Marguerite Butler,
Death by Scandal
(Musa, 2011)

When Lord Westbourne is poisoned at a dashing house party, everyone knows who to blame: the scandalous Lady Calandra who shot her last fiance. Unfortunately, the town has the wrong person and only a small handful of people know it: Arthur, the man who secretly loves Calandra, her best friend Julia, and Lady Calandra herself. The daunting task of clearing Calandra's name isn't made any easier when she claims she had no motive to kill Westbourne because she is engaged to another man. Can Calandra escape both the law's noose and the coils of a disastrous engagement?

Marguerite Butler writes like a country dance, bobbing and sweeping back and forth to keep momentum and intrigue. It keeps a good pace and builds curiosity for which steps Butler has in store next. Her characters' personalities develop more fully in the mind of the reader as they become revealed, rather than truly evolving during the story. Yet, the dynamics between characters shift in tune with the plot and make these protagonists real.

The plot contains both mystery and romance. Surprisingly, neither the structure of the crime nor the obstacles within the romance provide the real core of this work. Death by Scandal is like an inside out cake -- there's a good layer of cake on the outside, but the larger inside is full of frosting. The issues of discovering the killer and overcoming romantic impediments always seem peripheral to the tumultuous feelings they provoke. Moreover, problems are resolved more simply here than in similar works. However, Butler's writing style keeps things moving so well that it never seems more melodramatic or less interesting. She sustains the excitement remarkably easily.

Death by Scandal is a lovely quick read for those who truly enjoy the warm side of romance. For those who prefer the chase in relationships or the detailed part of sleuthing, this book might be a bit too sweet for you. For those with the romantic sweet tooth, enjoy your caked frosting.

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Whitney Mallenby

1 September 2012

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