After watching her beloved sister, Sophia, pine over the ton’s golden boy for years, Miss Julia St. Claire has foresworn love and put herself firmly on the shelf. Unfortunately, her social-climbing mother and debt-ridden father have other ideas, and jump at the chance to marry Julia off to the newly named Earl of Clivesden . . . the man of Sophia’s dreams.
Since resigning his cavalry commission, Benedict Revelstoke has spent his time in London avoiding the marriage mart. But when he discovers that the Earl of Clivesden has his sights set on Julia, Benedict tries to protect his childhood best friend from the man’s advances—only to discover that more than friendship is driving his desire to defend her. He surprises them both with the force of his feelings, but when Julia refuses him, and her father announces her betrothal, Benedict fears he’s lost her forever—until Julia approaches him with a shocking scheme that will ruin her for all respectable society and lead them into an exquisite world of forbidden pleasures.
Includes a preview of Ashlyn Macnamara’s next novel, A Most Devilish Rogue
Praise for A Most Scandalous Proposal
“Ashlyn Macnamara brings all the elegance and romance of the Regency to life with this tale of high-stakes scandal and heartfelt passion. A Most Scandalous Proposal is a most delicious treat!”—New York Times bestselling author Tessa Dare
“Gossip, scandal, and breezy banter enliven this unusual dual love story that features some beautifully rendered secondary characters, illuminates realistic dilemmas, and highlights the overwhelming importance of one’s social standing.”—Library Journal
“A charming tale . . . Readers will find themselves happily enchanted by this debut.”—RT Book Reviews
“Engaging and entertaining.”—Night Owl Reviews
“Witty, sensual, captivating. A must-read.”—Tracey Devlyn, award-winning author of A Lady’s Revenge
“Pithy and engaging! A pure delight from start to finish!”—Valerie Bowman, author of Secrets of a Wedding Night
“A great debut novel, a wonderful romantic read!”—Brazen Reads
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
April 1816, London
William Ludlowe wagers five thousand pounds that Miss Julia St. Claire will become the next Countess of Clivesden.
Benedict Revelstoke reread the lines in White’s infamous betting book. What the devil? His fingers constricted about the quill, just shy of crushing it. Right. He’d been about to sign on his friend’s wager. Some idiocy, no doubt—hardly worth the bother now.
The book’s most recent inscription was scrawled, for all the world to see, in gold ink, no less. How fitting. Gold ink for Ludlowe, whom many of the ton’s ladies dubbed their golden boy. The man’s lack of a title did nothing to diminish their opinion.
Upperton nudged him. “What’s the matter? Your feet coming over icy all the sudden?”
Lead blocks would be more accurate, but Benedict was not about to admit to that. He laid the quill aside and jabbed a finger at the heavy vellum page. “Have you seen this?”
The page darkened as his oldest friend peered over his shoulder. “Clivesden? Thought he was married. Ludlowe’s a jumped-up bacon brain. And what’s Miss Julia got to do with either of them?”
“I’ve no idea, but I intend to find out.” He released a breath between clenched teeth. “Appalling how so-called gentlemen will lay bets on young ladies of good reputation.”
“Young ladies in general or Miss Julia in particular?”
Ignoring the gibe, Benedict turned on his heel and strode down the steps to the pavement. A glance at his pocket watch told him it was ten minutes past eleven, still early by the ton’s standards. That was something. At least he knew where he’d find Julia at such an hour.
He sighed at the prospect of dodging a passel of marriage-minded misses. But he’d be damned before he let some idiot besmirch her reputation.
Julia stiffened her arms, but her dance partner refused to take the hint. Dash it, he held her too close for propriety’s sake. Hang propriety—on that last turn, he’d actually tightened his grip so much her breasts grazed the front of his tailcoat. Too close for her comfort. So she did what any self-respecting young lady would do and trod on his toes.
“I do beg your pardon, my lord.” The lie slid easily from her lips.
Lord Chuddleigh’s smile faded, and his grip slackened along with his jowls. “Not at all.”
Thankfully, the final notes of the waltz rose to the high ceiling of Lady Posselthwaite’s ballroom a moment later, and Julia backed out of her partner’s greedy embrace, stopping short when her skirt brushed against a dancer to her rear. “If you’ll excuse me.”
Chuddleigh eyed her up and down, before his red-rimmed gaze halted at a spot several inches below her chin. “Are you engaged for the next set?”
What could he be thinking? The roué. He was forty if he was a day, and a strong hint of brandy surrounded him like a cloud.
Julia made a show of consulting her dance card. “No. I actually find I’m rather exhausted,” she added before he could ask her for the next dance.
“It’s the crowd. Dreadful crush as it is every year, of course. Perhaps a turn on the terrace?”
Drat. The man was relentless. Julia cast a swift glance about the ballroom. Unfortunately, Lord Chuddleigh was right about the crush. So many members of the ton packed into one spot, the men in starched linen and intricate cravats, the ladies in pastel ball gowns, it was a wonder anyone could move at all. Attendees wove past one another with polite smiles and quick pardons, intertwining like maypole dancers.
Convenient for Lord Chuddleigh, though, if he wanted an excuse to brush against her a bit more. Not that he had to expend much of an effort the way his paunch preceded him. She should never have agreed to the first set, but he’d seemed a safe enough choice when he asked. At his age and still unattached, she’d expected he wouldn’t turn into a serious suitor.
Apparently, Chuddleigh had formed other ideas.
The crowd made it impossible to pick out a convenient means of escape. Her father was too occupied in the card room to concern himself with her dance partners. The ballroom—the marriage mart—that was her mother’s exclusive domain. Papa was all too happy to leave Mama with the responsibility of landing wealthy, titled husbands for Julia and her sister, while he gambled to increase the family’s meager earnings. Alas, for Mama aimed high in the hopes of giving her daughters what she had never had—social standing and influence.
In short, power. But such power came at the price of keeping up with fashion and maintaining a house in Town.
“I think a lemonade would be quite sufficient,” she finally replied with a weak smile.
Lord Chuddleigh pressed thick lips together but acquiesced with a nod. “Do not move from that spot. I shall return anon.”
The moment he disappeared behind Lady Whitby’s bright orange turban, Julia elbowed her way in the opposite direction. She’d left her older sister amid a group of twittering hopefuls in their first season. With any luck, Julia could use them and their mamas as a shield against any further unwelcome advances.
She discovered Sophia next to a potted palm, deep in conversation with the dowager Countess of Epperley. Between the plant’s fronds and the matron’s ostrich plumes, Sophia was well camouflaged.
On Julia’s approach, the dowager snapped a lorgnette to her face and eyed her from her sleek, honey-colored coiffure to the tips of her silk-clad toes. A frown fit to curdle new milk indicated Julia had passed muster.
“Oh, Julia.” A rosy glow suffused Sophia’s normally pearl-white complexion.
Julia pasted on a smile, knowing she was in for at least half an hour’s worth of gushing, and that was just in public. Depending on what time they made it home tonight, Sophia could easily chatter away the remaining hours before dawn in her ebullience.
As long as she didn’t end up sobbing herself to sleep, as had happened all too often in the past. So full of affection, Sophia. If only she hadn’t bestowed her heart on a man who only occasionally acknowledged her existence. On such evenings, the urge to pull her sister into a hug warred with the desire to give Sophia a stern talking-to.
Tonight, apparently, was one of those evenings.
“My lady,” Sophia breathed, “you simply must repeat to my sister what you’ve just told me.”
The dowager pursed her lips and subjected Julia to a second inspection, as if she might find evidence of Julia’s unworthiness to hear the latest gossip. Defensively, Julia spread out her fan and held it in front of her bosom, before Lady Epperley concluded her gown revealed too much.
“There’s no need to sound so pleased about it,” the old woman huffed. “You young chits, you have no conception of the serious nature of events.”
Julia cast a sidelong glance at her sister. Such high color in Sophia’s cheeks was normally associated with only one person.
“Then I shall have to tell her myself,” Sophia pronounced.
“You shall do no such thing.” The dowager harrumphed, setting both her jowls and plumes a-shudder. “It’s a perfect tragedy, I tell you. It must be announced with the appropriate solemnity. It isn’t as if we were exchanging the latest on-dit.”
“What’s this about the latest on-dit?” growled a familiar voice.
Julia smiled warmly at her childhood companion. Thank goodness. Better Benedict than Chuddleigh turning up with the lemonade.
At his appearance, Sophia inclined her head.
“Ah, Revelstoke.” Acknowledging Benedict with a nod, Julia suppressed a jolt of surprise. She’d become so used to seeing him in his scarlet uniform that his bearing in eveningwear and starched cravat startled her. By rights, he should have looked like any other man of the ton, but the black superfine of his coat, matched to his ebony hair, only served to set off his dark complexion and sparkling blue eyes.
Snap! The lorgnette put in a reappearance. The dowager’s frown lines deepened as she inspected the new arrival. Her gaze lingered on his sharp cheekbones, square jaw, and shaggy waves of hair that hung nearly to his shoulders, too long to be fashionable.
Or, for that matter, respectable.
“In my day, a young lady would never dream of addressing a gentleman in such a familiar manner. Why, I never called my husband by anything other than his title in all the years of our marriage, even in the most intimate of settings.”
Benedict’s shoulder brushed against Julia’s as he leaned close and whispered, “That was more than I needed to know about their marriage.”
She ducked behind her fan to hide both her grin and the blush that suddenly heated her cheeks. And why should she blush over Benedict of all people? She’d experienced the warmth of his breath wafting just beneath her ear on any number of previous occasions. She ought to be long accustomed to his brand of cutting commentary.
The dowager let out another harrumph, raised her considerable chin, and sailed off in a cloud of ostrich feathers and plum-colored silk.
“I believe she overheard you,” Julia said.
“Without a doubt. The old dragon just trod on my foot.”
Sophia giggled into her fan.
He turned his gaze on Julia, and her heart gave an odd thump. Normally, when he had a chance to seek her out at these functions, it was for one of two reasons—to save her from overzealous suitors or to escape from the pack of society mamas and their daughters. They might pass an agreeable hour or two on the sidelines exchanging pithy observations on the ton’s foibles, laughing together as she tried to match him in wit.
In all the years of their friendship, she’d had occasion to witness many moods etched on his face. Rarely had he turned so serious an expression on her, and never this strange intensity. Thump. Another pang in her chest. And where was that coming from?
Rather than press her fan to the spot, she tapped his forearm. “What’s happened?”
He opened his mouth to reply, but Sophia chose that moment to interrupt. “I suppose I’ll have to tell the news myself.”
What People are Saying About This
“A tale of high-stakes scandal and heartfelt passion . . . a most delicious treat!”—Tessa Dare, New York Times bestselling author
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A Most Scandalous Proposal has a lovely Sense and Sensibility feel to it, but don't think it the same, oh no A Most Scandalous Proposal has much more romance and passion and sex. The story of two sisters Julia and Sophie and their journey to finding love is deliciously proper with some definate taste for drama in form of unrequited love, friends to lovers plot and two men waking the passion neither sister knew they possessed. With one ruthless man changing everything for the worst before anything gets better... seriously, so much goes on and I don't want to spoil anything, so I'm forced to be cryptic! Julia and Benedict's romance is a hot one! Benedict flirts and seduces the practical-marriage-is-for-me Julia who is shocked by her childhood friend's sudden change of character, but when engagement to Ludlow is suggested she balks at marrying the one man who her sister pines after and Benedict's flirting begins to have merit. Plus the attraction is undenable, and oh so sensual! Sophia, Ludlow, Highgate triangle drama has the Sense and Sensibility feel, even though I hated Sophie pining after scoundrel Ludlow I loved her reactions to Highgate and his slow but steady pace of seduction. Really loved those two! Especially the carriage scene. ;) Hot hot hot! Lovers of Historical Romance will love Ashlyn Macnamara's writing, her dedication to proper behavior and language, her wit and her sense of romance, not to mention the amount of plot twists! I know I loved it! Will be reading more of her novels that is for sure.
This is the first book I've read by Ashlyn Macnamara but it was a delight. A clever hommage to Sense and Sensibility, it tells the tale of two sisters, but is primarily about Miss Julia St. Claire, and her realization that she has found love in the most unlikely of men - her childhood friend, Benedict. Fans of the original Jane Austen book will certainly see nods to that novel, but those unfamiliar with it will still find this an adorable, engaging story full of heart, humor and a little steamy romance, too! A very enjoyable book which has found a spot on my "keeper" shelf! Can't wait to read her next book, A Most Devilish Rogue!
I loved this book! The interplay between the two sisters enhanced both of their love stories, and what's not to like about having two dashing heroes? Ms. Macnamara has set the bar high with her debut novel. Looking forward to the next one.
Stay away from this book boring and has no end !! No stars at all
Brevity is the soul of wit, dear Bitten reviewer. This is not a 5th grade book report relying on plot summary to prove you read the novel. You have wrecked this story for anyone who happens upon your review. Kindly stop this annoying habit.
I really enjoy finding a new author!! But I love to find a new author that has an AWESOMELY ROCKING book. MOST SCANDALOUS PROPOSAL is a great book. Ashlyn Macnamara¿ wrote about great characters whether they were first or secondary characters. I loved unwrapping each new character. Sophia, Julia, Benedict, Lord Upperman, Rufus, Lady Wexford, William and Mr. and Mrs. St. Claire. I loved the two sisters Sophia and Julia. Both so different but they each wanted to be loved. Julia and Benedict grew up together and then THUMP THUMP the heart want what it wants. Sophia thought she loved William, but William never loved her only himself. Rufus unfaithful decreased wife die and he was injuries chasing her and the TON said he killed his wife. This book has unexpected announcements, compromising situations, hot steamy scenes, broken hearts, healed hearts, spiteful sister, scheming mom, dueling and people falling in love. I give this book 4 fingers up and 8 toes!!
I really enjoyed this book. The multiple POVs were not a problem for me to follow and I really enjoyed the intertwined plots. What I like most is that not once did I find myself skimming or skipping through extra long passages. As an avid reader, the book was a quick read for me and held my attention. Looking forward to reading her next book for sure.
Took sixty pages to figure out the characters and confusion reigned throughout the book. What a waste of money and time. Male characters were the most interesting.
This was a debut book for this author. I was very pleased with the book. The story was compelling and the characters had depth and breadth to them. This story pulled you along quickly. The book does take certain liberties with the "Regency" period but, I don'f find them distracting with the tale being told. I am looking forward to the author's next tale.
A MOST SCANDALOUS PROPOSAL by Ashlyn Macnamara is an exciting debut Regency Historical Romance. An intriguing tale of childhood love,about two sisters,and their adventure to true love. Fast paced with witty banter,gossip,scandal,romance, passion and love. A wonderful debut for this author and one to watch out for in the future. Follow, Benedict Revelstoke,the Earl of Clivesden and Sophia on a captivating tale of love,romance and the ministrations of a not so devoted mother. A must read! I look forward to her next historical. Received for an honest review from the publisher and Above The Treeline. RATING: 4.5 HEAT RATING: MILD REVIEWED BY: AprilR, My Book Addiction Reviews
A Most Scandalous Proposal An extremely captivating story about two women re-evaluating their views on love and finding where their hearts truly lie. A Most Scandalous Proposal is a not to be missed first book from an author that is sure to quickly become a reader favorite. Macnamara has an eloquence and charm to her writing that will lend to a long lasting, and popular, career. - Full review available at BookTrib or RomanticReadsandSuch
Grade: D (Needs Improvement) ... These are not the Dashwood sisters. Ashlyn Macnamara’s debut novel seems more a spin of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, including specific references by the characters. In Ms. Austen’s story, the Dashwood sisters are balanced with sensible older sister Elinor against a headstrong and passionate Marianne. It was easy to empathize with the Dashwood’s trials and heartache. This was not the case with the St. Clair sisters. At times, Julia’s and Sophia’s self-absorbed manners and ambitions challenged this reader to sympathize with them, especially in light of their father’s financial troubles. The somewhat modern ideals of the heroines conflicted with their situations and historical setting. It was difficult to temporarily suspend disbelief and enjoy the story. Benedict and the Earl of Highgate are the highlight in A Most Scandalous Proposal. It would be fair to compare Highgate with Ms. Austen’s honorable Colonel Christopher Brandon, the older gentleman who quietly falls in love with Marianne Dashwood. Benedict is heroic as Julia’s friend and suitor. Their history as childhood friends served as backstory rather than adding intensity to their romance. Overall, it seemed this full-length novel splits the reader’s attention between the sisters’ romances serving two secondary storylines that don’t fully serve a rewarding historical romance. *ARC courtesy of Random House Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
This was a cute story about two sisters, the St. Claire's. It is set in London in 1816. I honestly had a hard time the first few chapters trying to understand everything. The book just didn't seem to flow in the beginning for me. Sophia is in love with the Earl of Clivesden who Julia can't stand. While Sophia is hoping and praying that the Earl will one day notice her and ask for her hand in marriage, the Earl sets his sights on Julia. In comes Benedict Revelstoke, Julia's childhood friend. He arrives in London to purchase a horse. He finds out that the Earl is just using Julia as a wager and has decided that he will do anything to prove his love to Julia. After Julia's parents accept the offer from Clivesden for Julia, she plots a way to end the engagement. She knows that Benedict has always had her back. She does the one thing she can think of to get the Earl to call off the marriage. She asks Benedict to ruin her, the two take off together and make love. Julia realizes that she loves Benedict as well. Her father and the Earl find them together in bed. The Earl is very upset that he is close to loosing the wager and calls her a harlot causing her father to challenge him to a duel. Benedict doesn't want Julia hurt so he tricks her father to take his place in the duel. Thank goodness he won and the two love birds were together from then on out. The girls attend a ball and Sophia is following the Earl and ends up fainting at his feet. Sophia is helped by Rufus Fredrick Shelburne the Earl of Highgate. Clivesden and a maid that were attending to Sophia leave her alone with Rufus. This causes her to be on the verge of ruination by the Ton when they are discovered. Rufus asks for Sophia's hand realizing she is in love with Clivesden. Rufus tells Sophia that the engagement is just for show until she can get back in favor with the Ton. During this time Sophia finds out that Clivesden has asked for Julia's hand in marriage and is devastated. She believes that her sister has done this terrible thing on purpose. When Julia goes missing, Sophia finds herself relying on Rufus. He makes her feel things that she has never felt before. They both realize that they are in love with each other.