Luisa Hardwicke isn’t interested in Ardissia or Maritz and she certainly has no desire to play some pampered princess for a kingdom she despises. She has her own reasons for choosing to live a meager existence working to save a dairy co-op. She’s definitely not princess material with her mud-splattered attire, clumpy boots and lack of proper behavior. Luisa has a mind of her own and isn’t afraid to speak it – and nothing Raul says is going to change her mind about accompanying him to Maritz.
Raul’s stunned by Luisa’s refusal of her inheritance and doesn’t even tell her about her expected roll in his life before she summarily throws him out of her home. Of course she thanks him for bringing her the news in person but suggests he find someone else to inherit. What she doesn’t expect is for Raul to use the farming co-op’s financial troubles to gain her cooperation. He purchases all the co-op’s debts and if Luisa doesn’t agree to return to Maritz and accept her place as a princess as well as his bride then he will foreclose on the properties and livelihoods of her friends and family. Luisa is blackmailed into doing Raul’s bidding but she makes sure he knows it’s entirely against her will. Raul’s money and position might be able to give her all the possessions and luxuries she could ever possibly need but it won’t give her the kind of love her parents shared – the kind Luisa’s always dreamed of having for herself. What she doesn’t realize is that Raul is already enamored of her because of her pride and outspoken nature – and those feelings will only continue to grow as he comes to know her better and she transforms into the very epitome of a princess – and his future wife.
PRINCE OF SCANDAL might very well be my favorite Annie West story to date. While I loved the characters and Luisa’s proud demeanor struck a chord with me, I have to confess it’s the simple fact that she’s out there in the mud, muck and other unmentionables associated with working with cows when Raul finds her. Since I live and work on a dairy farm I could easily envision the scene and applaud Luisa’s ethics. At the same time I could fully appreciate Raul’s position – even if he was manipulative in his tactics.
PRINCE OF SCANDAL is a mixture of old-world charm and expectations along with modern ideas with delightful results. One of my favorite scenes involves Luisa’s encounter with a puppy and a young boy in the streets – it’s a pivotal moment in the story that shows the true character and vulnerability of Raul and Luisa – and really made me fall in love with Raul who’s staid demeanor is somewhat offsetting.
While PRINCE OF SCANDAL can easily stand alone, those of you who enjoy interconnecting storylines might also want to pick up a copy of PASSION, PURITY AND THE PRINCE (U.K), aka PROTECTED BY THE PRINCE (U.S.). Alaric and Tamsin do make an appearance in this story.