"Greenwood's mix of sweet romance and sensuality, blended with an engaging plot and charming characters, is certain to enchant readers."RT Book Reviews
Hoping to escape scandal, Anna Black becomes the companion to Will Halifax, Viscount Grandville. Now the secluded Viscount has two impossible females in his once-quiet manor, making it difficult to ignore Anna's charms.
The ton is buzzing about The Beautiful One, a striking figure in a scandalous book of nude sketches. Only two men know the true identity of The Beautiful One, and they are scouring the countryside, determined to find her.
The unlikely center of the scandal, Anna Black is forced to flee home as disaster looms. Her tomboy's heart and impertinent tongue serve her well when she meets the most brooding viscount ever to darken a drawing room. Will Halifax, Viscount Grandville, has his reasons for pushing people away, and when his tempestuous teenaged ward arrives on his doorstep, he presses Anna to take on her care. As Anna begins to melt the Viscount's frozen heart, she knows the more she loves, the more she has to lose. For although Will cares nothing for what makes Society titter, he has yet to see The Beautiful One.
"A SIZZLING ROMANCE THAT TOUCHES THE HEART." Sally MacKenzie, USA Today bestselling author
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Cecilia: Thursday, March 15, 6:08 p.m.
A shrieking of wind, screeching of metal as the plane ripped apart, the wicked cold tearing at her throat. Cecilia Williams gripped the seat, fingers burning with pain. She tried to close her mouth, but the sound pried it open, stealing her breath. A giant's hand pinned her to the bulkhead. Tumbling, tumbling...she couldn't determine the floor from the ceiling.
She couldn't see the people. Just black night air where there should have been a plane, space where there should have been seats. She squeezed her eyes shut. If she leaned this way, she could pretend she was sleeping.
The plane almost hadn't taken off at all. It had been touch and go. The air had thickened days ago, gray clouds massing as temperatures plummeted far below the March average. Then the snow, thick and bulbous. A blizzard, wrapping around Cardiff Airport, climbing into mountainous drifts. Flights canceled one after the other. Cecilia had no reason to believe that this flight would be any different. Except that it would be, because it had to be. Cecilia had sat in the crew room, sipping harsh black coffee, beads of sweat breaking out beneath her blunt-cut bangs as a potted ficus continued to wilt and die in the fierce heat charging from the radiators. She had pulled at her turquoise polyester jacket, letting it drop to the floor beside her. She hated that uniform. Saw the other flight attendants looking at the crumpled pile. Drank her coffee. She wouldn't wear that uniform again.
"Gonna cancel it, you think?" The copilot looked at her, running knuckled fingers through his curtained hair. Rope thin, all teeth and nostrils. He was new, coming in as she was going out. Cecilia didn't know his name, didn't really see the point in learning it, not now. She had handed in her notice. This would be her final flight. She stared out the window, watched the falling snow. She didn't answer.
"They'll cancel," the copilot mumbled, almost like he was whispering a prayer. "They'll cancel."
The pilot, Oliver Blake, glanced up at him, then back down. Staring at the ground. Jaw tight.
Made everyone tetchy, a night like this.
The plane kept tumbling, over, over. Seemed to be no end to it. There were things she should be doing as the wind whipped past her, the ground rushing closer. Her arms wanted to fold themselves over her head, mouth to scream, "Brace!" But she couldn't move her arms and she couldn't move her mouth, and the rest of her just didn't care. It would be over soon, anyway.
They had waited in the crew room, roll-on cases lining the wall in a chain gang. Cecilia's at the end, bigger than the rest. She blew on her coffee and thought about her diploma. She'd left it in a frame, displayed in the study that they used to hang laundry. She should have brought it. But then the interview wasn't for another month. Ground crew. She would be based out of London again, if she got the job. There would be a lot of applicants, would always be a lot of applicants for a job like that. But she had worked there before, and she knew people, and hopefully that would be enough. It didn't really matter about the diploma; she would have to speak to Tom again. Eventually.
"We'll never fly tonight. No chance." The copilot was working his jaw, teeth grinding against the hum of the radiators.
Cecilia had never thought she would want to go back to the chaos and the London smog and the phone-booth-red uniforms. Never thought that at thirty years old she would pack up her life, walk out on her husband and her almost three-year-old son. Something stuck in her throat, almost choking her. She had looked out the window at the snow and tried not to think about that.
She wondered if Tom knew that she had left, if he had found the closet door hanging open, all of her most prized belongings gone. She should have left a note. Should have done that at least.
The crew room phone rang, and they all looked up. Oliver pushed himself to his feet, trudging to the phone as though walking through a snowdrift.
He hung up the phone, turning back.
She hadn't kissed her son good-bye. She should have kissed him good-bye.
Then it was all hurry, hurry, hurry. She had grabbed her bags, a quick slick of lipstick even though her fingers were shaking, pulled her skirt straight, then click, clack, click, out into the terminal. Passengers' heads bobbed up like meerkats, the whisper running through the terminal in a bow wave behind them. Cecilia raised her chin and looked straight ahead.
Suddenly there was no time. It was a narrow window. There was more snow coming in. We go now or we don't go. And Cecilia very much wanted to go.
"Hello, hi, welcome, straight to the back, please." With a pasted smile, Cecilia gestured with French-tipped nails along the line of the plane. She bit her lip as they shuffled their way in, buffeting one against the other with their thick anoraks, all clumsy in heavy gloves. "If you could move out of the aisle, please." Smiling, smiling. "Let me help you with that." She moved alongside the Jude Law look-alike with his Armani shirt, open at the collar, and reached up to angle the carry-on into the overhead bin, not looking at the thin-lipped, flat-eyed woman who stood beside him.
Then the doors were shut and they were moving, and all eyes were on her as she pirouetted through the safety briefing. Smiling. Always smiling.
Trying not to smell the smoke rising from the bridges that she had burned behind her.
They were taxiing, building pressure pinning her to her seat. Cecilia turned her head, watching pinprick lights skittering against the dark night sky. She sighed. She had straightened her hair three times today, teasing the bangs that curled from the damp of the snow, pulling at it with fingers that trembled, ever so slightly, knowing that it would do no good. But doing it anyway, because it was better than thinking. Anything was better than that. Then the lift. Flickering lights giving way to black sea. A turn, climbing, climbing.
Cecilia leaned back in her seat. Was staring off into space when she realized someone was staring at her. The little girl was three, four maybe. Chocolate streaked across the tip of her nose, solemn jaw moving up and down. She was twisted around in her chair watching the flight attendant. She was beautiful. Dark eyes. Like Ben's.
Cecilia looked away.
They were climbing through the clouds. The plane shimmied, but she was looking at her reflection again, where the mascara had smudged. She was thinking about Ben's smell, his velvet skin, the way he slept with his mouth ever so slightly open, snoring a little boy
Anna Black gave a silent cheer as the carriage she was riding in lurched and came to an abrupt stop at an angle that suggested they'd hit a deep ditch.
Perhaps, she thought hopefully from the edge of her seat, where she'd been tossed, they'd be stuck on the road for hours, which would delay their arrival at the estate of Viscount Grandville. She had reason to be worried about what might happen at Lord Grandville's estate, and she dreaded reaching it.
It was also possible she was being pursued.
Perhaps nothing would happen at all. But the whole situation was nerve-wracking enough that she had more than once considered simply running off to live in the woods and survive on berries.
However, several considerations discouraged her from this course:
1. She had exactly three shillings to her name. Though admittedly money would be of no use in the woods, she would at some point need more than berries.
2. She had agreed to escort her traveling companion, Miss Elizabeth Tarryton, to the home of Viscount Grandville, who was the girl's guardian.
3. If Anna abandoned her duty, along with being a wicked person, she wouldn't be able to return to the Rosewood School for Young Ladies of Quality, her employer.
Anna was nothing if not practical, and she was highly skeptical of the success of the life-in-the-woods plan, but the dramatic occurrences in her life of late were starting to lend it appeal.
"Hell!" said the lovely Miss Elizabeth Tarryton from her sprawled position on the opposite coach seat. Her apricot silk bonnet had fallen across her face during the coach-lurching, and she pushed it aside. "What's happened?"
"We're in a ditch, evidently," Anna replied. Their situation was obvious, but Miss Tarryton had not so far proven herself to be particularly sensible for her sixteen years. She was also apparently not averse to cursing.
Surrendering to the inevitable, Anna said, "I'll go see how things look."
She had to push upward to open the door to the tilted coach, and before stepping down, she paused to tug her faded blue bonnet over her black curls, a reflex of concealment that had become second nature in the last month. The rain that had followed them since they left the school that morning had stopped, but the dark sky promised more.
The coachman was already seeing to the horses.
"Had to go off the road to avoid a vast puddle, and now we're in a ditch," he called. "'Tis fortunate that we're but half a mile from his lordship's estate."
So they would soon be at Stillwell, Viscount Grandville's estate. Damn, Anna thought, taking a page from Miss Tarryton's book. Would he be a threat to her?
After a month in a state of nearly constant anxiety, of waiting to be exposed, she sometimes felt mutinously that she didn't care anymore. She'd done nothing of which she ought to be ashamed-yet it would never appear that way. And so she felt like a victim, and hated feeling that way, and hated the accursed book that had given two wicked men such power over her.
She gathered up the limp skirts of her faded old blue frock and jumped off the last step, intending to see how badly they were stuck.
The coachman was seeing to the horses, and as she moved to inspect the back of the carriage, she became aware of hoofbeats and turned to see a rider cantering toward them. A farmer, she thought, taking in his dusty, floppy hat and dull coat and breeches. He drew even.
"You are trespassing," he said from atop his horse, his tone as blunt as his words. The sagging brim of his hat hid the upper part of his face, but from the hard set of his jaw, she could guess it did not bear a warm expression. His shadowed gaze passed over her, not lingering for more time than it might have taken to observe a pile of dirty breakfast dishes.
"We had no intention of doing so, I assure you," she began, wondering that the stranger hadn't even offered a greeting. "The road was impassible and our coachman tried to go around, but now we are stuck. Perhaps, though, if you might-"
"You cannot tarry here," he said, ignoring her attempt to ask for help. "A storm is coming. Your coach will be stranded if you don't make haste."
His speech was clipped, but it sounded surprisingly refined. Ha. That was surely the only refined thing about him. Aside from his lack of manners and the shabbiness of his clothes, there was an L-shaped rip in his breeches that gave a window onto pale skin and thigh muscles pressed taut, and underneath his coat, his shirt hung loose at the neck. She supposed it was his broad shoulders that made him seem especially imposing atop his dark horse.
A stormy surge of wind blew his hat brim off his face, and she realized that severe though his expression might be, he was very handsome. The lines of his cheekbones and hard jaw ran in perfect complement to each other. His well-formed brows arched in graceful if harsh angles over dark eyes surrounded by crowded black lashes.
But those eyes. They were as devoid of life as one of her father's near-death patients.
Several fat raindrops pelted her bonnet.
"We shall be away momentarily," she said briskly, turning away from him to consider the plight of the coach and assuming he would leave now that he'd delivered his warning.
The rain began to fall faster, soaking through the thin fabric of her worn-out frock. She called out to the coachman, who was doing something with the harness straps. "Better take off the young lady's trunk before you try to advance."
"No. That's a waste of time," said the stranger from atop his horse behind her.
She turned around, deeply annoyed. "Your opinion is not wanted."
The ill-mannered man watched her, a muscle ticking in his stubbled jaw.
A cold rivulet trickled through her bonnet to her scalp and continued down her neck, and his empty gaze seemed to follow the little stream's journey to the collar of her dampening frock. His eyes flicked lower, and she thought they lingered at her breasts.
She crossed her arms in front of her and tipped her chin higher. Not for nothing had she sparred with her older brother all those years in a home that had been more than anything else a man's domain. Her father had been a doctor and had valued reason and scientific process and frowned on softness, and she'd been raised to speak her mind. Life as a servant at Rosewood School was already testing her ability to hold her tongue, but this man deserved no such consideration.
"Is not your presence required elsewhere?"
"Where are you going?" he demanded, ignoring her.
"I couldn't be more delighted that such things do not concern you."
The stranger's lips thinned. "Who comes to this neighborhood concerns me."
"If you would move along," she said exasperatedly, blinking droplets from her lashes, "we might focus on freeing the coach."
His gaze flicked away from her. "Drive on," he called to the coachman.
John, apparently responding to the note of command in the stranger's voice, disregarded Anna's sound of outrage and addressed himself to the horses. With a creaking of harness straps, they struggled forward. The wheels squelched as they found purchase amid the mud, and the carriage miraculously righted itself.
She sucked her teeth in irritation.
"See that you do not linger here," the man said.
"We are on our way to Stillwell Hall," she replied, thinking to make him regret his poor conduct. He might even work for the viscount.
He looked down at her, his face shadowed so that his rain-beaded whiskers and hard mouth were all she could see. "That's not possible. No one is welcomed there."
From inside the carriage, Miss Tarryton called, "Can we not proceed, Miss Whatever?"
Anna ignored her. "It certainly is possible."
"The viscount might not be in residence."
His words would have given her pause, except that when Miss Brickle had sent Anna off with her charge and a note for the viscount, she'd said that he was certain to be at Stillwell, because according to gossip among the mothers of Rosewood's students, he'd been in residence there constantly over the last year.
Though why this man should be so set on discouraging them from seeing the viscount, she couldn't imagine.
"I have it on good authority that he is. Evidently, sir," she said, "you have been raised by wild animals and so one must overlook your lack of interest in people, but I assure you Lord Grandville will wish to welcome us."
Something flickered in his eyes for the barest moment at her tart words, but his hard expression didn't change.
"No," he rasped. "He won't. Do not go there."
He turned his horse away and spurred it into a gallop across the field next to the road.
Anna found herself staring as the stranger rode off. And really, he was strange, because though he appeared to be a laborer, his speech was educated and his manner commandingly haughty. He might almost have been a gentleman, but he was too rough for that to be possible.
As the coachman climbed onto his perch, he gave a snort and called back to her, "'E's a friendly one."
"He probably keeps badgers as pets," she said, and mounted the coach steps amid the coachman's laughter.
Miss Elizabeth Tarryton, sitting composedly inside and looking as dry and untroubled as any princess accustomed to having things arranged for her, remarked, "Headmistress says ladies are above noticing the behavior of rough men. Not that you would know about proper behavior. Really, Miss Brickle ought never to have chosen a seamstress as a companion for the niece of a viscount. You-"
The girl hesitated, perhaps realizing how ridiculous additional comments would sound coming from someone who'd been discovered the night before kissing a lieutenant from the local militia in the school garden. When discovered by the headmistress, Miss Tarryton had almost proudly revealed that she'd reached the garden by climbing out a second-floor window. Miss Brickle had wanted the girl gone as soon as possible, before her scandalous behavior could taint the reputation of Rosewood School.
As the only other person privy to this escapade-she'd been up late doing the mending, needing extra time for the work since she wasn't actually very good at sewing-Anna had been assigned to escort Miss Tarryton to her guardian.
"Yes?" Anna prompted, surprised to find herself being addressed at all. The elegant Miss Tarryton, who looked like angelic perfection with her red-gold curls and her gown of pale apricot silk, had spent their journey gazing mutely out the window on her side.
The girl closed her mouth and returned to looking out the window, where the rain was now coming down heavily as the late afternoon edged toward evening. Anna would have felt sorry for Miss Tarryton, since she'd been hustled away from Rosewood so ignominiously, except nothing in her demeanor suggested she was dismayed about leaving. If anything, she seemed impatient to arrive at their destination.
They set off at a careful pace on the muddy road. Anna dried herself as best she could with a clean serviette from the now sadly empty lunch hamper. She didn't dwell on why the stranger had said what he had about Stillwell. Even if it were true, it merely suggested that Lord Grandville was a hermit, which could only be good news.
She would simply deliver his ward and then be on her way back to the school. It had been a month since she'd had to leave home so abruptly, and now, just when she'd been starting to relax her guard at Rosewood, she'd been sent on this unwanted journey.
A shudder rippled along her shoulders as a memory of curving pencil marks flashed through her mind, the lines of her own naked body caught in various positions on page after page of that appalling sketchbook. Images made without her knowledge. And three words written in garish red wax on the book's cover: The Beautiful One. Such an innocuous title for a thing that put her in danger of becoming the kind of woman no decent person could acknowledge.
She couldn't know for certain whether the Marquess of Henshaw was actually looking for her or how many people had seen that book.
A weak, vulnerable feeling threatened to overwhelm her, but she forced it down. She hated weakness. And she refused to let what those two men had done dominate her thoughts.
Sometime later the carriage slowed down and John called out to them. "That will be the manor, misses, on the left side."
At his words, Miss Tarryton surged toward the opposite window and looked out. Before she could catch herself, she uttered a startled sound.
She clamped her lips shut, sat back against the seat, and composed her features, as if the home of her guardian-and now herself-were just as she'd imagined. Anna leaned forward to peer out the window.
She almost gasped herself.
They had paused on a road that passed perhaps half a mile from the front of the manor, but the distance in no way diminished its enormity. The rain had abated for the moment, leaving a clear view of Stillwell Hall in the gray early-evening light, and it was breathtaking, grander than anything she'd ever seen.
Set behind a large and tranquilly shining pond, the hall was a majestic arrangement of squares and rectangles that formed a large central building with two substantial wings, all of it on a scale that made her family home look like a hut. The hall's stone was a soft cream color, and the numerous chimneys on its gently angled roof gave it a cheery look.
She smiled a little, realizing that the stranger's words about Stillwell had caused her to imagine a vast, dark dungeon awaiting them. The manor was certainly vast, but it was also beautiful and balanced harmoniously among its endless grounds. Surely no one who made his home here could be as forbidding as the stranger had suggested.
She let the curtain fall back into place with a shaking hand. The viscount had a minor estate near her childhood home, a place called Littlebury Lodge, where his family sometimes summered. Though she'd never met the viscount, her father had, and he'd occasionally been called out to the lodge to treat members of the viscount's family. Over a weeks-long period, her father had treated the viscount's much-younger brother for a prolonged fever, and brought Anna along to cheer the youth. But that had been six years ago, and surely, if the viscount's brother were at Stillwell, he wouldn't recognize Anna.
Recent events had taught her that hope was very, very important for getting through the day. She stirred it up now. But hopeful though Anna might strive to be, she was also unfailingly honest with herself. Viscount Grandville was important and powerful, and should it come to it, ruining her life would be as nothing to him.
"The estate is spectacular," Miss Tarryton said, her customary tone of boredom replaced with awe.
Anna forced herself to sound natural. "Yes, it is."
Miss Tarryton's brow lowered, so that she suddenly looked not like a spoiled, privileged young woman but a scared girl. Something occurred to Anna then.
"Have you ever met your uncle?"
"Yes. I used to see him sometimes when I was a girl because he was a close friend of my father's. But we moved to Malta when I was six."
"And have you seen him since you came to England from Malta?"
"No, but that's of no consequence."
Anna wasn't so certain. "Do you remember what he was like?"
"Only that he had dark hair and he was tall and kind. He's a very important man, so it's not surprising if he's been too busy for visiting."
The girl lifted her hand and nibbled at a fingernail for a moment before she realized what she was doing and dropped her hand. She might be impatient to arrive at the home of her uncle, but she was just as nervous as Anna, if for different reasons.
"Do you think Lord Grandville..." Miss Tarryton began, then closed her mouth. Her face smoothed into the look of angelic boredom she'd worn for much of the journey, and she turned a placid gaze on the floor. The knuckles of her clasped fingers, though, soon turned even whiter than the rest of her pale, soft hands.
As close as they now were to the viscount's home, Anna knew she must finally face one of the possibilities that had concerned her during their journey: that Lord Grandville was acquainted with the Marquess of Henshaw.
That he might have seen The Beautiful One.
quo;s snore. She felt sick.
A murmur rippled through the cabin, and Cecilia glanced up, waiting for something, anything, so that she didn't have to think about the little boy she had left behind. The little girl had turned around, curling into her mother as they leafed through the pages of a book. But there were others glancing back at her. Cecilia tugged her shirt straight. An attractive girl, maybe twenty, maybe a little more, her oversized hoop earrings swinging, looked at Cecilia. It was like she wanted to say something, but she didn't, and, biting her lip, she lowered her eyes to look down into her lap where her hands twisted one inside the other.
Then the plane bucked. The murmur replaced with a "whoa" of riders on a roller coaster. Cecilia flung out her hand, bracing herself against the window.
"It's only crosswinds. Nothing to worry about." Her words were lost in the groaning of engines. But she said them again, whispering to herself.
The engines whirred, singing in an unfamiliar key. The girl with the hoop earrings was looking at her again, eyes wide, willing her to say something. Another buck. A high-pitched whining she hadn't heard before. There was nothing beyond the windows. A sea of gray cotton breaking into darkness.
The engine was straining, a dog pulling at its leash; they seemed to be tilting, not climbing, but pointing upward, steep, steeper than she had ever seen it. A solitary bottle of Dr Pepper had shaken itself loose from somewhere. It rolled down the aisle, rattling, bouncing, all eyes watching as it drifted to a stop at her feet. Then the chaos of noise vanished into a deafening silence.
And she knew.
She hadn't said good-bye to her son. She had stood on the threshold, where the murky blue glow of Ben's Toy Story night-light met the darkness of the hallway, and watched him sleep with his arms thrown up over his head, the way he had slept ever since he was a baby. And she had turned and walked away.
Someone screamed. Then they were falling.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What I liked: The Beautiful One is so very emotional. One moment you’re laughing and the next crying or devastated over something that was said. There weren’t a lot of characters, but I became fully invested in the lives of each of the ones at Stillwell Hall. The romance between Anna and Will is very reminiscent of “Beaty and the Beast”¿ though it’s not pronounced or overdone, just a sweet reminder. What I didn’t like: The Beautiful One is much more an emotional read than I prefer. It’s a deep read instead of the light and airy type I prefer.
The Beautiful one follows a woman named Anna. Anna has never been fully immersed into English society since her father was a local doctor and she was able to have free reign of the countryside with her brother. But all of her hopes and dreams of someday teaching and wedding someone were dashed when a wretched man took it upon himself to draw scandalous pictures of her. Anna grabbed her ugliest dresses, a big hat and ran off to hide herself as a seamstress within a local girls school. Keeping her identity hidden didn't last long enough, soon she is found to be within the presence of someone who could blow her cover to kingdom come. I'm always on the lookout for a new historical romance author and I think that I've found one that I will follow from now on. The Beautiful One is the first book in a new series from Emily Greenwood. I've not had the opportunity to read anything from her before this but I will be making sure that is corrected very shortly. All in all, I really enjoyed this novel. I loved how you are just dropped into the middle of an ongoing story and it takes you a few chapters to figure out what in the world is going on. Starting a novel that way definitely kept me intrigued and wondering what would happen next. The way that Greenwood developed the characters was pretty perfect. I wouldn't have changed one thing. The brooding way about Will was endearing and you felt nothing but compassion for this poor man. I think that some of my favorite parts were when Will was stumbling all over himself trying to say and do the right thing and the way that Anna interacted with him was EXACTLY what I was wanting when I met these two characters. There weren't any lags in the story or any need to skip long-winded sections. I actually found myself rereading certain passages because I just liked the way things were worded and while I couldn't get back that first-read magic, these sections still made me smile or laugh. I'll be picking up another novel by this author and she's been put on my list of must-read authors. I'm excited to see how she will continue the story with other characters. * I received this novel in exchange for an honest review *
When I see the name Emily Greenwood I know I can expect a quality work. The Beautiful One demonstrates this author's gift at combining wit and poignancy. Both the hero and heroine have suffered from loss on many levels. The journey they embark on to find solace, love and ultimately happiness in each other is well plotted out in this book. Fierce passion and gentle healing come together for a lovely reading experience. *I received this ARC via Netgalley*
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** The Beautiful One by Emily Greenwood Book One of the Scandalous Sisters series Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca Publication Date: June 2, 2015 Rating: 3 stars Source: eARC from NetGalley ***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers*** Summary (from Goodreads): The first book in a delightfully scandalous new Regency romance series from blossoming author Emily Greenwood… Tomboy Anna Black has no idea how a book containing nude drawings of her is traveling around town. Everyone’s calling the woman in the drawings the “Beautiful One,” but Anna knows that if her true identity is revealed, she’ll be ruined. To escape scandal, she becomes a temporary companion to the outrageous teenage ward of Will Halifax, Viscount Grandville. Will wants nothing but to be left alone. When cheeky Anna unexpectedly arrives with his scandalous ward, suddenly he has two intolerable women filling up his once-quiet manor. But as Anna’s charms begin to soften Will’s hard exterior and uncover his shrouded heart, she hopes that love can fully blossom before her scandal erupts… What I Liked: Good but not great. That's what I was thinking, when I finished this one. I love historical romance novels a lot, and it's hard for historical romance novels to please me. I love the intriguing combination of simplicity and complexity in the romance, as well as the other pieces of the story that make historical romance novels interesting and entertaining reads. This one was okay... just not that good. Definitely not terrible, but not a new favorite. Anna has been caught in a bit of a scandal, and she flees when she realizes that the scandal is catching up with her. Someone has been drawing her, naked, as she bathes. Anna wants no part of the scandal, so she agrees to escort Miss Elizabeth Tarryton Stillwell Hall, where Elizabeth's guardian resides. But Viscount Grandville wants no one to bother him as he continues to grieve (his wife died over a year ago). But Anna is persistent and refuses to let Will send Lizzie away. It's not long before attraction swirls between Will and Anna, but Anna doesn't want him to know about her being "The Beautiful One" - until it's too late. This one was an enjoyable read. I don't know if I'd read it again or recommend it to anyone, but I liked the book. The romance is sweet, if a little insta-love-y. The protagonists certainly fell in lust and love pretty quickly, which annoyed me (see below). But I liked Anna and Will together, so I just enjoyed the romance when there were interactions between them. I liked Anna - she's not a lady of royal or gentle birth, though she is a lady nonetheless. Her upbringing is a little unconventional - her father was a widow and never remarried, and her brother was her companion. Anna is intelligent and well-educated, but not entirely ladylike at times, though she has good manners. She is very blunt and honest, and I definitely liked that about her. I really liked Will. He's a bit of an ogre at first, as all he wants it to be left alone. Come to think of it, this story and its protagonists reminded me of Elizabeth Boyle's The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane. Will is very surly and almost rude, and doesn't want Elizabeth to live with him. Really, it's because he's still grieving, still recluse, and doesn't think it's suitable for anyone to live with him. But Will is quite thoughtful and a little wicked even. The romance is what kept me reading. The other plot - the one with a marquess trying to find "The Beautiful One", didn't really interest me. The ending of this book is exactly as you would expect it, which is fine, but somewhat predictable. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book! What I Did Not Like: Even for a historical romance novel, the fall-in-lust and fall-in-love aspects happened fairly quickly. Will sees a soaked woman trying to get a carriage out of a ditch and is immediately attracted to her? It just seemed very odd and very sudden. I think the timing was a bit rushed, especially given the circumstances (rain storm? He and Anna barely interacted and then he can't stop thinking about her? Hmmm). I know people think historical romance novels have a lot of insta-love, but that's actually not the case. Most authors take care to have their characters fall in love slowly and surely. It's one of the things that really attracts me to these novels! I feel like there was a whole layer to this book that was missing. I don't know how to describe this feeling, but it was like this story was very much on the surface. Something was missing. I couldn't really put my finger on it, but throughout the book, I was thinking, is that all you've got? Is that all there is? It's clear that Greenwood is a slowly rising author in the genre - she's not quite as artful and knowledgeable in the ways of writing these novels, it seems. I actually really enjoyed her novel Gentlemen Prefer Mischief, but this novel was not anywhere near the quality of that book. I'm surprised the books are by the same author! I didn't connect with Lizzie at all. This book is written in third person, but we get Anna's, Will's, and Lizzie's perspectives throughout the book. I didn't like her from the start, and I can't say I like her now that I'm finished the book. Lizzie is snobby and stuck-up, and her character development is staggered at some times, and rushed at others. Towards the end of the book, it's like all of a sudden a light switch is flipped and Lizzie is a different person. I never connected with Lizzie, despite having her perspective. The writing and the language is so modern. This isn't a good thing, because the quality and authenticity of this HISTORICAL fiction novel was quite lessened. Sometimes the language was so modern and pedestrian, I was shocked. But then at other times, the author did a good job of keeping the language to its time. Again, rising author. Not established. In any case, this book was okay, but I don't know if I'll be reading any more of the books in the series. Would I Recommend It: Ehhh, probably not. I like supporting rising historical romance authors, and I love finding new ones. This book is the second one I've read by Greenwood, but it is easily the less flattering of the two. I do recommend Gentlemen Prefer Mischief though! Rating: 2.5 stars -> rounded up to 3 stars. These "meh" reviews are so hard to write! Basically, just pass this one. Try something by Elizabeth Hoyt, Tessa Dare, Caroline Linden, or Julie Anne Long!