Previously, I reviewed Julia London’s THE REVENGE OF LORD EBERLIN. As that novel interested me a great deal — and because I knew it was book two of a trilogy called “The Secrets of Hadley Green” – I decided to hunt up both the prequel, THE YEAR OF LIVING SCANDALOUSLY, and the sequel, THE SEDUCTION OF LADY X. This review will cover the latter two books.
THE YEAR OF LIVING SCANDALOUSLY starts in 1808 Ireland. The heroine, fun-loving and frivolous Keira Hannigan, well-born but not part of the nobility, is asked by her friend and cousin, Lily Boudine (the heroine of book two, THE REVENGE OF LORD EBERLIN), to please go to England and take care of the Ashwood estate. The reason Lily asks this is because she was about to take a trip to Italy, something she’d always wanted to do, yet Lily had just become the Countess of Ashwood in her own right. This may not sound plausible, but there’s a reason why Lily doesn’t want to go back to Hadley Green (where Ashwood is located, roughly); it seems that when she was younger, she mistakenly sent a good man to his death. Lily has always felt terrible about this, even though she was only eight years old when this happened, and just isn’t up to returning to the Ashwood estate because of this.
Keira leaves Ireland, but doesn’t tell her parents where she’s actually going (as she, too, was supposed to be going to Italy along with Lily). Instead, Keira goes to Ashwood, pretends to be the Countess because she looks like Lily and many things need to get done that require the Countess’s signature, and runs into two people who know full well that she, Keira, isn’t the Countess at all — Declan O’Connor, the Irish Earl of Donnelly, and Tobin Scott, the Danish Lord Eberlin. But neither of them unmask her for reasons of their own, though Declan urges Keira to admit who she is – a caretaker. But Keira won’t do it, of course, which is fortunate or we’d have no story.
Keira takes part in several cultural events, including a horse race for charity and a charity ball for the local orphanage, which shows that she’s not a lightweight. And as she adds depth to her fun-loving exterior, Declan falls inextricably in love with her, which is good because Keira always carried a torch for him. Yet Declan isn’t the marrying kind, to say the least . . . whatever will Keira do about this? (Much less about the fact that she’s not the Countess?) And what will happen once she realizes that she’s pregnant?
All of this is for you to read, but if you enjoy English historical romance, you will enjoy THE YEAR OF LIVING SCANDALOUSLY despite its quirks.
Now onto the third book of the “Secrets of Hadley Green” trilogy, THE SEDUCTION OF LADY X. This novel is about steward Harrison Tolly, the latest heir to the Ashwood estate as he’s the illegitimate son of the late Earl of Ashwood. (Lily Beaudine, who married Count Eberlin at the end of book two of the trilogy, has abdicated.) Yet Harrison is in big trouble, as he’s in love with Lady Olivia Carey — the wife of his employer, the nasty Marquis of Carey — and he refuses to leave Everdon Court, the seat of the Carey family.
Yet that’s not all that’s going on in THE SEDUCTION OF LADY X, as Olivia’s sister, Alexa, is pregnant and won’t say by whom. Harrison, being a decent sort at heart, has offered to marry Alexa even though he’s in love with Olivia (a well-guarded secret), which for the moment has kept the Marquis from sending Alexa to a convent. This sets up many complications, some of them seeming insurmountable, until circumstances allow for Harrison to accept the Ashwood domain as his own. Better yet — spoiler alert! — the Marquis of Carey meets his demise, which allows Harrison to finally court Olivia. (Or does it?)
THE SEDUCTION OF LADY X is a diverting read about a cruel man, how awfully he treats his wife Olivia, Harrison the loyal steward who loves Olivia and does his best to protect her, and of course the added complication of Alexa and her unborn child. As it’s a romance, a happy ending is all but assured, yet the trials and tribulations of Olivia, Alexa, and Harrison nearly eclipse that knowledge until about twenty-five pages from the end.
That being said, both books are good ones that held my interest until the very end, and had believable romances despite the unusual set-ups. I enjoyed all three books of the “Secrets of Hadley Green” trilogy, and will look forward to whatever Julia London publishes next.
THE YEAR OF LIVING SCANDALOUSLY — A-minus.
THE SEDUCTION OF LADY X — B-plus
“Hadley Green” series — B-plus.