Before the Scandal is the second of Suzanne Enoch's 'The Notorious Gentleman' series, the first book being After The Kiss. This series follows the romances of three soldiers who served together fighting Napoleon; in Before the Scandal, it's the turn of Phineas Bromley, second son of a viscount and family tearaway. Phineas left home
at 17 after causing an accident that crippled his older brother, the viscount, and
he hasn't returned for ten years. After a letter from his young sister, Beth, telling him that brother William
is at death's door, Phineas rushes back from the continent to the family home at Quence in East Sussex.
When Phin arrives, however, things aren't as they seem. William isn't on his deathbed, but Beth can't tell him why she begged him to come back. Phin also reacquaints himself with his childhood playmate Alyse Donnelly, now a lovely woman of 25. But Alyse's life has changed considerably since Phil left; she's now at the mercy of her cousin, who treats her like a servant. As Phin gets to know Alyse again, he discovers that Quence seems to have been suffering a run of bad luck and soon wonders if there's more to it than just misfortune. To
learn more, he disguises himself as a highwayman and starts to investigate - but can he keep his brother and sister safe, can he rescue Alyse from her dire situation, and can he find out who it is who is plotting against Quence, and why?
I enjoyed Before the Scandal, particularly its main character, Phin, who
is portrayed very well. Despite now being a heroic character, Phin's previous behavior
is not glossed over, and his feeling of responsibility for some of the bad events in the past
are probably fair.
It's harder to understand Alyse, whose characterization is sketchy, but she is still an appealing character. Where this book falls down
is the historical accuracy within the dialogue. Some enormous clangers crop up within the text, such as people saying 'no worries' to each other like modern-day Australians rather than English people from the early 1800s. On many occasions the dialogue feels like modern Americans speaking rather than Regency Brits; for this English reader, that was very noticeable. However, overall I did like the story with its different plotline and, despite the rather unlikely events that took place at times, I was caught up with the story for most of its length.