Welcome to an introduction to The Beautiful One by Emily Greenwood, the first of a new historic romance series The Scandalous Sisters. Please take a moment to meet Anna Black, the heroine of the story, read an excerpt and don’t forget to enter the giveaway where you could win one of 3 paperback copies of The Beautiful One by Emily Greenwood.
Three Questions for Anna Black…
Who is your best friend?
My brother was my best friend when I was growing up, but sadly, he died. I wish I’d had a girlfriend, because I didn’t know how much fun other women could be until I met Lizzie, Will’s teenage niece. She’s a handful, but she has such a good heart.
What makes you laugh?
Lizzie, Will’s teenage niece, makes me laugh. Though she’s lovely as an angel, she’s been known to curse like a sailor. And then there was that incident with the statue, which is surely too improper to discuss here…
What’s in your pocket?
A pencil stub, the bonnet I’m supposed to be wearing, an owl feather (because owls are my favorite birds and it’s beautiful), and a small paintbrush I kept as a memento from a very special afternoon with Will.
The Beautiful One
The first of a new series, Anna Black is shocked to discover that a book of nudes is being circulated through society, and if the woman in the sketches, The Beautiful One, is discovered, she will be ruined. Taking the obvious and easy way out, she agrees to escort a young woman, Lizzie, to her guardian’s home.
Anna is a bit of a conundrum: raised unconventionally, she is socially awkward at times, and wholly plain spoken, ignoring many of society’s conventions. Unlike other heroines I’ve read, Anna’s discomfiture is sporadic and feels convenient, not an integrated part of her personality. Lizzie, on the other hand, felt flat and more contrived: her attitude and antics are far too modern for a young girl of the era, and that kept her a bit hard to know or engage with. Although the third person POV allows for Anna, Lizzie and Will to have input, Lizzie’s was the least engaging for me, and her sudden change of character did not feel plausible or possible.
For his part, Will was an engaging character: first for his determination to be left alone and undisturbed – think of the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. Underneath the bluster is someone that is wanting to be loved and cared for, but he’s afraid of being hurt yet again. Still grieving, it takes the appearance of Anna and Lizzie to bring out the humor and tinge of wickedness he hides so well.
Anna and Will’s chemistry is solid and instant, perhaps a bit too instant for the time. But, their romance is most certainly the best part of the story. The secondary plot involving the search for the model that is The Beautiful One, and the secret that Anna holds too closely isn’t the focus of the story, and feels that way. The story is suffering from a touch of distraction in the plotting arc, with the romance being far stronger than the mystery, and that effects the emotional impact and accessibility of the story for me. With a somewhat awkward mix of historic and modern elements and language, the story ended up missing some ‘oomph’ for me, that would take it from entertaining fluff to solidly good.
Title: The Beautiful One
Author: Emily Greenwood
Series: The Scandalous Sisters #1
Genre: Historical Romance
Published by: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Published on: 2 June 2015
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Heat: Get Your Copy: Amazon ♦ Barnes&Noble ♦ iTunes ♦ Kobo ♦ Downpour ♦ Book Depository ♦ Google See this Title on Goodreads
A PICTURE SAYS A THOUSAND WORDS…
The ton is buzzing about The Beautiful One, a striking figure in a scandalous book of nude sketches. Only two men know the true identity of The Beautiful One, and they are scouring the countryside, determined to find her.
BUT NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES
The unlikely center of the scandal, Anna Black is forced to flee home as disaster looms. Her tomboy’s heart and impertinent tongue serve her well when she meets the most brooding viscount ever to darken a drawing room. Will Halifax, Viscount Grandville, has his reasons for pushing people away, and when his tempestuous teenaged ward arrives on his doorstep, he presses Anna to take on her care. As Anna begins to melt the Viscount’s frozen heart, she knows the more she loves, the more she has to lose. For although Will cares nothing for what makes Society titter, he has yet to see The Beautiful One.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Rounding the edge of the wood at the back of Stillwell, he was startled to see his ward standing about. She was looking up at a tree in which, from the movement of its leaves and branches, some large creature seemed to be thrashing. A crow?
As he drew nearer to the oblivious Lizzie, he was almost certain he heard a woman’s voice coming from among the leaves. Lizzie stepped closer to the tree and lifted her hands upward, and he saw that on a thick branch perhaps six feet off the ground were perched two feet in past-their-prime dark ankle boots, and above them he was treated to a view of trim calves he could not regret. The surrounding leaves and branches mostly obscured the rest of his recently hired governess. In the instant before Lizzie became aware of Will, he saw that she held in her cupped hands a fluffy white ball.
Lizzie turned and saw him, her mouth forming into an “O” as a voice called from above, “Lizzie? I’m ready for the owlet.”
“Er,” said Lizzie, looking at him. In the clear afternoon light he noticed that her eyes were a different color blue than Ginger’s had been. But the shape was Ginger’s, as were the eyebrows. Not her fault, but he couldn’t go the route of compassion. It would only muddy what had to be. He looked past her and lifted a hand to rub his eyes.
“Miss Black,” he said, knowing he could not avoid asking, “what on earth are you doing?”
There was a pause as she absorbed his arrival and a shifting of the feet on the branch near his forehead as they drew together, perhaps in an attempt at modesty.
“Ah, my lord,” she said from above him. “Good afternoon. Lizzie and I are engaged in returning a fallen owlet to its nest. It was her idea. She is very caring toward animals.”
He could feel Lizzie’s big blue eyes on him though his own were still covered by his hand. He had no doubt as to whose idea it had been to climb the tree. He hadn’t truly expected Anna Black to be a typical sort of governess, had he?
“Come down at once.”
“If you will wait just a moment, my lord,” she said breezily, “I shall be down directly. Lizzie, the owlet.”
Lizzie cleared her throat. “Here.”
He tapped her on the shoulder before she could lift her arms farther. “Give me that creature, please.”
She looked uncertain, but she clearly didn’t want to displease him, and she handed over the motionless owl. He took it carefully from her and did not return her tentative smile. He could feel her eagerness for him to acknowledge her, but he let it flow past him.
The leaves and branches above them shook as Anna Black crouched down and extended her hand for the animal. Her bonnet, the same horrible blue one, had fallen on its strings around her neck again, and her hair, apparently loosened by her climb, curled crazily about her face as if she were some unkempt urchin, accentuating her pert nose and reminding him of her jack-in-the-box appearance from the coach.
Her pink lips pressed outward at the sight of him; doubtless she was annoyed by his arrival, but her expression didn’t draw an answering wave of annoyance from him. Instead, her lips were making him wonder, unaccountably, what it might feel like to be kissed all over by pink butterflies.
“The owlet, please,” she fairly ordered him.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Get down this instant before you fall. I will return the owlet.”
“I am already positioned to do so. If you will just give it to me, I can put it back and then receive your displeasure properly on the ground.”
He grunted. Why did he keep finding himself in out-of-his-control conversations with this maddening woman?
In his palm the owlet’s heart beat with a rapid, stressed flutter. He reached up his hand, and she gently took the animal and disappeared into the foliage.
From above came a few rustling noises, then the angry screech of what had to be an adult owl and a yelp. Fearing Miss Black would fall, he stepped forward to catch her, but at that same moment she jumped neatly down, so that she landed right in front of him.
He grabbed her arms, a reflex to steady her. She didn’t need his help, but their eyes locked, and for a moment he read vulnerability there before it was replaced with the hard glint of independence. She smelled like sunshine and crushed leaves, and he felt the slim softness of her arms and his body’s yearning to hug her close.
She stepped away from him. It had all happened in the space of a few moments.
But as he watched her brush some leaves from her skirts with her head down, that vulnerability he’d glimpsed tugged at him. Who was this woman? Where had she come from? She was clearly educated and intelligent, and though she was too forthright and she dressed terribly, she was not rough, merely unusual.
That life-on-the-edge-of-propriety quality he’d observed in her the night before had suggested that she’d known some hardship, or that she had some burden she might trade for money. And yet today, in the company of his ward, she looked at ease, even if her eyes seemed to be hiding something.