I'm not generally a fan of adventure books, but Nicola Cornick had me hooked in Whisper of Scandal. Lady Joanna Ware was married to Lord David Ware, who was an explorer and lauded as a hero throughout society. Unfortunately for Joanna, David couldn't keep up his heroics without a captive audience, most of which included women. Her husband has been dead for eighteen months, but they were estranged long before that.
Lord Alex Grant considered David Ware to be one of the best men he knew. They had grown up side by side, gone to war together in the Navy and continued their friendship into exploring the artic. When David died in his arms warning him that his wife was manipulative and cruel, he never doubted those words. When Joanna and Alex are informed of their joint custody over David's illegitimate daughter, neither is pleased with the forced connection, despite Joanna being thrilled at the idea of having a child to call her own.
Seeing no other hope for it, Joanna plans her excursion to the North Pole to retrieve her ward, while Alex does everything possible to stop her. When he sees he is not going to be able to, he decides that he must go with her. A woman travelling with a man on that long of a journey is improper to say the least. Joanna knows she needs to protect her reputation if she expects to come home and be able to provide for the child, and Alex knows he needs to provide an heir for his title, so after much bickering they decide to marry before they head on the journey.
Ms Cornick did a fabulous job writing the tension between these two characters. Not only the sexual chemistry involved but the emotional and mental clash as well. Joanna hates heroes and has good reason to. Alex believes Joanna no better than a grasping female. Their dislike for each other formed through their associations with the same man added quite an interesting mix to the storyline. Throughout the whole book they are both brutally honest with each other. It is not a lack of communication that causes so much of their problems, but an overabundance of assumptions made on both sides. Whereas usually characters refuse to talk to one another, which causes conflict, this was the opposite. They had no problem talking to one another; they just refused to hear what the other was saying.
Towards the end of the book, I did feel as if the author started running out of time and had to wrap things up. There were just a few instances where some of the resolutions felt forced or the story was moved along too quickly. And, while the book was not as lighthearted as I usually enjoy, I really liked it. There were a couple of more serious themes dealt with in the book, but it didn't go too dark at any one point. It was an easy read with a change of pace, since it focused on exploration rather than society's comings and goings. Since this is not light but not dark, not suspenseful but not fluffy, if you are looking to step outside of your box a little I would give this one a try.