Ms. London starts out her "Secrets of Hadley Green" series with an amusing read that has mix-ups and second chances galore! The Year of Living Scandalously begins with the sad and painful history of the Earl and Countess of Ashwood. Jewels stolen, an innocent man accused by an eight year old, and a series of deaths have left a tangled web of heartbreak for the residents of Hadley Green.
Little Lily Boudine testified against the local woodcarver, accused of stealing the legendary Ashwood jewels, and he was subsequently put to death. To keep her safe from the evil Earl of Ashwood, she was sent to live with her Irish relatives. Years later on the eve of a trip to Italy, Lily finds she is to inherit all of Ashwood as the old Earl has died. She concocts an innocent escapade in which her cousin, Kiera, would travel ahead to the estate and manage the affairs until she arrives back from Italy. Upon Kiera's arrival, she is mistaken for Lily and finds the only way to help the ailing estate is to “become” Lily. When she tries to raise money for the floundering property by selling off horse stock, she runs into Declan, Earl of Donnelly. These childhood neighbors face off while trying to come terms with a tragedy which has left them pitted against each other. What follows is a series of mix-ups and realizations that love always seems to find a way.
I really enjoyed the back history of these two characters. The young teenage romance between the two was sweet and just what you would hope your own would be. This quickly soured when a young lady of their mutual acquaintance was found dead after both had lied about being in each other's presence. A wedge is driven between the two as they both have a huge amount of guilt that they carry for the part they each played in the tragedy. When they find each other again, the sparks are definitely still there. The feelings they experience and show to the reader are palpable and just pull you in.
The personalities of Kiera and Declan are suited perfectly to each other. Kiera is the feisty, take no prisoners, live life to the fullest young lady we all wish we could be. She takes on tremendous responsibility with great intentions, but finds herself swamped with more than she can handle. Declan is the hero that we all pattern our husbands after, or at least wish could be ours. He is patient and puts up with Kiera's antics - as long as she isn't a danger to herself. He doesn't let her take herself too seriously and is there to pick up the pieces when she does. Their desperation when Kiera has been threatened with exposure as an imposter is real. The team work and love for each other shine through, though neither wants to be the first to admit it.
All in all The Year of Living Scandalously is a good read, one that has left me anticipating the follow up books!