By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
Novellas almost always feel rushed to me, and this was no exception, though I enjoyed it nonetheless. The Scandal Before Christmas tells of Lt. Ian Worth of the Royal Navy, whom I "met" when he was a twelve-year-old midshipman in Almost a Scandal (a book I loved, since I'm a sucker for nautical history and pretty boats). All grown up now, Ian finds himself suddenly in desperate need of a bride. His older brother and heir to the title is grievously wounded and not expected to survive, and their Machiavellian father wants to marry Ian off to his brother's intended. Ian would rather a) choose his own bride and b) not steal his brother's, in the event his brother defies the odds and lives, so he tells his father he's already wed -- leaving himself six days to accomplish the lie. A fortuitous meeting with a retired shipmate seems the answer to Ian's prayers: the old salt happens to have a marriageable daughter who might suit.
Anne Lesley, the daughter, is a shy little wren who never thought to marry, but she welcomes the chance to get away from her managing, motormouthed mother. Unfortunately, she is so shy and unassuming that when Ian first meets her, he barely notices her and assumes she's a servant. Ian is an extrovert who 'likes to be entertained,' and he initially expresses doubts that they will suit (alas, he expresses these doubts quite rudely and, unbeknownst to him, in Anne's hearing, so they don't get off to a good start).
Ian grovels and Anne forgives (and comes out of her shell a little too quickly for credibility, but given the word count constraints of the novella form, I willingly suspended my disbelief), and they have a sweet, honest, though very whirlwind courtship before marrying on the third day of their acquaintance, which happens to be Christmas morning.
***ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***