. Her rampant imagination, spurred on by countless books and newspaper articles, had conjured a city of fetid smells, each more terrible than the last. But as Miss Mary Channing opened her bedroom window and breathed in her first London morning, her nose filled with nothing more offensive than the fragrance of . . .
Disconcerted, she peeked out over the sill. Dawn was just breaking over the back of Grosvenor Square. The gaslights were still burning and the windows of the other houses were dark. By eight o’clock, she imagined industrious housemaids would be down on their knees, whiting their masters’ stoops. The central garden would fill with nurses and their charges, heading west toward Hyde Park.
But for now the city—and its smells—belonged solely to her.
She breathed in again. Was she dreaming? Imagining things, as she was often wont to do? She was well over two hundred miles from home, but it smelled very much like her family’s ornamental garden in Yorkshire. She didn’t remember seeing a garden last night, but then, she had arrived quite late, the gaslight shadows obscuring all but the front steps. She’d been too weary to think, so sickened by the ceaseless motion of the train that she’d not even been able to read a book, much less ponder the underpinnings of the air she breathed.
She supposed she might have missed a garden. Good heavens, she probably would have missed a funeral parade, complete with an eight-horse coach and a brass band.
After the long, tiresome journey, she’d only wanted to find a bed.
And yet now . . . at five o’clock in the morning . . . she couldn’t sleep.
Not on a mattress that felt so strange, and not in a bedroom that wasn’t her own.
Pulling her head back inside, she eyed the four-poster bed, with its rumpled covers and profusion of pretty pillows. It was a perfectly nice bed. Her sister, Eleanor, had clearly put some thought into the choice of fabrics and furniture. Most women would love such a room. And most women would love such an opportunity—two whole months in London, with shops and shows and distractions of every flavor at their fingertips.
But Mary wasn’t most women. She preferred her distractions in the form of a good book, not shopping on Regent Street. And these two looming months felt like prison, not paradise.
The scent of roses lingered in the air, and as she breathed in, her mind settled on a new hope. If there was a flower garden she might escape to—a place where she might read her books and write in her journal—perhaps it would not be so terrible?
Picking up the novel she had not been able to read on the train, Mary slipped out of the strange bedroom, her bare feet silent on the stairs. She had always been an early riser, waking before even the most industrious servants back home in Yorkshire. At home, the cook knew to leave her out a bit of breakfast—bread and cheese wrapped in a napkin—but no one here would know to do that for her yet.
Ever since she’d been a young girl, morning had been her own time, quiet hours spent curled up on a garden bench with a book in her lap, nibbling on her pocket repast, the day lightening around her. The notion that she might still keep to such a routine in a place like London gave her hope for the coming two months.
She drifted down the hallway until she found a doorway that looked promising, solid oak, with a key still in the lock. With a deep breath, she turned the key and pulled it open. She braced herself for knife-wielding brigands. Herds of ragged street urchins, hands rifling through her pockets. The sort of London dangers she’d always read about.
Instead, the scent of flowers washed over her like a lovely, welcome tide.
Oh, thank goodness.
She hadn’t been imagining things after all.
Something hopeful nudged her over the threshold of the door, then bade her to take one step, then another. In the thin light of dawn, she saw flowers in every color and fashion: bloodred rose blooms, a cascade of yellow flowers dripping down the wrought iron fence. Her fingers loosened over the cover of her book. Oh, but it would be lovely to read here. She could even hear the light patter of a fountain, beckoning her deeper.
But then she heard something else above those pleasant, tinkling notes.
An almost inhuman groan of pleasure.
With a startled gasp, she spun around. Her eyes swam through the early morning light to settle on a gentleman on the street, some ten feet or so away on the other side of the wrought iron fence. But the fact of their separation did little to relieve her anxiety, because the street light illuminated him in unfortunate, horrific clarity.
He was urinating.
Through the fence.
Onto one of her sister’s rosebushes.
The book fell from Mary’s hand. In all her imaginings of what dreadful things she might encounter on the streets of London, she’d never envisioned anything like this. She ought to bolt. She ought to scream. She ought to . . . well . . . she ought to at least look away.
But as if he was made of words on a page, her eyes insisted on staying for a proper read. His eyes were closed, his mouth open in a grimace of relief. Objectively, he was a handsome mess, lean and long-limbed, a shock of disheveled blond hair peeking out from his top hat. But handsome was always matter of opinion, and this one had “villain” stamped on his skin.
As if he could hear her flailing thoughts, one eye cracked open, then the other. “Oh, ho, would you look at that, Grant? I’ve an audience, it seems.”
Somewhere down the street, another voice rang out. “Piss off!” A snigger followed. “Oh, wait, you already are.”
“Cork it, you sodding fool!” the blond villain shouted back. “Can’t you see we’re in the presence of a lady?” He grinned. “Apologies for such language, luv. Though . . . given the way you are staring, perhaps you don’t mind?” He rocked back on his heels, striking a jaunty pose even as the urine rained down. “If you come a little closer, I’d be happy to give you a better peek.”
Mary’s heart scrambled against her ribs. She might be a naive thing, fresh from the country, and she might now be regretting her presumption that it was permissible to read a book in a London garden in her bare feet, but she wasn’t so unworldly that she didn’t know this one pertinent fact: she was not—under any circumstances—coming a little closer.
Or getting a better peek.
Mortified, she wrapped her arms about her middle. “I . . .that is . . . couldn’t you manage to hold it?” she somehow choked out. There.She’d managed a phrase, and it was a properly scathing one, too. As good as any of her books’ heroines might have done.
A grin spread across his face. Much like the puddle at the base of the rosebush. “Well, luv, the thing is, I’m thinking I’d rather let you hold it.” The stream trickled to a stop, though he added a few more drips for good measure. He shook himself off and began to button his trousers. “But alas, it seems you’ve waited too long for the pleasure.” He tipped a finger to the brim of his top hat in a sort of salute. “My friend awaits. Perhaps another time?”
Mary gasped. Or rather, she squeaked.
She could manage little else.
He chuckled. “It seems I’ve got a shy little mouse on my hands. Well, squeak squeak, run along then.” He set off down the street, swaying a bit. “But I’ll leave you with a word of advice, Miss Mouse,” he tossed back over one shoulder. “You’re a right tempting sight, standing there in your unutterables. But you might want to wear shoes the next time you ogle a gentleman’s prick. Never know when you’ll need to run.”
~~Reviewed by AnnMarie~~
The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel is the third book in the Seduction Diaries series by Jennifer McQuiston. I haven’t read the previous two books, so can easily confirm that this book can be read as a stand alone one. But if you are anything like me, after reading this one, you will be keen on reading the others!
This is the story of Miss Mary Channing, and Mr Geoffrey Westmore. She is a shy woman who would rather be reading a book or writing in her journal than being sociable. She has even refused to have a season in London. Her sister and brother in law despair that she will ever find love because her head is too often stuck in a book. They plot between them so that Mary has to go to London to look after her heavily pregnant sister, while her brother in law has been called away. Although it’s true that she is needed by her pregnant sister, the latter hopes to push Mary into society at least a little. Mary needs to learn that there is more to life than books and journals.
Mary doesn’t like London, she feels claustrophobic because she is scared to go outside, believing all she has read about the streets of the place. She expected to get attacked, kidnapped, or something like that the minute she left the house. She’s always been an early riser, and one morning she decided she would like to read in the small rose garden outside. Surely that early in the day nobody would be around to frighten here? Turns out that she is horribly wrong, she notices a man urinating against one of the rose bushes along the fence outside. A rich gentleman at that by the look of his clothes. She is horrified when he notices her watching him and when he makes some lewd remarks.
The man in question is Geoffrey AKA West, and he is, as he often is, quite drunk. He thinks Mary must be a maid and is quite flirtatious with her! So that is how the first unofficial meeting goes between the two.
The next time he sees Mary is at a social function that he didn’t particularly want to be at. She is dressed beautifully and stands out from the crowd. She is feeling very hemmed in because of the crowds, and decides get away from them. She rushes out of the hall and aims for the library, a safe haven. West follows her and not realising her relations are of the aristocracy, he has no qualms about a possible seduction happening behind the closed door of the library. Before he even gets a chance to get fresh with her, they hear somebody trying to get into the library and they quickly disappear behind a curtain. Their up close and personal hiding situation is less than ideal, although both of them must admit to a certain stirring of physical feelings upon their person. Admit to themselves at least.
While they are hiding, they overhear 4 people plotting the murder of a prominent person. They can’t be sure who the person to be killed is, nor who the plotters are. Once the schemers have left the library, Geoffrey decides to kiss Mary before they leave. A stolen kiss turns into quite the seduction, and he even gets to have a quick fondle of her breasts. Unfortunately they are interrupted when somebody else comes into the library. Not just one person, but a whole crowd of people who all catch poor Mary in a state of deshabille, even with a hint of nipple poking above her bodice! She is mortified. Her first foray at a social gathering in London and already she is ruined. West knows he must do the right thing and offer marriage, and he begrudgingly does so. To his shock she says NO.
When Mary calms down she realises she cares less about her reputation than she does about finding out who is plotting the assassination, and stopping them. West has the same idea and despite him thinking Mary should not put herself in danger, she insists on helping. They both try telling the people who might help, what they heard. Nobody believes Geoffrey because he is a known prankster, and nobody believes Mary because her head is always in a book and she thinks of life as an adventure from a story. So with nobody to help them, they set themselves the task of investigating and stopping the crime.
Of course that means they spend a lot of time together, time where they learn more about each other, and like what they learn. West still wants to marry Mary, but not just because of saving her reputation, and when her life is at risk, he convinces her to give in and become his wife. Does he love her, is she falling in love with him? There is certainly a healthy amount of lust between them, and their wedding night is very emotional and passionate. Will they be able to stop the murder that’s planned, will they keep safe themselves while investigating, can they have a happy ending??
This was a great book because along with the great romance between Mary and West developing, you also have the mystery and suspense of them attempting to thwart the assassination plans they overheard. It’s an exciting read, and the conclusion of the story was nearly perfect. I only wish that we got to see an apology forthcoming to Mary and West from the people that didn’t believe about an assassination being afoot. Some serious humble pie needed to be eaten! Apart from that the story was perfect and definitely worth reading.
I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.