Secrets of a Scandalous Bride is the fourth in Sophia Nash's Widows Club series, only Elizabeth Ashburton isn't a widow - she's pretending to be one as she hides from Captain Pymm, a war hero who wants to marry her but whom she believes is responsible for the death of her father and her friend Sarah's husband.
When Elizabeth meets Rowland Manning, the horse breeder and illegitimate brother of one of her friends, she sees something in him that those around don't - a form of nobility and honor hidden under his gruff and unwelcoming manner. But it's not in Rowland's interests to get involved with Elizabeth: his entire self-made fortune rests on Pymm's honoring a contract for warhorses, and Pymm wants to marry Elizabeth and is blackmailing her into it.
This is a reasonable read, despite many situations which aren't authentic to the period. Elizabeth and Rowland have a remarkable freedom to spend time alone together unchaperoned, and Elizabeth riding a horse at Ascot
is simply too unbelievable. The side plot of Sarah and her abiding love for her husband
is also, in the end, completely unconvincing. However, the central idea of this book works well, with Rowland reliant on Pymm for his business's future but finding himself unable to ignore Elizabeth and her needs. I wasn't always sure if I liked Elizabeth, finding her an odd mix of selfish and selfless and perfectly happy to lie to friends and, looking at the story from one angle, also stringing Pymm along.
Still, the pace of the story keeps moving, interesting enough for me to want to finish it.
All the secondary characters who have been in previous books, several of which I have read,
can be confusing, and I was already bored of the on/off romance between Ata and John Brown, but overall Secrets of a Scandalous Bride is a reasonable enough book for those who've enjoyed
Nash's previous offerings.