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The Scandal of the Season

by Sophie Gee

      This is the story of a real scandal which rocked London society in the early 18th century, for more reasons than the obvious. Arabella Fermor seems to have it all - money, unearthly beauty and position - and is looking around for a suitable husband. Also keen for dalliance is Robert Petre, an attractive nobleman who has just appeared in society. Affairs might be possible for married people, but when both are single there is a risk of ostracism if discovered. To make matters worse, there is more to Petre than meets the eye; he is involved with a Jacobite conspiracy to kill Queen Anne and bring back the true king.

This sounds like enough, but adding an extra dimension are a young Alexander Pope and his two pretty but impoverished childhood friends, Teresa and Martha Blount, who come to town to seek their fortunes. He needs to make his name as a poet, and they need rich husbands even more than Arabella does. The early 18th century is not often used for novels and this is a pity as it was such an interesting time. Here is a book which immerses the reader in the period and gives a tantalizing glimpse of what life was like in London and the countryside at that time. Apart from a murder at the beginning you will have to hunt for much in the way of plots and conspiracies until you are nearly at the end, so if this is your reason for reading the book you might be rather disappointed. However, there is plenty in here to amuse, not least a picture of Alexander Pope as a young man, doomed to be an outsider for several reasons but in a unique position to observe society. All this adds up to an enjoyable book, and reminds me once again how good it is when authors set their historical novels at a less over-used time.

The Book

Chatto and Windus (Random House UK)
September 2007
Historical Fiction [1711, London]
More at US|| UK
NOTE: US edition is different

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2007
© 2007