Cleo has lived her entire life poor, hungry and witness to the deaths of her siblings who were born to weak or were too hungry, too cold, and too small to survive life in their cramped rooms.
She's seen her mother's life drained by each pregnancy and seen her stepfather's indifference.
When she is finally found and told who her real father is, Cleo makes two promises to herself: she will strive to make a better life for herself and help her family -- and she will never allow any man to enslave her the way her mother was.
But, part of the condition of getting her share of Jack Hadley's wealth is to marry -- and marry well, preferably a title. Cleo has set her cap on Lord Thrumgoodie, a man with one foot at death's door -- which suits Cleo's preferences very well.
Until she meets Logan McKinney -- a young Scottish lord looking for an heiress to marry to save his crumbling castle and to fund his sisters' dowries.
Logan quickly realizes that he cannot be satisfied with marriage to a shallow, vapid heiress -- he wants Cleo.
Cleo struggles with herself: she cannot fight her attraction to Logan but she also cannot conquer her fears. But, when they are found in a compromising position and her reputation is ruined, Cleo has no choice but to marry Logan -- but she is making sure she protects herself first: by refusing Logan in her bed.
This was a disappointing read -- and I was really looking forward to it because I liked the previous book so much. (See my review of Wicked in Your Arms by Sophie Jordan)
The Forgotten Princesses are Jack Hadley's illegitimate daughters and they are all Cinderellas in their own right -- lost to the soot and dust of various parts of the country, they have been found and restored to their rightful places in society, with wealth and comfort at their fingertips.
Cleo has a tragic backstory. As the eldest child, she's had to bury so many siblings and had felt helpless to defend her mother against her stepfather. From the prologue, I thought I would really like Cleo. She wasn't afraid to stand up to the man hired by Jack Hadley to bring her back and was clever enough to negotiate a higher amount to take care of her family.
But, when she's been given the gift of Jack Hadley's wealthy and power, instead of using it to help her family or to do anything, she seems to have forgotten them. There is no mention of the family she left behind from the prologue up to Chapter 6. Her family comes up again in Chapter 7 when her stepfather stops her at the park and tells her the money (that was supposed to last for two years) had run out.
She should have known this would happen -- that Roger would hoard the money for his own vices while her mother and siblings suffered.
She suddenly doubted whether her mother and the children saw a penny of it.
- pp. 68-69
But the problem is, Cleo didn't. As though she developed amnesia and couldn't remember how cruel and selfish her stepfather was.
Then she forgets her mission: to marry so that she can get money to help her family. Cleo continues to drag her feet and doesn't seem to think of other options (she could have gone to Jack Hadley for help regarding her siblings) -- in Chapter 10, Cleo receives another piece of shattering news about her siblings but, again, she doesn't really do anything. She doesn't go to see them ... or send someone over.
And where is her pin money? (She could have given this to help her family.)
The next time she remembers her family is in the Epilogue. It is mentioned that she spent the last month writing letters to her family with no response -- again, I question her lack of effort.
The oddest part is, Logan actually resolved the situation with Cleo's stepfather in Chapter 11 -- but he also forgets to see the siblings reunited.
And because of all that was forgotten, I could not bring myself to like the hero and heroine. The one constant thing in Cleo's mind was her fear that she would become like her mother -- but, unfortunately, her selfishness and self-centeredness has made her become more like her stepfather who was intent in his own personal needs and wants.
Lessons from a Scandalous Bride is the second book in Sophie Jordan's Forgotten Princesses series (and is connected to Wicked Nights with a Lover, which is Marguerite's story). To find out more about Sophie Jordan and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.