I love a great romance novel, you all know that, and A Most Scandalous Proposal was the best one I read in 2012. It's not quite perfect, but I enjoyed every moment of it, and found parts of it to be exactly what I love most about a romance novel. Here's the premise, from Amazon.com:
In Ashlyn Macnamara’s stunning romance debut—perfect for fans of Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Sabrina Jeffries—two childhood friends in Regency England discover love with the most unlikely of partners: each other.
After watching her beloved sister, Sophia, pine over the ton’s golden boy for years, Miss Julia St. Claire has foresworn love and put herself firmly on the shelf. Unfortunately, her social-climbing mother and debt-ridden father have other ideas, and jump at the chance to marry Julia off to the newly named Earl of Clivesden . . . the man of Sophia’s dreams.
Since resigning his cavalry commission, Benedict Revelstoke has spent his time in London avoiding the marriage mart. But when he discovers that the Earl of Clivesden has his sights set on Julia, Benedict tries to protect his childhood best friend from the man’s advances—only to discover that more than friendship is driving his desire to defend her. He surprises them both with the force of his feelings, but when Julia refuses him, and her father announces her betrothal, Benedict fears he’s lost her forever—until Julia approaches him with a shocking scheme that will ruin her for all respectable society and lead them into an exquisite world of forbidden pleasures.
Childhood friends?? Say no more, I'm there. (You would think I'm pining after some childhood friend of my own, wouldn't you? I'm so not.) I stumbled across this one last fall on Net Galley, and that phrase is enough to make me instantly request a book, so I did. And I am so glad. Unlike most childhood friends novels, this one doesn't start with a prologue to their youth or a flashback, but instead starts immediately with the action. Benedict and Julia's friendship is woven into the text of the book, in a very natural and easy way. Benedict realized he has feelings for her years before the story takes place, but Julia is slower to come to realize hers. Unfortunately for her, she's thrown into a situation in which she has to act on them before she has them (hence the title), but Macnamara manages to pull it off believably. Neither Julia or Benedict is without flaws, but the story uses the flaws to further the plot, instead of as filler space.
While Julia and Benedict are falling in love, Julia is also dealing with her parents' actions in trying to force her to marry the object of her sister's affections. Julia is determined not to hurt Sophia more by agreeing, even if she liked the man, which she doesn't. The relationship between the sisters is well done and their love for each other is neither to perfect nor too caricatured. Sophia inadvertently causes a little scandal herself, and the resulting romance is so sweet and charming that I wish the author had actually written it as two books. I really loved Sophia's beau- he was possibly my favorite character in the book- and wanted to see more of them.
I have a few very minor quibbles with some very minor details, but nothing that at all distracted from my enjoyment of the story. I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves light historical romances. It's sweet and funny a little hot, while still not veering into slapstick or being overly flowery. I loved it completely and can't wait to see what Ms. Macnamara writes next.
You can see Ashlyn Macnamara online here, or follow her on twitter here.
I received this books as a review copy from NetGalley. It will be released on February 26, 2013.