The Scent of Scandal
Carole Matthews
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The Scent of Scandal

Carole Matthews
352 pages
December 2004
rated 3 of 5 possible stars
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Thirty-two year old aromatherapist Rose Stevens has recently broken up with her “boyfriend” of two years, Hugh. Hugh is a married man with children, and Rose’s “relationship” with Hugh seemed to be a dead end. Seeking a new life, Rose relocates from London to the small town known as Great Brayford. Rose is ensconced in a cottage at 5 Lavender Hill, and she has essentially moved her aromatherapy business with her, seeing clients in her cottage where she massages them with aromatherapy oils to relieve their various ailments.

While Rose is settling into life in a small town, her elderly neighbor, Anise, is watching Rose with a hawk’s eye. Anise literally spies on Rose and her clients' comings and going with binoculars. Anise is convinced that Rose is running a brothel because she sees men going in and out of Rose’s cottage on a regular basis.

Truth be told, Rose has no “love life” since she moved into the cottage at 5 Lavender Hill. She is feeling lonely until Dan, a local builder, knocks on her cottage door one day and offers to open up the fireplace in her cottage that he previously bricked in before Rose moved in. Rose agrees, and this seemingly innocent arrangement leads to sparks flying between Rose and Dan. Clearly, the two are attracted to each other, and Dan’s attentions keep Rose from pining for Hugh, with whom she has cut off contact in the hopes of mending her broken heart.

However, despite Rose and Dan’s attraction mutual attraction, the situation is not that simple. Dan is tied to a relationship with a beautiful woman named Gardenia. Gardenia is not Dan’s wife but they have lived together at Dan’s cottage “Builder’s Bottom” for several years. As Dan pushes the envelope by testing the limits of his relationship with the unforgiving and suspicious Gardenia, Rose has difficulties resisting Dan’s overtures, although she certainly has been down the road of having an affair with a man in a serious relationship.

With the exception of the a small twist here and there, things work out for Rose in a predictable fashion, which is not an undesirable ending for this light, contemporary novel that is part chick lit, part romance. While the author liberally uses humor throughout the novel and rounds out the story with quirky small-town characters, the humor occasionally falls flat and leaves the reader desiring more. The plot takes off quickly enough but turns plodding until a few twists at the end add spice to the storyline. While one may have difficulty garnering sympathy for Rose as she sets her claws into another unavailable man, the breezy style of writing and antics of the small-town residents will bring a smile to most readers’ faces. This novel is recommended to fans of chick lit and contemporary romance and, of course, any current fans of Matthews, who already has three novels under her belt.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Shannon I. Bigham, 2004

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