For Finlay Swinton, Viscount Firthwell and only son of a powerful earl, life has been a lark…until he discovers a terrible family secret that could ruin him. Determined to make a name for himself free of scandal’s shadow, he runs for Parliament. However, he encounters Charlotte, the mysterious woman who disappeared after their one night together, and he finds it impossible to stay away, despite her working class status and Jewish faith that threaten to destroy his chance for success.
Widowed, penniless, and desperate, Charlotte Taylor secures a teaching position at a foundling home and relaxes into a predictable existence. That is, until Finlay, the man she shared one romantic night with, reappears, a specter from her past. He ignites her passion, even while he threatens the precarious foundation on which she’s rebuilt her life. But when those from her past return to endanger her hard-earned security, she’ll have to reveal his secret or go to prison.
Each book in the Once Upon A Scandal series is STANDALONE:
* To Love a Scandalous Duke
* To Resist a Scandalous Rogue
About the Author
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London, Late 1828
Life was truly satire, Charlotte thought, for why else would her new employer think her a courtesan? The news had propelled her to clamp her hand over her mouth to contain her laughter. With the manner in which her life had played out over the last year, she was not surprised.
"It's not so bad," Eliza explained, her tone coaxing. Charlotte suspected her cousin used just such a voice to cajole her customers to agree to her hefty fees. "And you said you were desperate for work."
She didn't appreciate Eliza's reminder of her dire circumstances, for it made her consider actions that violated every one of her morals. Instead, her mirth transformed into irritation and anger at her cousin's nonchalant duplicity. She'd not known Eliza earned her keep on her back, but then, she hadn't seen her cousin in five years. Discovering the truth about Eliza had left a painful knot in Charlotte's throat ... one she would have fretted over had she not been offered the same fate.
"Why did you not just tell me what this job really entailed?" Charlotte grasped Eliza's hand and squeezed it. "I would not have judged you, but I also would not have accepted. I thought I was to be a maid for an earl's house party. You led me to believe that, Liza."
"You'll make more in one night at this house party than you'd make in an entire six months as a maid," Eliza argued, flicking a guinea-blonde curl over her shoulder. She pinned Charlotte with hard blue eyes. "I thought you would be reasonable and see this opportunity for what it's worth. I know a dozen girls, at least, who would jump at the opportunity to be near such men."
When Charlotte looked away, Eliza reached out and grabbed her shoulders, forcing her to meet her gaze. "All you need is one of them to offer for you, and your problems would be a thing of the past."
"No, they wouldn't." Charlotte sighed, and she felt it in every limb. "I would just have different problems. And I would still be a mistress."
Eliza shrugged, the motion causing the red cambric shawl she wore to slip off her pale shoulder, showcasing her scandalously low neckline. Unconsciously, Charlotte placed a hand against her own chest, relieved to find her modest muslin bodice still in place.
"I find problems are much easier to manage when I have a full belly and a clean, safe place to sleep."
She found she couldn't argue with her cousin's pragmatic response.
"Several of the gentlemen are quite handsome." Eliza smoothed her hands down her sides as she smacked her lips together. "I daresay the evening will be quite enjoyable and profitable."
Catching Charlotte's frown, she waved her hand. "You act like you're a fresh-faced virgin, afraid of a man's willie. You're a widow, Char. You should know a thing or two about bedsport by now."
Charlotte bit the inside of her cheek, but even the pain couldn't stop the flood of heat that spread over her cheeks. Eliza was correct that she was no longer an innocent, but the only man she'd ever slept with was Roderick, and she had loved him. Their relationship had never been casual, and the thought of engaging in such an intimate activity with a stranger, for money, was more than she was capable of.
"I just can't do it." She had taken a step back, freeing herself from her cousin's grip. "I appreciate your willingness to help me, but I can't do this."
Eliza regarded her intently for a long moment before she exhaled loudly. "I didn't think you'd truly follow through with it, but I wanted to give you the choice. Which is why I didn't tell you beforehand — I thought a last-minute decision would allow you to forget all your prim reasons to say no and instead allow you to focus on your survival."
Charlotte couldn't fault her cousin — well, not too much — for her line of thinking. Women had few employment options available to them, and certainly prostitution was one of the more lucrative choices. Which was why she had been so thrilled at the prospect of a maid's position. Charlotte knew that, while it was only temporary, it would have helped garner a reference she could have used to secure employment in another grand Mayfair house. 'Twas a bitter blow to learn the position was an illusion.
"I have to go. The men are expecting us." Eliza ran a finger across her mouth before she patted her curls. She had only grown more beautiful with age, Charlotte reflected as she watched her cousin primp. Her junior by a year, Eliza had possessed a merry exuberance to accompany her flawless complexion, silky flaxen hair, and cornflower blue eyes. Charlotte had always assumed her pretty cousin would marry a barrister or man of business, but life didn't always play out the way one expected.
Of this, she knew firsthand. The knowledge of where life had brought her and her lovely cousin made anger spark hot and fast in her veins before it was swiftly extinguished.
She didn't have the luxury of feeling an everyday emotion such as anger. Especially when she didn't know how she'd feed herself once she left the earl's rich townhome. The maid position was the only decent work she had found since she returned to London, and her funds were almost gone.
"I'll gather my belongings," she said stiffly, willing her body to collect her effects. She had nowhere to go, but after turning down Eliza's offer, she didn't want to assume her continued presence there was welcome.
"Don't worry, Char, you can leave in the morning." Eliza removed Charlotte's palm from the door handle. "The men will be busy, and no one will know you're here. Leave on the morrow."
Charlotte nodded, forcing down her relief on a painful swallow. "Thank you. And I'm sorry."
Eliza pulled her into an impromptu hug. "Do not fret. I'm sorry I wasn't honest with you." She pulled back and offered her a sad smile. "I am strangely relieved you said no. Despite everything, you're still ... you."
"Yes, well, my empty stomach may regret my actions come next week. Still, I'm happy I didn't disappoint you." Catching Eliza's arched brow, Charlotte suppressed a smile. "Too much."
"Find me before you go," Eliza said as she opened the door and stepped into the hall. "I know some decent boardinghouses where you can stay."
"I'd appreciate it." Charlotte gripped the edge of the door tightly. "Please be careful."
"I always am," Eliza said before departing, her swaying hips descending the stairs toward the sound of distant laughter.
Charlotte closed the door and locked it, leaning back against the cool wood. Anxiety weighed heavy on her shoulders, although she was sure she should be used to its smothering presence by now.
This was supposed to be her chance to get back on her feet. Since Roderick had died unexpectedly in India, Charlotte had lived in a near- constant state of panic. Every thought, every breath had been used to first determine how she'd return to England, and then how she'd fend for herself once she did. Selling her wedding ring had allowed her to book passage on a ship sailing to London, and fortuitously encountering Eliza on a busy street in Cheapside had seemed to solve her need for a job. She'd almost wept in the middle of midday traffic when Eliza mentioned the Earl of Belling's house party and his need for additional maids.
She should have known better. If only she'd asked more questions, she wouldn't have planned for a better tomorrow.
Charlotte rubbed her fists into her eyes before dropping her hands. She glanced down at her bare ring finger, the sight like a punch to the chest. Even after all these months without its comforting weight on her hand, Charlotte still had not forgiven herself ... or Roderick ... for forcing her to part with her beloved piece of jewelry. It wasn't the monetary value she mourned. To her, its sentimental value had made it priceless.
She shook her head. She needed a plan. For tonight, at least, she had a roof over her head, but tomorrow, she'd be homeless once again.
After fretting over possibilities for an hour, she was desperate to escape the narrow confines of the room. She needed fresh air to clear her head. Tentatively, she opened the door and peered into the hall. No one was within sight. Grabbing her cloak, she slipped out the door, descending the quiet steps of the servants' staircase. Following the echo of voices, she located the kitchens where the servants' entrance was and pushed the heavy oak door open. Charlotte dashed toward the small, immaculate garden. Weaving her way through shrubbery and abundant flowerbeds, she located a small bench under a rose arbor and sank onto the cool seat, inhaling a long, rose-scented breath while she tipped her head back to look at the sky.
A random star twinkled here and there, and she abruptly longed for India and the warm nights Roderick and she had spent under a star-filled canopy. She missed him fiercely, but she also hated him for leaving her in such a crunch.
The sound of the back door opening disturbed the silence, and she assumed it was a footman or kitchen maid until she heard the crunch of footsteps on the gravel coming steadily closer. Should she leave, she wondered, her gaze darting around the space in an attempt to find a more remote spot. The silhouette of a man appeared at the end of the walk. For a moment, she thought he hadn't seen her until he came up short, as if he were on a leash and it had been tugged. She heard his quiet, "Oh."
She stood and moved as if to leave, but the man held up a hand. "Please, don't let me chase you away. You were here first. I can always find somewhere else to sit."
Charlotte frowned, taken aback by his polite comment. From his refined accent, it was obvious he was one of Lord Belling's guests, yet his words weren't slurred and he didn't appear to be in his cups.
Nevertheless, it would be best if she remained sequestered. Charlotte had no intention of giving any of the guests the idea she was a part of the entertainment.
"Nonsense. You are Lord Belling's guest, while I am not." She gestured to the bench with her hand. "Have a seat, sir. You will find the view of the stars is quite nice."
She made to walk around him, but he reached out a hand to stay her. "I feel quite guilty chasing you away when you appeared to be enjoying said view. Perhaps you'd allow me to simply join you? I promise not to disrupt your quiet sojourn. I escaped out here because I tire of the raucous noise. The earl's ... entertainment is not to my liking tonight."
Charlotte's attention caught on the man's words. He was escaping? The entertainment was not to his liking? She nibbled her bottom lip as she considered his offer. The thought of locking herself away in the tiny attic room held little appeal, and she had managed to acquire a smidgen of peace amongst the manicured flowerbeds.
She allowed her gaze to travel over the man's silhouette. If he kept quiet, as he said, there didn't seem to be much harm in sharing the still gardens with him.
* * *
Why had he thought this night would be fun?
Since the moment Finlay departed from Herefordshire after his sister's wedding, he'd been restless. On edge.
Standing as witness as Alethea married Declan, their childhood friend — and the bloody Duke of Darington — should have eased his mind. There was no one more important to him than his twin, annoying as she could be, and seeing her happy and so in love with a man who would love her and care for her in the manner in which she deserved should have brought him peace. Reassurance.
And yet, he was troubled. The devastating truth he had so recently learned of his birth made it hard to think about much else but what-ifs. What if his late mother's diary fell into the wrong hands? What if it were revealed he was actually a bastard? What would become of him if he were no longer Viscount Firthwell, heir to the Earl of Rockhaven?
Belling's house party was supposed to allow him to curb his worries for a time. For a day, at least. But here Finlay sat, on a cold bench in the earl's small garden with an unknown woman. He assumed she was a servant, based on the quality of her clothing he was able to glimpse in the dim light. If he hadn't felt such blasted guilt for disturbing her, he would have allowed her to leave when she wanted to.
Curse his chivalry.
After several long minutes, he noticed two things. One, the woman had remained silent, seemingly content to enjoy the night. Two, she smelled like a fresh, crisp autumn morning.
He rubbed a hand along his brow at such a fanciful thought. But he had no other way to describe her delectable scent. She smelled like apples and dew and frost on yellowing grass. She smelled like welcoming fires and warm toddies.
Perhaps he had consumed too much brandy.
"Are you from London?" he heard himself ask and cursed mentally when his voice echoed across the tranquil garden.
A long pause ensued, and if it were physically possible, Finlay would have kicked his own arse. He opened his mouth to apologize when she said softly, "I am originally, although I've spent a majority of the last five years abroad."
That roused his interest. "Where, may I ask?"
The woman, her shadowy figure sitting with stern uprightness, dipped her head. "Spain, for a time. Italy. Egypt, briefly. Most of the years were spent in India."
"Fascinating." Every syllable was said with absolute sincerity. "Why would a proper English miss be in India?"
"Because her husband worked for the East India Company."
"Well, I suppose that's as good a reason as any," Finlay managed with a chuckle.
"I'm relieved you approve, sir."
Despite himself, he laughed again. A hearty laugh he felt in his toes. It was rare anyone, let alone a woman, spoke to him in such a way. Women tended to titter and flutter their lashes, hopeful their antics would snare the merry Viscount Firthwell. He should have known a tart tongue would capture his attention.
"What is your husband's position with the East India Company?"
"He was the undersecretary to the Governor."
"Was?" The word rang out to Finlay despite the fact she hadn't emphasized it.
He watched her stroke the fingers on her left hand. "He died last year. Cholera."
"Ah," he said stupidly, and he wanted to kick himself again. "My condolences."
"Thank you." Her words were whispered, but he heard them all the same. The sudden stillness of the air made them resound as loud as a shout.
A new thought occurred to him. "If you were the wife of the undersecretary to the governor of India, why on earth are you a servant here at Belling House?"
Her shoulders curved in, as if she thought she could make herself disappear. "There were some issues with his will."
Finlay leaned forward. "What sort of issues?"
Pivoting, she faced him, defiance evident in her frame. "Why do you care, sir? Are you not here for distractions? For debauchery? My story isn't available for your entertainment."
He flexed his jaw and dropped his head to his chest, thoroughly chagrined. She was right. He was interested in her story because it distracted him from contemplating his multitude of problems. Belling's party was supposed to do the same thing. Both were failures.
"I apologize," he said, his voice tight. "I didn't mean to pry."
She nodded, then angled her face away.
The sudden awkwardness that replaced the easy chatter they'd previously experienced made him want to run his hands through his hair and pull it. What had happened to his legendary charm? He'd used to be able to flirt and converse with women as naturally as drawing breath. Apparently, his father had taken his talent with him on the man's exile to the Continent.
"I'm not a maid, anyhow." Her voice was low, and he squinted as if that would allow him to hear her better. "I was misled. With the best of intentions, as odd as it sounds."
He frowned. "How were you misled?"
"There was no maid position."
"What position were you offered instead?"
Her silence drew his attention. She stared at her lap, where her hands knotted and unknotted in obvious agitation. Observing her distress delivered a shot of clarity. "Oh," he managed.
"Indeed," she said and inexplicably laughed. A diverted, husky sound that sent streaks of heated awareness rushing over his scalp and down his back. "Here, I thought I would be cleaning, dusting, and delivering tea trays. How naive."
Finlay swallowed, forcing down the surge of arousal her innocent laugh had encouraged. Why he responded in such a way he couldn't say, but perhaps he would be better off returning to the drawing room, which was filled with the kind of women who'd welcome such a reaction. The kind of woman his seatmate had just confessed to not being.
He coughed into his hand. "Who led you to believe it was a maid's position?"
"My cousin, Eliza. The lovely blonde in red."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "To Resist a Scadalous Rogue"
Copyright © 2019 Liana De la Rosa.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was the first book I have read by this author but it was a good book. It was well written and the author did a great job with the political and religion issues during that time frame. The characters were strong and had several obstacles in their path but they were able to find their HEA. I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Now why would one want to resist a Scandalous Rogue? An unexpected meeting bring two people together for a brief encounter that left an impression on both of them. Each had their own stories. One had a hugh secret that was pressing on him while the other needed to find her way after being left penniless. This story captured me from the first page and with the wonderful descriptive writing of this author kept me in it's grip until the end! I loved Charlotte and Finley and as they encountered each other a year later, their inital attration was there there and coming off the pages. Fin, Viscount Firthwell, found Charlotte teaching at his sister's Foundling Home and could not believe he found her there. I definitely think fate had a hand in bringing them back together and regardless of their social differences, their feelings could not be denied. But both are struggling with their secrets and they may just overwhelm them both! I truly enjoyed this book and have to say the epilogue was wonderful! This author is on my must read list and I cannot wait for her next story!! I read this through NetGallery and the wonderful publisher Entangled. Lori Dykes
I received an ARC of this book to read through NetGalley in exchange for a fair review. To Resist a Scandalous Rogue by Liana De la Rosa is the second book in her Once Upon a Scandal series. It can be read as a stand-alone but I enjoyed the first book and recommend reading it. Charlotte Taylor recently widowed has been left with nothing after the death of her husband, so when her cousin offers her a job as a maid she jumps at the chance only to find that the job really involves entertaining gentlemen at a house party and not by tidying their bedrooms. Findlay Swinton, Viscount Firthwell attended the house party as an escape from pressures in his life and once he arrives realizes that the entertainments offered are not really to his taste anymore. Looking to escape the house party they meet in the garden and an enjoyable evening conversing and laughing turns into something more but because of the differences in their status and Charlottes Judaism that night is all that they can have. Nasty villains, political maneuvering and adorable orphans make for a story that will keep you up late reading. Medium Steam. Publishing Date June 24, 2019 #NetGalley #ToResistAScandalousRogue #Lianadelarosa #EntangledPublishing #EntangledAmara
Finlay is trying to turn his life around after learning a secret that could shatter his world. Trying to forget what happened, he attends a house party where he meets Charlotte. They feel an immediate attraction and spend the night together, but she disappears in the morning. Charlotte is a widow and desperately needs a job. She thought she would be a maid at the house party, but her cousin didn't tell her the truth. Not willing to lay on her back for money, she decides to spend the night and leave in the morning. Unable to sleep, she goes to the garden where she meets Finlay. Charlotte knows that there can never be anything between her and Finlay and she heads back to London before he makes an offer that she can't refuse. She luckily finds a job at a foundling home, teaching the children. A year later, Finlay and Charlotte meet up again. Their attraction is still red hot. Can anything permanent come from it? I loved Finlay and Charlotte's story! I loved that they were able to have meaningful conversations between each other. Even though they only spent one night together, you get the feeling that they have known each other for much longer because of their strong connection. This was a great addition to the series and I hope that De la Rosa continues it, as I have throughly enjoyed it!
I gave this a five-star review because of the unusual subject matters. It describes London in the 1820's and shows the ugly side of religious prejudice and people who grew up as Lords and Ladies only to find out the dark secret that they were born on the wrong side of the blanket. The characters were well written and their personalities are fantastic. They dealt with their situations realistically. They bore the scars of the wrongs in their life with as much dignity and grace as possible. However, there was suffering along with painful things said and done. If the wrong people found out or the characters went out of step, they could ruin their lives irrevocably. This is a well written book and a must read. I highly recommend it. I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving a review.