A Note of Scandal from Nicky Pentilla is a socially consciousness novel shedding light on the postwar conditions of England after Napoleon is defeated and exiled in 1814. The characters are moved by both altruistic and ulterior motives as Pentilla focuses on the rising middle class in English society, the educated man with no title depicted by newspaper publisher Will Marsh and the aspiring classical composer Olivia Delancey who is the daughter of an impoverished English baron.
From the onset, readers are introduced to a battle brewing in London between two opposing newspapers, William Cobbett’s The Register and Marsh’s The Beacon. Marsh inherited his post from his father who did not fully comprehend the power of words, unlike his son. Marsh learned to research beneath the surface for credible information relying on underground sources for his scoops. His alternative way of thinking from mainstream made him the perfect man to understand the musically inclined and creative Olivia Delancey.
Olivia, whose father arranges for her to marry her cousin, submits her composition “Tune That Took Waterloo” to Marsh’s publication under a friend’s name, Lieutenant Martin Purdy. The piece is published by The Beacon, but she finds herself in a complicated quandary as her only chance of having her compositions published is by putting a man’s name on the sheet music. Pentilla engulfs the reader in the struggles educated women in Regency England faced along with the postwar conditions of England’s debits exceeding the country’s treasury resulting in its inability to pay returning soldiers for their services embodied in Lieutenant Purdy.
Secondary characters like Olivia’s parents are well developed, and in this case, portrayed as being calculative and neglectful of showing any affection to their daughter. Her distant parents become her impetus for turning inward and pouring her love into her compositions and the injured soldiers. Tertiary characters like her parents and her destitute friend Lieutenant Purdy make an impression on readers, having them demonstrate human traits.
A Note of Scandal is a more socially driven story than a romantically motivated plot relatable to the writing of Georgette Heyer. Readers are plunged into the middle of a story and must piece together the plot and figure out what is happening. The premise is original but the writing does not make the complications apparent to the reader. There are moments when the reader can believe these characters might have been actual people in postwar England, and other times when situations seem too contrived. Overall, it’s a story that sheds light on the harsh conditions plaguing English society after the Napoleonic Wars.