In Candice Hern's latest offering, Once a Scoundrel, Anthony Morehouse is a typical Regency man-about-town. He spends his days and nights gambling, drinking and womanizing. He has made a successful living out of his wagers. So successful, in fact, that he manages to procure a surprising piece of collateral from a fellow gambler, although at the time Anthony doesn't realize that the man is quite happy to get rid of it. While the Ladies' Fashionable Cabinet isn't the furniture he was expecting, he consoles himself by taking a rakish and decidedly naughty interest in its editor.
Edwina Parrish is a proud bluestocking of the highest order. Not only is she the editor for the Ladies' Fashionable Cabinet, a magazine suitable for the improvement of the fashion-conscious woman, she is also an accomplished gamester. Throughout her childhood, she teased, tormented, and defeated a young Anthony in a variety of challenges. He hasn't forgotten a single one.
As the two duel over the future of the magazine, Edwina desperately tries to hide the true purpose of her endeavor: to educate women about the real issues of the world, not the simple, innocent topics that husbands, fathers, and men in general feel should be women's concerns. Anthony manipulates Edwina into engaging in more challenges with higher stakes than those they had as children, stakes very much in his favor and a threat to both her reputation and her heart.
In a fairly typical Regency romance with above-average love scenes, Edwina's causes and depth of character stand out. Anthony is more or less a usual hero, with all the vices and flaws found in wealthy nobles of the time. He is handsome, funny, clever and infinitely likeable, while Edwina is quite admirable. The dialogue is fantastic, the plot twists somewhat predictable, and the secondary characters entertaining. I wouldn't be surprised to see one or more of them in their own romances in the future.