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REVIEW: A Night of Scandal by Sarah Morgan

Dear Ms. Morgan,

I’m always on the lookout for a new book by you, and when I saw that your latest Presents release was the first of a new series featuring a number of prominent authors, I was hooked at once. Released as the Bad Blood series in the UK, the Notorious Wolfes comprise eight books about the Wolfe siblings, all of whom were fathered by the same rich, powerful, and dastardly father. After a traumatic childhood and adolescence the Wolfes have scattered all over the world, and Nathaniel Wolfe, the hero of A Night of Scandal, is a Hollywood film star. We meet him on the opening night of a new theater production of Richard II, in which he plays the title role. But as the curtain rises, Nathaniel sees someone in the audience who freezes him in his tracks and makes him unable to go on. He rushes from the stage and runs into Katie Field, the wardrobe mistress for the production and our heroine. He hides out from the paparazzi in Katie’s modest flat, but when they are quickly and inevitably discovered, he arranges for them to be flown to Wolfe Island, where he can get away from the press and the shock he faced across the footlights. Katie refuses to go with him at first, but Nathaniel bribes her with the promise of introductions to famous costume designers who can advance her career.

A Night of Scandal  by 	Sarah Morgan Katie is the antithesis of the usual women in Nathaniel’s world: she is cheerful, friendly, and built like a normal woman rather than an actress. She describes herself as one of the padded types with no visible hipbones. She has had a crush on Nathaniel for years, but she can’t believe he could possibly have any interest in her. With a sister who is a tall, impossibly thin supermodel, Katie hates being photographed and won’t even put pictures of herself on her Facebook account. As is often the case with these types of heroines, she is a breath of fresh air for Nathaniel, who finds himself immediately attracted to her nicely padded body and bemused by her sunny optimism. On the island, Nathaniel broods and makes phone calls while Katie works on a portfolio and befriends the staff.

Since our hero and heroine spend much of their time running from publicity, there aren’t a lot of supporting characters who are physically present. But since this is also the first book in a series there has to be a fair amount of setup. The editors at M&B were smart to ask you to do the heavy lifting here; you introduce a complex backstory without info-dumping, and the reasons behind Nathaniel’s bolt from the stage and his complicated relationships with his family members are skillfully introduced. Katie has a crush on Nathaniel when we meet her (who wouldn’t, frankly), but you have to show Nathaniel becoming interested in this very ordinary girl fairly quickly, and for the most part I was convinced. Katie’s insecurity about her looks are humorously but sympathetically presented:

‘You were in the bedroom for ages. What were you doing?’

Her cheeks reddened. ‘I was staring in the mirror feeling about the size of a spec of dust because I had Alpha Man in my living room and I was looking like something that had been pulled through a hedge backwards.’ She rubbed her hands over her knees in an agitated movement. ‘You want to know what I was doing in the bedroom? I was wishing I was someone else—like a beautiful, long-legged actress-model-type, someone with visible hip bones who wouldn’t have been phased [sic] to be entertaining Hollywood royalty.’

Distracted, Nathaniel looked at her in bemusement. ‘Visible hip bones?’

‘Yes. Skinny women always have visible hip bones. I’ve tried for years to get visible hip bones but frankly I like food too much to starve myself and it can’t be natural to go round with your stomach rumbling the whole time, and normally I’m fine with the fact that I have hips and a bottom, but last night I let myself be intimidated by you and I hate myself for that because underneath that handsome face you’re just an ego on legs who thinks that everything in the world is about him-’

As Katie and Nathaniel spent time together in different settings, I could see why Nathaniel started to fall in love with her. Katie is cheerful and optimistic without being too annoyingly perky, and despite her insecurities she seems basically to like herself. In other words, she is not a doormat. This is a classic opposites-attract story and the reader follows the process by which Katie’s crush becomes a deeper attachment and Nathaniel starts to allow Katie to get closer.

Nathaniel is a terrific hero. He is, of course, handsome, intelligent, and accomplished. He is also authentically tortured; his childhood was marked by a couple of deeply traumatizing events, and his relationships with his parents and his siblings continue to be shaped by those childhood traumas. He uses his acting training and experience to mask his inner self and emotions, but Katie sees through this fairly quickly. As Nathaniel grows more comfortable with her, he allows his real feelings to emerge, even when they are conflicted and painful. The contrast between Katie’s down-to-earth, everyday approach and Nathaniel’s dramatic history and movie-star existence becomes less important as each sees beyond the other’s obvious personality traits to their underlying characters. I really appreciated that they don’t fall into bed immediately, and when they do, it still takes time for them to become really open and trusting with each other.

The book ranges from London to Wolfe Island to Rio to the Wolfe estate in England, and each location provides more insight into Nathaniel and the Wolfe family. By the end of the book we have an HEA for Nathaniel and Katie, as well as a sense of where the next books will take us, especially with regard to the oldest Wolfe sibling, Jacob. His story is woven through the first seven installments before taking center stage in the final book of the series.

A Night of Scandal marks a strong beginning and sets a high standard for the Notorious Wolfes series, and I encourage readers to join the upcoming discussion of the book at the Smart Bitches later this month.  I also look forward with great pleasure to reading the other siblings’ stories.

Grade: A-/B+

~ Sunita

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Note: Since this book is part of the Smart Bitches Sizzling Summer Book Club, you can get it at All Romance eBooks for 50% rebate using “SBTBARE” until July 15.

Sunita has been reading romances since she ran out of Cherry Ames, Student Nurse and Chalet School books and graduated to Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer. Other old favorites include Mary Burchell, Betty Neels, Elsie Lee, and Edith Layton. Among current writers, she reads and rereads Anne Stuart, Tamara Allen, Sarah Morgan, Marion Lennox, Josh Lanyon, and Susanna Kearsley. She blogs as VacuousMinx and tweets as @sunita_p.

29 Comments

  1. Mary Anne Graham
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 07:03:37

    This one sounds like a grand story. I love tales where men who have too much learn that they don’t have everything. I especially adore those tales when the heroine is someone who must learn to value herself more. And Ms. Morgan’s book sounds like that kind of story.

    I’ll have to pick this one up.

  2. Chelsea
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 08:10:40

    I’m in the process of finishing this one and it’s so surprisingly good. I basically agree with everything said in this review :)

  3. Connie
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 08:22:16

    Just bought the book based on your recommendation. Thanks for the review!

  4. Jayne
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 09:06:10

    Oooh, thanks for this review. Morgan is one of the many authors rec’d on my Hewitt review and I’ve had my eye out for which book of her’s I want to try first.

  5. Julie
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 09:27:41

    I love Sarah Morgan and this one was one of her best (although, I say this after every books of hers I read!) I really liked Katie and Nathaniel and she gave enough background info about the Wolfes, without overburdening the reader or deflecting the reader’s attention from the main story.She’s such a wonderful writer. I adore her Medicals and her Presents.

  6. tori
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 09:38:52

    Just bought this book because of your review. :) Thank you.

  7. John
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 10:08:46

    *sigh* I cannot wait to read this. I’ve been putting off the inevitable, but I have to read it eventually. And it will be wonderful. This is a lovely review about a lovely author. Reading about a Hollywood film star should be fun, and discussing it later at Smart Bitches will be the icing on the cake. :)

  8. Sunita
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 10:34:38

    Thanks, all! Morgan is an autobuy for me, but even taking that into account I though this was a very good book. It’s hard to do all the setup that a series requires in a short book, but she really did it well, IMO.

    This heroine reminded a bit of the one from 12 Nights of Christmas, which I also liked. I think my favorites in the Presents (I haven’t read them all yet) are Sale or Return Bride and One Night … Nine-Month Scandal (both one-offs). In Medicals, there’s the Glenmore Series, of course. I also really liked a duet set at Christmas, especially the first one, Snowbound: Miracle Marriage. She has several connected books in the Medicals line and I’ve enjoyed almost all of them.

  9. alice s
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 10:39:17

    I read this book over the weekend and loved it too. And because I enjoyed it I quickly read the next two books in the Bad Blood series written by Caitlin Crews and Abby Green. Both books were wonderful as well but I loved the book written by Abby Green just because it had a Bollywood actress for a heroine. Are there other books out there that have a Bollywood star as a major character?

  10. Ros
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 10:51:26

    It will come as no surprise to anyone that I love, love, loved this book. The whole series is awesome and this was a great place to start. I really like the way that Nathaniel’s acting is used as a bar to the relationship until Katie learns to see through to the true Nathaniel.

  11. Jane
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 10:55:49

    @alice s I enjoyed the Abby Green book for the very same reason. I loved the henna tattooing descriptions for the wedding. I talked to someone who said that this was absolutely accurate. The Crews book is my favorite but the Morgan one is my next.

    Ros and I have briefly discussed this before, but the latter books in the series weren’t as good as the opening ones.

  12. Sunita
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 11:11:50

    @Jane: I agree that the Bollywood & other Indian stuff was really well done. I didn’t do henna for my wedding but have had it lots of times & she nailed it.

    I also like the 2nd book very much, especially the hero.

    Ros has great reviews of all (most?) of the Bad Blood books at her blog.

  13. Laura Florand
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 12:25:46

    Thanks for this review. I’m going to give it a try, but Jayne, I’m still recommending Kelly Hunter next for you. :) No alpha-doormat relationships so far, I promise, cross-my-heart, and the first two chapters as they start to get to know each other are usually hilarious. I liked With this Fling and Bedded for Diamonds a lot.

    What are the titles of the Caitlin Crews and Abby Green books people are discussing in the comments? I think I found one but it’s not quite out yet, if it’s the one. It’s hard to sort through what shows up on Amazon.

    Thanks for the review. :)

  14. Sunita
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 12:39:08

    @Laura Florand: I LOVE Bedded for Diamonds. I’ve read it at least 3 times.

    It’s hard to keep track of the Wolfes because the titles are changed from the Bad Blood series. The Crews (August 2011 release) will be titled “The Disgraced Playboy” and the Green will be “The Stolen Bride.”

  15. Lynn Raye Harris
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 12:50:02

    Here is a place where you can keep up with all the US titles and release dates for the Wolfes:

    http://www.iheartpresents.com/the-notorious-wolfes/

    It’s a separate website with information on each book and the order in the series. :)

  16. Ros
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 13:27:45

    @Sunita: I haven’t quite got round to the last two yet. I should do that.

  17. Ros
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 13:34:17

    Oh, also, even if you are in the US, do check out the UK covers for these books which are just glorious: http://www.millsandboon.co.uk/offer-main.asp?id=77

  18. Sunita
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 13:53:12

    @Ros: Yes please!

    And I agree completely on the M&B covers. They are just gorgeous. The advantage of ebooks: via Calibre one can add the M&B covers to the American e-versions. :-)

  19. Laura Florand
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 14:02:19

    OK, thanks! So they are not quite out yet here but the UK releases are out. Bedded for Diamonds was great. I like how funny a lot of Kelly Hunter’s books are, particularly at the start, and the way the conflicts are real, at the same time, and dealt with like two adults doing their best would deal with them.

  20. Kate Hewitt
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 14:52:49

    I hope readers will try all the books in the series (I have a vested interest as I wrote the last book!). I think the books are all really different, which is the aim of a continuity–to have a wide range of author voices. I loved Sarah’s book and thought it was a brilliant start to the series.

  21. Kate Hewitt
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 15:00:05

    Sorry for the repeat comments. I got a message saying there was an error with the comment but I guess there wasn’t.

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    Jul 19, 2011 @ 12:00:46

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  23. Melisse
    Jul 19, 2011 @ 23:49:15

    I loved Night of Scandal! I enjoy movie star and musician heroes. Look forward to the rest of the series.

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    Aug 02, 2011 @ 17:54:36

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  27. Lynn S.
    Dec 23, 2011 @ 17:49:58

    I’ve read the first four books in this series and, while I didn’t dislike A Night of Scandal, I saw an interesting premise that didn’t have the follow through I want, as Morgan left me with a hero that I didn’t find particularly likeable and a heroine whose body image issues fell by the wayside. Also, the Sapphire Awards segment of the book was flat-out painful. This is the first book I’ve read by Morgan, so I’m not sure if it’s her writing or just this particular book. I’ve heard good things about her, but this book was only slightly above average.

    Even though Caitlin Crews The Disgraced Playboy lost some momentum towards the end of the book, I loved her incorrigible hero and really enjoyed the book overall. I liked The Fearless Maverick by Robyn Grady, not a great book, but no major problems either. I am curious about the ironing fetish though. The Abby Green story, The Stolen Bride, was ultimately a disappointment, mainly because the first two chapters were so fantastic, that the accidental pregnancy plot that followed seemed tepid by comparison. Also, even though the UK covers are gorgeous, they aren’t necessarily accurate to the characters to the point of being insulting in the case of Restless Billionaire.

  28. Sunita
    Dec 24, 2011 @ 08:18:34

    @Lynn S.: I can see that if you don’t find the hero and heroine appealing, the books is really not going to work for you.

    I’ve read the first four as well, and I concur on your assessments of the other three. The Crews was my next favorite. I thought both the hero and the heroine were terrific; the hero was a stock character whom Crews made more individual than I would have expected. The main thing that diminished my enjoyment was that the writing could get a bit choppy at times (which I noticed primarily because the other aspects were strong).

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