Midnight Scandals is an anthology by three popular authors with a loose premise tying the stories together: all take place in the same small manor house during different historical periods, and the hero and heroine all have secret, late night meetings.
1813: One Starlit Night by Carolyn Jewel
Crispin and Portia were teenaged lovers cruelly separated by Crispin's father. Ten years apart has done nothing to diminish their feelings for each other, though their circumstances have vastly changed. Crispin, now the viscount and recently widowed, has returned to Doyle's Grange only to find Portia engaged to marry a local man solely to escape her new sister-in-law's excruciatingly polite tyranny.
Crispin and Portia have a tumultuous past, which is revealed in dribs and drabs throughout the story. There is a lot of pain and resentment roiling beneath the surface of all their interactions, but they cannot hide their explosive passion. The childhood-friends-to-lovers and the reunited-lovers plots are two of my favorites, and I mostly enjoyed this story, though I did feel at times that everything could have been cleared up much more quickly than it was. However, Portia's sister-in-law was the most annoying character I've read in quite some time, which I'm sure was the point, so good job there, Ms. Jewel.
1856: What Happened at Midnight by Courtney Milan
Mary Chartley's father embezzled funds from his business partners and, when found out, killed himself, leaving Mary penniless and alone. She disappeared but one of the partners, John Mason to whom Mary was engaged, searches for her, sure she lied about the money, which John was investing on behalf of his nephew. John finds Mary a year later at Doyle's Grange, companion to a downtrodden woman under the thumb of her controlling husband. John offers friendship as a way to gain Mary's trust in the hope she will confess her theft. But the rekindled friendship soon turns real and they become conspirators against Mary's employer.
It isn't only Mary's companion who is a prisoner in her own home, Mary is as well. In the past year, Mary has lost all her sense of self-worth and confidence. It was great to see her recover her pride and sense of self and become whole again. And John was just a besotted sweetie-pie. There's a lot packed into this short story.
1896: A Dance in Moonlight by Sherry Thomas
Isabelle Englewood has rented Doyle's Grange with the expectation of sharing it with her childhood sweetheart, now that she is widowed. However, he has had the bad taste to fall in love with his wife and so turns her down. Instead, Isabelle meets Ralston Fitzwilliam, a man who looks eerily like her erstwhile beau. It doesn't take long for her to get over that and she and Ralston share a deep friendship which soon turns to love.
This was my favorite story in the collection (though all of them are good). Isabelle and Ralston recognize in each other a fellow sufferer, for both loved their respective spouses deeply and mourn their loss. But there is a surprising amount of humor in Isabelle and Ralston's romance and an overlaying sweetness that just had me smiling and sighing.
Midnight Scandals is a great little collection of stories, by three very good writers. I highly recommend it.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, August 31, 2012