I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Spinster's Guide to Scandalous Behavior by Jennifer McQuiston
Published by Harper Collins on November 24th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Romance
Purchase Links: Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | IndieBound
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When her eccentric aunt suddenly dies and bequeaths her the key to a falling-down cottage in Cornwall, Lucy Westmore is surprised. After all, she scarcely knows her aunt, and her memories of Heathmore are murky, at best. But even more surprising is the part of Lucy’s inheritance that doesn’t come with a key: an old leather journal that provides the details of her mysterious aunt’s life and-for better or worse-gives Lucy all the instructions she needs to live the life of a scandalous spinster.
Lord Thomas Branston has spent the last five years in Cornwall, hiding from his painful past. Nothing has been tempting enough to lure him back to London…until now. He alone knows the real value of the property, and he’s determined to buy Heathmore before Miss Westmore ruins everything and sells it off to the highest bidder.
Emboldened by the guidance in her aunt’s diary, Lucy refuses to sell the property, not even when Lord Branston’s offers escalate, or when the house turns out to be truly uninhabitable. Lucy has no intention of giving up her one chance for independence. And Thomas has no intention of abandoning his suit.
But is it the property or the spitfire of a spinster that’s got his heart all tied up? And what is he willing to offer for both?
After allowing the gossip to subside following the scandalous marriage of her older sister to a mere doctor (The Diary of an Accidental Wallflower), Miss Lucy Westmore is finally set to make her debut into Society – a notion she absolutely dreads. The unexpected bequest of a cottage and acreage in Cornwall from her recently deceased spinster aunt, might just provide Lucy with the independence she craves. Taking inspiration from her aunt’s diaries, the impetuous Lucy sets out on a madcap adventure to the Cornish town of Lizard Bay to assert ownership of Heathmore cottage. Lucy’s plan for potential retirement into spinsterhood in Cornwall is impaired by the fact her father has negotiated the sale of Heathmore to Thomas, Lord Branston, and Thomas refuses to take Lucy’s emphatic “No” for an answer.
From the moment Thomas first encounters Lucy, he is intrigued. Her spirited manner -and trousers- instantly spark something in him he had thought long dead. Following family tragedy and scandal, Thomas sequestered himself in Lizard Bay to drown is sorrows in whiskey. Fortunately for him, he was befriended by Lucy’s imperious aunt, Miss E, who helped set him on his path toward healing. Leaving his life of dissipation behind and embracing his love of botany, Thomas vows to protect the lands surrounding Heathmore cottage, in honor of Miss E’s memory and the town she loved. He most certainly never expected to find a young woman like Lucy, whose laughter and sense of adventure remind him of the joys life has to offer. He shows the patience of a saint as he sets out to win Lucy’s trust, losing his own heart in the process.
Lucy Westmore is an absolute delight – funny, impetuous, caring, and outspoken. Her heart knows no bounds but her outer bravado hides an insecure young woman. Lucy is prepared to shout from the rooftops of London her intention to never marry, when in actuality she fears she will never be loved. Her fear gets in the way of allowing her to trust Thomas’ motives and attention, for no one, most certainly no man, has ever accepted her like Thomas.
From the Westmore household in London to the eccentric townspeople of Lizard Bay, this novel is filled with well developed secondary characters who add humor and heart to an already outstanding storyline (Lucy’s butler Wilson is a standout!). The landscape of Cornwall is vividly depicted, as well as the troubles facing small town economies in the mid-nineteenth century, providing an excellent sense of time and place.
In The Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behavior, author Jennifer McQuiston takes readers on a journey far from the stuffy ballrooms of London to the wild and majestic moors of Cornwall, leaving love and laughter in her wake.
Lydia’s gaze scooted lower, and her widened. “Why are you wearing Geoffrey’s old hat and jacket?” Her voice inched louder. “What on earth is going on?”
Lucy shrugged out of the borrowed garment. “I went … out.”
Her sister gaped at her. “Do you mean you went outside? Dressed like that?”
“You’ve seen me in trousers before.”
“Yes. Trousers to work in the greenhouse, which is scandalous enough,” Lydia choked out. “But to go out, where someone could see you … You look like a—”
“Boy?” Lucy finished. She removed the hat, and several pieces of her newly cut hair swung forward to just barely graze her chin. “’Tis rather the point. Better to be thought a boy, I think, when one traipses unchaperoned through the streets of London.” She smiled cheekily. “I need to guard my reputation, you know.”
Lydia reached out a trembling finger to touch Lucy’s hair. “Oh, Lucy … what terrible, awful thing have you done now?”
Lucy shook her head, testing the feel of it against her neck. Her hair didn’t feel terrible. Neither did it feel awful. “I’ve sold it.” She blew several insistent wisps of hair from her eyes, wondering how to contain them. Now that she’d removed her cap, the shortened strands seemed a bit … excited by their newfound freedom. “In fact, it was your idea.”
“How, exactly, was this my idea?” Lydia sounded close to hysterical.
“You encouraged me to find a way to earn the money to reach Cornwall on my own. You told me to find something to sell, so I visited the wig makers. Did you know they pay more for blond hair?” Though … not much more. She had a total of fifteen shillings in her pocket. By her calculations, if the sum was added to the loose change from her desk drawer, she had enough to get her to Cornwall. Now she just needed to find enough to either keep her there or get her back.
“I didn’t mean you should sell your hair,” Lydia cried. “I meant you should sell the silver buttons off your old cloak. Or perhaps your pen and ink set.”
“Don’t be silly. I need my pen set.”
“You need your hair, too!” Lydia retorted, her voice incredulous. “What about your Season? Your mother will be devastated. What were you thinking?”
Lucy’s lungs tightened. For heaven’s sake, this wasn’t about Mother, or the Season, or Lydia either. It was her choice. Her life. Her bloody hair. “No one will notice when it’s pinned up,” she protested.
Lydia sank down onto the sofa. “You are ruined,” she whispered. “If you go out in public now, you’ll never recover.”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake.” Lucy rolled her eyes. “I’m not ruined.” Surely being ruined would involve more than a trip to the wig makers.
And be a bit more fun in the making.
About Author Jennifer McQuiston
A veterinarian and infectious disease researcher by training, Jennifer McQuiston has always preferred reading romance to scientific textbooks. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband, their two girls, and an odd assortment of pets, including the pony she promised her children if mommy ever got a book deal. Jennifer can be reached via her website at www.jenmcquiston.com or followed on Twitter @jenmcqwrites.
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