A risqué painting leads to a wager between three young ladies of the ton and the three gentlemen who catch them trying to remove the painting from the club that it graces. Gayle Callen’s In Pursuit of a Scandalous Lady follows the first couple involved in the unmasking of the subject of the painting. He, Julian Delane, Earl of Parkhurst, is determined to prove that she, Rebecca Leland, is the model for the mostly nude portrait while he also pursues the gem that graces her neck both in the painting and in real life. The gem is the fabulous red diamond known as the Scandalous Lady and is responsible for ruining his family when it mysteriously disappeared. Rebecca initially believes that the gem is paste but soon discovers that it is genuine when an unsavory thug accosts her in her own carriage and threatens her loved ones in order to intimidate her into retrieving it for him. Rebecca flees with both the thug and Julian in hot pursuit and starts on a wild adventure that her sickly childhood and sheltered life have not prepared her for. Julian is determined to retrieve the gem that has caused his family so much distress but his protective instincts are aroused by Rebecca’s plight and he inexorably begins to care for the person that he fears implicated in his family’s downfall. A series of adventures across the countryside forces both of them to adapt to rough living while using their wits to stay alive and unharmed while they attempt to solve the mystery of the Scandalous Lady.
The premise is a bit weak since the diamond in the portrait has been openly worn to a ball therefore removing much of the mystery about the subject of the portrait but the storyline pursued is entertaining nonetheless. It is a bit confusing that the wager obviously sets the stage for each of the three ladies to have her own story yet the first book solves the mystery of the model. There are several mysteries left unsolved, including Rebecca’s illness and its effects on her future life and her characterization is an odd contrast of naiveté and worldliness but overall this is an enjoyable light read.
This is the first in a delicious new series from "USA Today" bestselling author Gayle Callen, about a wager among three gentlemen to find and seduce a scandalous woman.