Have you ever read Caroline Linden stories? If you have, than you know how much fun and romantic they are, not to mention sensual!
This is a third book in her Scandals series in which 50 Ways to Sin pamphlet gives more than one lady a mind for scandal [you can find my review of the first one here and the second one here] and while I found the first to be lighthearted and fun, and the second one a bit subdued and emotional, this third one was intense and heartbreaking, yet just as romantic as the first two.
If you’ve never read any of her books, then I have only one question for you: What are you waiting for?!! Get to it 😉
We’re lucky to have Caroline stop by and do a mini interview with us, so sit back and enjoy it. Don’t forget to read the excerpt too 😉
Caroline, before I start with the questions, how about you tell us a bit about your writing career so far?
It’s been a lot of fun! I started writing about 13 years ago, when my children were really small. To be honest, I never thought of myself as a writer, and my first trial book was really just fooling around (and it showed—I never finished that first effort, with good reason). I was astonished when it turned out to be fun. I sold my first book in 2004, and today my 16th book comes out.
Who inspired this story’s hero and heroine?
There isn’t one, or even two, sources. Bits of them came from all over. Penelope is the youngest daughter of a very wealthy, though not noble, family. She’s clever, funny, and fiercely loyal, but she sometimes doesn’t know when to quit. Penelope’s quite confident that her view is the right one, and it takes her a while to realize her error there. Benedict is the son and heir of an earl. He’s handsome, decent, protective of his mother and sisters, and absolutely desperate to marry a rich woman. His father is abusive and controlling, and the only way out Benedict sees is to make himself financially independent. Penelope would be perfect…except that she hates him. And drives him crazy. And he can’t stop thinking about her. And then they’re caught together in a scandalous moment, and Fate takes over.
What was your favorite book as a child?
There were too many to remember! But one I remember very fondly, and read multiple times, was CALICO CAPTIVE by Elizabeth George Speare. It’s about a family on the New Hampshire frontier in the 1750s or so, taken captive by an Abenaki raiding party. The main character is 16 year old Miriam, whose budding romance with a local young man is interrupted by the capture…but not ended. It’s based on a true story and I was mesmerized by it.
Is there a book you’re never tired of reading over and over?
No, not really. I have a collection of go-to favorites, but not just one. The most recent book I re-read from that collection was BRIDGET JONES. I still love the laugh-out-loud writing.
If you were given only one genre to read for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Oh man! Only one?! I think it’s best to switch around between genres. I love my romances, but also mysteries, and thrillers, and seriously good non-fiction like the books David McCullough writes—I’m really looking forward to reading his new one about the Wright brothers, because as a child I wanted to be a pilot.
What was the last book that made you laugh out loud, and what was the last one that made you cry?
Hmm. One that made me laugh was Laura Drewry’s PRIMA DONNA. The heroine is so tough and funny, even in trying and heartbreaking moments, and the hero is just adorable: a doctor who lets his most seriously ill patients cut his hair! The fact that the heroine is a hair stylist, and is personally offended by his terrible hair until she learns the truth, just makes it funnier. The one that made me cry, for both happy and sad reasons, is Maya Rodale’s WHAT A WALLFLOWER WANTS. The heroine has been sexually assaulted, and it’s heartbreaking at times—but then it becomes poignantly joyful as she learns to take back herself and her own body.
BOOK BLURB: Penelope Weston does not like Benedict Lennox, Lord Atherton. He may be the suave and charming heir to an earl, as well as the most handsome man on earth, but she can’t forget how he abandoned a friend in need—nor how he once courted her sister, Abigail. He’s the last man she would ever marry. If only she didn’t feel so attracted to the arrogant scoundrel…
Once upon a time, Benedict thought he and Penelope got along rather well. Though he needs a wealthy bride to escape his cruel father’s control, spirited Penelope just doesn’t suit his plans for a model marriage—until a good deed goes awry, and scandalous rumors link his name to Penelope’s. She might not be the quiet, sensible wife he thought he wanted, but she is beautiful . . . beguiling . . . and far more passionate than he ever imagined. Can a marriage begun in scandal become a love match, too?
Stratford Court, Richmond
Perseus lay in pieces on the floor. His arm, divorced from his body, held out the severed head of Medusa as if to ward his attacker off, and indeed, Benedict Lennox thought it might well have turned him to stone.
Before he fell, Perseus had held the head aloft, poised in mid-stride. The Gorgon’s face was twisted with rage and her eyes seemed to follow a person. It was hideous, even frightening, but Benedict’s father said it was a masterpiece, and Father knew art. As such it was displayed in a prominent position on the landing of the main staircase of Stratford Court, with a large mirror behind it to display the rear. Benedict always tried not to look right at it when he passed, but there was no avoiding it now. The base rested against the remains of the mirror, while Perseus and his trophy were scattered in pieces across the landing, amid the glittering shards of broken glass.
“Do you know anything about this?” The Earl of Stratford’s voice was idle, almost disinterested.
His son swallowed hard. “No, sir.”
“No?” The earl rocked back on his heels. “Nothing at all? Do you not even recognize it?”
Oh no. That had been the wrong answer. He searched frantically for the right one. “No, sir. I didn’t mean that. It’s a statue of Perseus.”
Lord Stratford made a soft, disappointed noise. “Not merely a statue of Perseus. This is one of the finest works of art by a great sculptor. See how exquisitely he renders the god’s form, how he encapsulates the evil of the Gorgon!” He paused. “But you don’t care about that, do you?”
Benedict said nothing. He knew there was no correct answer to that question.
Stratford sighed. “Such a pity. I had hoped my only son would pay more attention to his classical studies, but alas. Perhaps I should be grateful you recognized it at all. Our entire conversation would be for naught otherwise.”
Benedict Lennox gripped his hands together until his knuckles hurt. He stood rigidly at attention, mesmerized by the shattered glass and stone before him.
His father clasped his hands behind him, rather like Benedict’s tutor did when explaining a difficult point of mathematics. “Now, what else can you tell me about this statue?”
“Something terrible happened to it, sir.”
“Was it struck by lightning, do you think?” asked the earl in exaggerated concern.
The sky outside the mullioned windows was crystal clear, as blue as a robin’s egg. “Unlikely, sir.”
“No, perhaps not,” his father murmured, watching him with a piercing stare. Benedict longed to look away from that stare but knew it would be a mistake. “Perhaps it was a stray shot from a poacher?”
Stratford Court was set in a manicured park, surrounded only by gardens, graveled paths, and open rolling lawns. The woods where any poachers might roam were across the river. Benedict wished those woods were much closer. He wished he were exploring them right this moment. “Possible, but also unlikely, sir.”
“Not a poacher,” said Stratford thoughtfully. “I confess, I’ve quite run out of ideas! How on earth could a statue of inestimable value break without any outside influence? Not only that, but the mirror as well. It’s bad luck to break a mirror.”
He stayed silent. He didn’t know, either, though he suspected he was about to be punished for it. Bad luck, indeed.
“What do you say, Benedict? What is the logical conclusion?”
His tongue felt wooden. “It must have been someone inside the house, sir.”
“Surely not! Who would do such a thing?”
A flicker of movement caught his eye before he could think of an answer. He tried to check the impulse, but his father noticed his involuntary start and turned to follow his gaze. Two little girls peeped around the newel post at the bottom of the stairs. “Come here, my lovely daughters, come here,” said the earl.
Benedict’s heart sank into his shoes. Suddenly he guessed what had happened to the mirror. Samantha, who was only four, looked a little uncertain; but Elizabeth, who was seven, was pale-faced with fear. Slowly the sisters came up the stairs, bobbing careful curtsies when they reached the landing.
“Here are my pretty little ones.” The earl surveyed them critically. “Lady Elizabeth, your sash is dropping. And Lady Samantha, you’ve got dirt on your dress.”
“I’m sorry, Father.” Elizabeth tugged at her sash, setting it further askew. Samantha just put her hands behind her back and looked at the floor. She’d only recently been allowed out of the nursery and barely knew the earl.
“Your brother and I are attempting to solve a mystery.” The earl waved one hand at the wreckage. “Do you know what happened to this statue?”
Elizabeth went white as she stared at the Gorgon’s head. “It broke, Father,” piped up Samantha.
“Very good,” the earl told her. “Do you know how?”
Elizabeth’s terrified gaze veered to him. Benedict managed to give her an infinitesimal shake of his head before their father turned on him. “Benedict says he does not know,” Stratford said sharply. “Do not look at him for answers, Elizabeth.”
In the moment the earl’s back was turned to them, Elizabeth nudged her sister and touched one finger to her lips. Samantha’s brown eyes grew round and she moved closer to Elizabeth, reaching for her hand.
Stratford turned back to his daughters. “Do either of you know?” Elizabeth blinked several times, but she shook her head. “Samantha?” prodded their father. “It would be a sin not to answer me.”
Samantha’s expression grew worried. Benedict’s throat clogged and his eyes stung. He took a breath to calm his roiling nerves and spoke before his sister could. “It was my fault, Father.”
“Your fault?” Fury flashed in the earl’s face though his voice remained coldly calm. “How so, Benedict?”
What should he say? If the earl didn’t believe his story, he’d be whipped for lying, and then his sister would be punished for the actual crime, the nursemaid would be sacked for not keeping better watch over her charges, and his mother would be excoriated for hiring the nursemaid at all. And all over an ugly statue that everyone tried to avoid seeing.
A fine sweat broke out on his brow. Boys at school told of lying to deny their misdeeds, but how did one lie to claim a crime? He would have to ask, next term. Not that it would help him now.
To finish the excerpt and for the first chapter, go here.
AUTHOR BIO: This is Caroline Linden’s short version of her biography: Caroline Linden earned a math degree from Harvard University before turning to writing fiction. Ten years, nine books, two Red Sox championships, and one dog later, she has never been happier with her decision.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut. Or a fashion designer. Possibly both; pink spacesuits would look so much better than white ones. But it turned out those were difficult careers to combine, and eventually the fashion designing fell by the wayside.
To continue reading this longer and very interesting version of Caroline Linden’s biography, please visit her website here.