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In Search of Scandal

In Search of Scandal

4.3 6
by Susanne Lord

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Beautifully written, deeply romantic, and utterly magnificent." -Courtney Milan, New York Times bestselling author

All of London is abuzz with the tale of Will Repton. The lone survivor of a massacre in Tibet has returned to England a hero, but the traumatized explorer has no time for glory.


Beautifully written, deeply romantic, and utterly magnificent." -Courtney Milan, New York Times bestselling author

All of London is abuzz with the tale of Will Repton. The lone survivor of a massacre in Tibet has returned to England a hero, but the traumatized explorer has no time for glory. Another dangerous expedition awaits. Nothing will deter him from his quest, and no one will unearth his secret-until Will meets Charlotte Baker.

Vivacious Charlotte Baker also has a mission-to find a man whose bold spirit matches her own. When she meets Will Repton, she immediately recognizes him as her soul mate, and she's naively willing to turn her back on the rules of propriety to ensnare him. Will is torn between his fascination with Charlotte and his vow to finish his quest. He knows what it is to risk life and limb-but what if his most perilous adventure doesn't lie across an ocean, but within his own lost heart?

London Explorers series:
In Search of Scandal (Book 1)
Discovery of Desire (Book 2)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Brooding botanist and adventurer Will Repton and common-born socialite Charlotte Baker take center stage in this warm and complex Victorian romance. Will, recently returned to London after a six-year trip in China with a dire ending, manifests himself as the man of irrepressible Charlotte’s romantic dreams when he pays a call on her brother-in-law and inadvertently gets presented among her suitors. His determination to fund a new expedition and return to Tibet, driven by a secret purpose, is at odds with her belief that they are destined to be together. More visits with her brother-in-law become a screen behind which Will informally courts Charlotte, displaying a depth of perception and understanding that her other beaux lack. Readers may become impatient with the obstacles between the lovers (which could be removed with a frank emotional discussion) and a bit of a kitchen-sink approach to the subplots, but the warmth of their romantic and intellectual connection, as well as the strongly drawn supporting characters, make this novel worth the reader’s while. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary Agency. (Dec.)
From the Publisher
"[A] delightful debut... Passionate characters and personal adventures come alive in Lord's post-Regency series opener." - Booklist

"A wounded hero, a feisty, vivacious heroine, intense emotions and a vibrant voice mark Lord as a talent to watch. Readers seeking a powerful and poignant story that satisfies both their hearts and minds are sure to put this high on their TBR pile. The ending will bring tears to their eyes." - RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars

"[A] warm and complex Victorian romance...[the characters'] romantic and intellectual connection, as well as the strongly drawn supporting characters, make this novel worth the reader's while."
" - Publishers Weekly

"An emotionally compelling, heartrending debut." - Library Journal

"IN SEARCH OF SCANDAL took me on an emotional adventure, with moments ranging from sweet to sexy, funny to heart wrenching. I wholeheartedly recommend this debut Victorian historical romance, and I can't wait for more from Susanne Lord. Reviewers Top Pick!" - Night Owl Review

Library Journal
The only survivor of a brutal massacre, explorer Will Repton returns from Tibet a wounded hero, but memories plague him and he knows he'll have to go back. Charlotte Baker has followed Will's expedition with avid interest, and when she meets him in person, the connection between them is electric. She believes that they are destined to be together, but Will is not about to let anything keep him from Tibet, even his growing feelings for Charlotte. Naturally, Charlotte has her own ways of getting what she wants. Hidden agendas add a dash of danger to this steamy Victorian romance. VERDICT An intrepid explorer with an unfinished quest and some ghosts to lay to rest and a fearless heroine fight for their love against all odds. An emotionally compelling, heartrending debut. Lord lives in Chicago.

Product Details

Publication date:
London Explorers , #1
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Barnes & Noble
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879 KB

Read an Excerpt

In Search of Scandal

By Susanne Lord

Sourcebooks, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 Susanne Lord
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4926-2351-9


London, March 1850

"For God's sake, man. Make way."

The impatient command came from close behind, startling in its proximity. Will Repton clenched his teeth against a reply and edged to the right of the pavement, his limping gait either too slow or too unsightly for the haughty Londoners passing him.

Ignoring their frowns, he tucked his chin against the cold wind coursing down Oxford Street and trudged on. At the end of the block, he slowed. There was always a body rounding the corner, always a carriage approaching, always another woman averting her gaze from his twisted step.

So many bodies, so much bustle. He didn't remember London this way.

Could six years so alter a city?

Though it hurt like the devil, he straightened his stride entering Hanover Square. Here, at least, was unchanged. The same statue of Chancellor Pitt, the same handsome homes, the same center of wealth and pedigree.

This was Mayfair as it always was on a Sunday afternoon, and he was calling on Ben Paxton just as dozens might call upon their acquaintance.

If he didn't remember the London sky looking flat as paint in the space between buildings, he reasoned he'd not had the iridescent heavens of the Yangshuo Mountains to compare it with before. And if he couldn't shake the chill from his bones of late, he shouldn't be surprised. He was a good stone lighter and less insulated than when last he was here.

No, the city hadn't changed. He had.

Will had left London a hale and hearty envoy of the East India Company; he'd returned — after being twice-rumored dead — a famed explorer, celebrated plant hunter, and universally pitied cripple.

The wind threatened to dislodge his hat and the icy handle of his glass case bit through his glove, but it was the precious plants within that would suffer most from the cold. He hurried to gain the shelter of Paxton's door.

For a moment, a wry smile twisted his lips, standing at the affluent address. He'd not seen Paxton in years — long before his astonishing marriage to a countess — but the man was a friend of his father's.

And as wealthy and sympathetic investors went, he was an excellent prospect.

A quick turn of the bell key, the door opened wide, and Will froze in reaching for his card. The butler with the smiling face and crescent eyes so resembled a stevedore he'd met on a dock in Xiamen that Will nearly uttered ni hao in greeting.

No, London hadn't changed. But he could look nowhere without the colors of the East seeping into its lines.

"Good afternoon," Will said. "I believe I'm expected."

He presented his card and followed the butler to the receiving room. In the quiet hall, the drag of his heel was conspicuous, but still he slowed to assess his surroundings.

Marble floors. Paintings crackled with age. Silk wall coverings.

Paxton had married very well.

A Chinese vase was displayed in an alcove. He was no expert, but centuries old to be sure. Yuan or Ming Dynasty —

A patter of footsteps slapped on the tiles behind him and he spun round, his muscles seizing in readiness. A boy — three or four or six, he could never discern the age of children — dashed past the stairs and vanished behind a door.

The sight came and went so swiftly, he clenched his eyes and grappled with the reality of the vision.

A disturbance of the air ... a faint chortle from the room ... The boy was real.

Will dragged in a breath and willed his heart not to pound out of his chest. Damn it. His father had warned him Paxton had children.

"Don't mind our young master." The butler grinned from the end of the hall. "The boy has us all at his mercy. There's not a nursery in London that can hold him."

He nodded stiffly, unable to share the man's amusement. Ratcheting tight his nerves, he passed his coat and hat to the servant, who swiftly withdrew. Confused, he watched the butler disappear around a corner.

He'd always been announced before. At least at all the other fine houses where he'd solicited funds.

Will turned into the room and jolted to a stop. This was no reality he'd ever known — London, China, or otherwise. The parlor was screamingly female, stuffed with satin seats and tasseled pillows and a perverse number of breakable objects on every surface, but it was a gathering of men who swung their heads at his entrance.

Evidently not the desired addition to their party, the men ignored him to rearrange themselves in the parlor. One propped an elbow on the trinket-covered mantelpiece, another leaned suavely against the pianoforte, another feigned interest in a book. One young man, of a romantic bent, brooded out the window stroking the petals of a rose.

Eight — no, nine men. All posed in depictions of masculine leisure. Ridiculous, in light of all the doilies.

What business did they have here?

And where the devil was Ben Paxton?

He set down his small Wardian case, checking through the fogged glass that the plants hadn't been upset in their journey, and searched for a seat.

The only available chair held an ugly needlepoint pillow of a goat. Or perhaps a horse, though it appeared to have only three legs. Whatever the sorry creature was, it was named "Beatrice" according to the stitching beneath. A child's effort. Moving aside the pillow, Will sat — and slowly sank — into the overstuffed cushion.

"I say." A man in a red coat pointed to Will's case. "What is that? That little glasshouse?"

"I use it to transport plants."

"Indeed?" The man abandoned his pose by the fire to inspect the greenery. "And where are these transported from?"


"Piti — where?"


He peered inside. "Are there flowers? Shall we take them out?"

"No flowers. And I'd not open the case because of their scent."

The man's brows quirked with amusement. "Rotten luck there. Bit pungent are they?"

Will stared, trying to make sense of the man's words. "Putrid, actually. Much like a rotting carcass."

And he thought the room silent before ...

Will scanned the bewildered faces; the man with the rose even suspended his brooding to squint at him. Could they somehow smell the carrion plants he carried?

Sighing quietly, he scrubbed a hand through his hair. It was too long. Just this morning, Mum had said it was time to see to it. Now that he was back in Civilized Society, as she put it, he couldn't lumber about like one of his beloved shaggy-haired yaks.

Given a choice, he'd prefer the company of his pack yaks any day. He fingered the frayed edge of his cuff. It might be time to get himself to a tailor as well.

A salver heaped with civilized calling cards sat on the table at his elbow. The uppermost name belonged to a viscount. Beside it, a bouquet of rosebuds. Around the room, more bouquets. Several, actually. The perfume of the flowers wasn't near as thick as all the colognes ... and hair tonics ... and shaving soaps —

They're here for a woman.

Will shot to his feet, flinching at the protesting pain in his leg. "I'm in the wrong room."

The man in the red coat laughed. "No, never tell me that! You must stay and present your offering to Miss Baker. The look on her face would be beyond price."

"Miss Baker? Who is —" Right. Paxton's sister-in-law, Charlotte Baker. The countess's sister.

His jaw tightened with embarrassment. The butler mistook him for a suitor of some Society miss. It was ludicrous.

Men like him did not marry.

"Excuse me," he grumbled. No doubt the girl possessed a colossal dowry to draw this gathering.

He turned and nearly plowed over a woman standing in his path. His heart jolted from the near collision — but there was little that didn't jolt him lately.

He stepped back. And stood corrected.

Charlotte Baker needed no dowry.

Past the spangles and beads sparking into his eyes, a porcelain doll had come to life. Glossy, dark curls framed the flawless oval of her face. A little nose tipped over lips so pink and pillowy, they shaped themselves into a smile even at rest. And as he stood staring, her cheeks blushed perfect, matching roses and the effect was complete. Another figurine as ornamental as the dainty teacups in the room.

But decorative as she was, her curves were more than functional. Those would stir the primitive in any man. And after Tibet, the primitive in him was very close to the surface.

He wanted to drag her someplace private and ... and ...

Keep her.

Will grimaced at his lack of imagination. It was a mad thought.

Yet another mad thought.

"I beg your pardon," he muttered as he picked up his case and sidestepped past her. "I was directed to the wrong room."

"The wrong —? Oh, but ... sir?" Her hands fluttered up but withdrew. The tentative gesture, to delay or help, he ignored. The little doll and — Christ — her chaperone, followed him into the hall.

"It must have been Mr. Penny, Ben's valet," she said, hurrying to keep pace at his elbow. "He is at the door today because Mr. Goodley, our butler, had eaten a little mutton that had gone off, I'm afraid, and he must have assumed ... well, today is Sunday —"

Will stopped in the middle of the hall. Every door was closed.

And Miss Baker was still talking.

"— and as it is Sunday and you are ... well, you are" — she shrugged and tilted her head — "well, not here for me, as I am now aware. I am very sorry."

Will tensed at her remorse. Stemming from pity, no doubt. With his drab suit and shaggy hair, he would not compare favorably to her suitors.

Or had he imagined the remorse? More likely she laughed at him.

Will eased his gaze onto hers, and his mind stumbled to see eyes of such pure blue they appeared almost violet. No, not violets. Delphiniums.

He redirected his gaze and blew out a frustrated breath. Damn it all, he didn't think flowery thoughts. He was a botanical journeyman, paid to catalog and classify. Blue eyes. Merely blue.

Yes, she was a pretty girl.

Not that it mattered in the least.

He sought the butler or valet or whatever he was, but only the redheaded chaperone stood watching him with bald amusement. He tightened his grip on the handle of his case. "Miss Baker —"

"Yes, I am Charlotte Baker." Three skipping steps in jeweled slippers brought her to stand unnecessarily close. "But we have not met, I am sure of that."

He watched that smile suspiciously. Wouldn't his mum be heartbroken to see him now? Standing so near a beautiful, unmarried girl with only escape on his mind?

"Will Repton, miss." By the widening of her eyes, he surmised his name was known to her. It was all those damn newspaper stories. "I'm here to meet with Ben," he added to discourage questions. But there was no need. His name had effectively rendered her mute.

He cleared his throat. "Where should I —"

"You are William Repton?"

His frown deepened, concerned by the raw astonishment on her face. "I ... well. Yes."

"No. William Repton, the explorer? Of

China? That William Repton?"

He sidled away and pointed to the nearest door, careful to keep an eye on her. "Is this the room then?"

She launched forward, startling him backward and nearly into upsetting the Yuan or Ming vase — he still didn't know, he was no expert — and for God's sake, what did she want?

Miss Baker hooked his elbow and his eyes careened from the small gloved hand to her widening smile to her big delphinium eyes. "Miss Baker —"

"Do please put that case down."

"But Ben —"

"Ben will not mind. He is well aware I have been desperate to meet you and has been positively maddening in not inviting you sooner. He would not begrudge me this chance — I pray you will not — and I simply must know you better. Please?"

She batted her lashes. At him. The sight both aroused and disturbed.

Taking his speechlessness for compliance, Miss Baker emitted a kitten-like squeal and pulled him back into the horrible parlor.

Christ, where the devil was Ben Paxton?

"Gentlemen!" she announced. "How fortunate we are. I must introduce William Repton. No doubt you are aware of the man and his achievements. He is here to meet with Ben, but I would not let him go."

The men stared, half-curious, half-dubious, as Miss Baker led him to a short settee. Commanded to sit beside her by a dainty hand, he folded his stiff leg, gritted his teeth, and lowered with control. The arrangement was too close; if he turned his head, they'd brush noses.

"I hope you will not find the flavor of our tea too pedestrian given your learned palate, Mr. Repton." Miss Baker poured him a cup of tea. "Our housekeeper prides herself on her blend. She has been induced to try a variety from Assam which I find a bit bracing but lovely with milk. How do you take your tea? Sugar? Lemon? Or perhaps with a sprinkling of tobacco?"

The last was said with a giggle to the man at the pianoforte before she directed her smile back at Will. "I am being silly, of course. That is a jest between the viscount and myself. Sugar?" She waited with sugar tongs poised over his cup.

He blinked. "No." Her smile dimpled. "No, thank you."

"Forgive me, Miss Baker," the red-coat man said. "But 'Repton' is not a name known to me."

The man, who was evidently a viscount, scoffed. "Come, Matteson! You cannot be in earnest. The man is written of ad nauseum in the periodicals."

"Indeed," another man put in. "You cannot tell me you have avoided the tale of 'Chinese Will'?"

Recognition struck the man like a board to the back of the head. "Oh, deuce take it! You are Chinese Will?"

Will turned to Miss Baker to beg his freedom, but she only beamed brighter.

"There are two Mr. Reptons of accomplishment, actually," she said, her gaze not unlatching even as she addressed the others. "John Repton is supervisor at Chiswick Gardens. But his son, my — our Mr. Repton, is England's most remarkable plant collector. His reports are sublime and archived at the Geographical Society. Mr. Helmsley, you are a member. Have you not read them?"

Mr. Helmsley aborted his sip of tea with a clumsy gulp at being blindly addressed. "Ah ... regretfully, no, Miss Baker." He leaned forward in an attempt to catch her eye. "But I shall do so post haste now that I am aware of your interest and we may have a meaningful intercourse on the subject."

The other men committed to reading the reports themselves, but the pretty hostess seemed unaware of their attempts at ingratiation. Will glanced at her, feeling her rapt attention like a bonfire.

No sensible woman looked at him like that.

Perhaps there was something wrong with her.

"Favor us then, Mr. Repton, with tales of adventure." The viscount didn't mask the imperious edge of his voice. "My father will be mortally jealous when he learns I have met 'Chinese Will,' the man himself."

Will frowned into his teacup, plunked the dish on the table, and turned to summarize the last six years of his life in as few words as possible.

* * *

Charlotte was too overcome to listen. How was it possible?

But thank God. Thank God! Here he was! The man who could redeem the family name. The man she dreamed of. The man she was destined to marry — even if William Repton was not yet aware of the fact.

At last here and just as she had seen him a hundred times before. More. Never in London, never in any real place, but he was already so very dear and familiar.

And she didn't imagine him so from the countless accounts of the incredible Mr. Repton.

He was familiar because he looked just the way she imagined her beloved explorer would look if she could invent him. Hair that was many shades of blond, and never — no never — thinning. Easily, the thickest hair of all the men in the room — though it was a bit long for fashion. Her heart panged tenderly for the lock curling at his collar.

And those were just the right shoulders — slightly too broad and muscled for his frame — because she did so love a man's shoulders. And that face ...

Well, she had never assembled his features so perfectly before. But for whatever this mood was, with its corresponding "just get on with it" expression, she would only choose this square chin, stern brow, and piercing blue eyes to form this handsome, heroic face.

A heroic and somewhat irritated face.

She dropped her gaze. Goodness, she must not stare moon-eyed at the man. What nonsense had she prattled on about before?

Why, why, had she mentioned the mutton?


Excerpted from In Search of Scandal by Susanne Lord. Copyright © 2015 Susanne Lord. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Susanne Lord lives beside a beautiful pond surrounded by hawthorne trees and wildflowers. When it's quiet and no one is about, she can pretend she is taking her exercise on the grounds of an ancient, family estate. When it's not, she's reminded her family is not of the landed gentry, the pond is in the middle of Chicago, and the only adventure in her day comes in the form of emails marked 'urgent' at her advertising job. Originally from Okinawa, off-base and on, Susanne now makes her home in Illinois. When not working, writing, attending theater or reading, she travels to England, where she enjoys getting lost in the woods.

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In Search of Scandal 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the wounded brooding hero and the buoyant heroine who helps him find peace and healing.
BuckeyeAngel More than 1 year ago
Will Repton had a limping gate it had been five years since he had been in London and he didn’t remember London so busy . Will is twenty eight and had been in Tibet and China he had been an envoy Of East India Company.. Will returned a famous explorer and celebrated plant hunter. He also returned crippled the only survivor of a massacre while away. Will hadn’t seen Ben in years. Ben was now married to a countess and had children and was a friend of Will’s father. Will was lead to the living room with nine men obviously waiting for Charolette who was the countess’s sister. The butler thought Will was yet another suitor. Charolette very much wanted to meet Will. Charolette thought Will could redeem her family name and he was the man she dreamed of and was destines to marry: he was handsome,brave, daring, and kind. Charolette sees it as her responsibility to make a good match so the family would be accepted by the ton again. Also her sisters could make good marriages. Will is considered a hero by all of England just not by himself. Will is attracted to Charolette but keeps rejecting her as long as he can. I liked this story alot. It was a little slow in the beginning but it did get going and was worth getting through the slower part. My heart went out to Will and I loved how humble he was. It made me happy how Charolette felt. My heart did go out to will for his physical and mental problems he had from what happened while away. I loved how Will gave Charolette flowers . It toke awhile for Will to let his real feelings come through. At first I wasn’t too happy the way Will was treating Charolette but I also knew why he was acting that way. I recommend. I received an ARC of this story for an honest review.
jerichat More than 1 year ago
I cannot believe this is a debut novel. The story was wonderful - characters with depth and layers, supporting characters that are fleshed out and not just afterthoughts or cardboard characters. I love how the heroine, Charlotte, is portrayed. She is aware that she comes off as “a bit fluffy”, but she knows and we know that she has much more depth. She is very intelligent without having to be a “bluestocking”. I found this author when Courtney Milan recommended her in her most recent newsletter (and sent a "thank you" to her for the recommendation!). The next book in the series, “Discovery of Desire” (Seth’s story) is already on my Must Read list. I purchased this book at a brick & mortar B&N store.
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
This is book 1 in the London Explorer Series. Will Repton is just in London long enough to get funding to travel back to Tibet. Having survived a massacre, he must get back and try to local a small child that might have survived also. He doesn't have time for distractions, especially not pretty, vivacious ones like Charlotte Baker. Charlotte has been following the exploits of Will for many years. She is fascinated by him and his travels. Instantly recognizing a kindred soul, Charlotte is determined to ensnare him. But can she get him to think about something other than his return trip long enough to win his heart? I really enjoyed this first time novel by Lord. You've got socially awkward Will, who gets flustered when he is around Charlotte. This of course makes Charlotte think that he doesn't like her. But then we see Will do things that he normally wouldn't do just to impress her and she does start to take notice. They definitely had their work cut out for them to get to their HEA!! Lord is definitely going to be on TBR list in the future. The ending of this story has me so excited to see what she has in store for us next!! Unfortunately, we have to wait until Sept 2016 to find out… Thanks go out to Sourcebooks via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
Jasmyn9 More than 1 year ago
This was fun, but a little drawn out. Will Repton is a famous explorer that collects plant seeds from far away places. This may not sound all that glamorous, but he's brought back several species that were completely new to Europe and is quite famous for it. Traveling through strange lands isn't nearly as glamorous as people seem to think. Will harbors some dark secrets and a quest to go back and try to make some things right. Charlotte on the other hand, seems to be the belle of the ball. Everyone in the ton loves her and the men are all hoping to win her hand, if not her heart. But when she meets Will, she has eyes only for him. Unfortunately those eyes are clouded with dreams of a hero and explorer that will fall hopelessly in love with her and they can make moon eyes at each other for the rest of their days. She is not a silly girl at all - but she does come across as one many times. I really enjoyed the dialog between Charlotte and Will. They were both very intelligent characters with strong opinions - that didn't always agree. With such different personalities it's hard to believe they could ever come together, but this is romance with an amazing HEA scene. The only part I didn't like was there was almost too many different conflicts surrounding the couple. There were at least four major issues that came and then went one after the other. There was so much going on that I had a hard time really feeling the danger/tension that any one of the created. *This book was received in exchange for an honest review*
Lashea677 More than 1 year ago
With the heart of a warrior and the spirit of an adventurer Will Repton has faced calamities others can only imagine. When his last one ended tragically with him the sole survivor he returned home to a hero's welcome with a heavy heart. I received an ARC of In Search of Scandal in exchange for an honest review. Susanne Lord does a beautiful job in presenting a man questioning his value. Will came home a changed man. His physical limitations and awareness of his surroundings are more pronounced. He may be home but he feels like the odd man out. He and Charlotte were magic together. She opens his eyes to the fact that in life everyday is a new experience and no matter where you end up someone always has your back. This was a serious story that was laid out with sensational skill and characters that are entrancing.