Scandal and the Duchess (MacKenzies and McBrides #6.5) by Jennifer Ashley
Synopsis: Scandal follows Rose Barclay, young widow of the Duke of Southdown, wherever she goes. It’s never her fault–honor bright–but newspapers love to write about the young woman from Scotland, and the much older duke she married, who died on their honeymoon. The duke left her with a large widow’s portion, now contested by his son, who kicks Rose out of the estate’s dower house and uses it to kennel his dogs.
Rose does *not* need to be found with a large, handsome Scot passed out at her feet, fueling gossips and giving her stepson more ammunition. The Scot is Steven McBride – a decorated soldier who is notorious for heavy gambling and womanizing during his leave time. Steven is happy to open his eyes and find the beautiful woman standing over him, and happy to help spirit her away. He comes up with a ruse to foil the journalists, but Rose will have to go along with his very scandalous proposal.
Review: This short story was ok. Nothing spectacular, but cute. The way the couple gets together was a bit funny; he was so drunk he tripped and fell onto her in front of the journalists hounding her. The ruse of the engagement was a nice plot detail, it kept these two strangers together long enough to come together for real. The antagonist was good; the spoiled stepson who wants nothing to go to his dad’s second and much younger wife after the father’s death. Where the story falls short with me was how Steven came to decide like possibly the second, maybe the third full day together, that he wanted the engagement real and set out to win her. His falling hard for her so quickly was unrealistic. His back story was good and as a character he was good, but the plot was so abrupt and rushed. I wanted more substance and Jennifer Ashley usually provides quite a bit of substance in her stories. I think this story would have been better if it was longer. In the end the characters were a bit flat. I don’t regret reading it, it was sweet and because it was short, it was quick. I’m going to read the Stolen MacKenzie Bride next so I hope a full length novel will be more up to par with what Ashley usually provides to readers.