The Art is fake. The Love is real. The Risk is ruin.
May, 1850, London, England
“Beware, darling. Disaster rolls in on a whisper.”
Jilted by her fiancé, abandoned by her father, and scorned by her friends, Lady Lydia Pierpont and her pregnant, 15 year-old sister will be homeless by midnight unless she can charm the deed of her family’s home out of the mysterious South African who won the estate in a poker game.
Grieving over the death of his Jewish father and English mother, Simon Cohen has no time for gallantry. He’s out to reclaim his mother’s name from the aristocracy who humiliated her. With an art collection worth millions and the National Gallery begging for a donation, revenge is within reach.
But when Lydia points out that Simon’s treasure trove includes at least one forgery, they strike a deal. She’ll ferret out the fakes and if the debut of his collection goes smoothly, she’ll win back her home. If she fails, she will take the blame and go to jail.
Together, Lydia and Simon will feign an engagement, delve into the world of art forgery, and navigate the narrow-minded prejudices of London society to discover that love is forged, never faked.
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About the Book
The Art of the Scandal
by Suzanne Tierney
August 28, 2019
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“Do try the lemon curd, Lady Lydia.” Was that a grimace Mr. Cohen was suppressing? “It is most”—he seemed to struggle with swallowing—“unique,” he finally managed.
Lydia knew better than to trust a man who approached tea like it was a medieval torture. But at this point, she was water-logged, hungry enough to eat her own boot, and hopeful. Soaked to the bone and penniless as she was, apparently, she still had something worth bargaining for.
“I take it Weston Heath holds some meaning for you?” Mr. Cohen stretched his long legs across the carpet, as relaxed and confident as an alley cat. “The English are quite attached to their country houses, aren’t they?”
Gathering her mud-stained skirts, Lydia strode across the room and ignored the squelching sound of her shoes. “You intend to donate your Renaissance Madonnas to the National Gallery, yes? Your calling card to London.” She placed her hand on her heart, sank gracefully into her chair. “I doubt the board would be interested in cheap forgeries.”
“They were not cheap.”
She had no need for scones and curd. The sound of Mr. Cohen’s wounded pride was a meal unto itself. “Perhaps I could furnish you with a lesson in art appreciation?”
“I fear I would make a poor pupil,” he replied. “I have an entirely different proposal.”
She stiffened. “I am not on the marriage mart.”
“Why would either of us settle for so little?” Not a man to wax poetic about wedded bliss then, Mr. Cohen. “It’s your clever brain I seek.”
Lydia stilled. “You do not find my eye for detail odd? Eccentric?” The words Percy and Suzette used to rein her in.
He squinted at her, perplexed. “What saves the truffle pig from becoming bacon? His skill.”
“Are you flirting with me, Mr. Cohen? I confess, no one has ever compared me to a hog.”
“One that can ferret out a rare delicacy.” He rubbed his forehead thoughtfully and seemed to survey her, from torn boot to collapsed coiffure. “You are not above work?”
She scoffed. She’d sell turnips on the side of the road if it meant saving her family. “It irritates me how people always assume a lady does not work. I’ve run my family’s household since I was fifteen.” She held up her hands to show the proof of it: a chipped nail, a callused thumb pad, the things she was supposed to hide. Along with her truffle pig skills.
He nodded his respect. “No doubt it’s the only reason your family has a house at all. I’ve seen the way your father gambles.”
“You will recall, my family does not have a house. Which is what brought me to your doorstep in the first place.”
“You have an uncanny eye, Lady Lydia. Is it merely for urinating philosophers, or can you apply your talent to other Renaissance classics?”
Not likely. How this particular version of Knowledge is Everything found its way to Mr. Cohen’s house, she could not begin to guess. It was what Papa liked to call an accident of fortune. And hadn’t she learned from Papa the faithlessness of Lady Luck?
“I suppose it depends on what you’re offering,” she answered. For good measure, she fluttered her eyelashes, though she was sure he understood the gesture was a feint, not a flirtation.
The scoundrel! He batted his eyelashes straight back at her. His were thicker, more dramatic. He said, “I require a mere three weeks of your time to ascertain that twelve newly purchased paintings are the masterpieces their paperwork claims them to be. If you prove correct and the debut of the collection succeeds, I will return the deed to Weston Heath.”
Lydia leaned back in her chair, mimicked Mr. Cohen’s casual pose. “I would be far more comfortable studying your paintings while secure in my childhood home. Let my sister and I reside there now. The light in Weston Heath is particularly good for discerning the subtleties of oil and canvas. You can send the paintings down to the house.”
“I will happily provide a carriage to take your sister and staff to Weston Heath. The paintings remain safely with me. As will you.”
She bolted up straight. “In this house?”
“Do you have anywhere else to stay?” When she did not answer, he said, “I am not a cad. I keep rooms at the bank. I will sleep there.” How very reasonable Mr. Cohen sounded, as if he were merely asking her to stake a hairpin, not her reputation.
“It doesn’t matter where you sleep. The risk I take in being spotted from one of your windows would ruin me forever. I won’t do it.” She crossed her arms and shook her head. He was mad to ask. Rude. She was not so desperate. “Not without a prepayment.”
He blinked rapidly. She’d startled him, that was clear. Why his admiration should make her flush, she hadn’t the faintest idea. Perhaps it was his smile. When his lips curved, his expression seemed to open into something both mischievous and gentle. It could unmoor a sensible girl. Luckily, she was proving herself mad as a march hare.
“You require an act of good faith?” he asked.
“Are you being religious?”
“It’s a business term, derived from Latin. It means we intend to deal fairly with one another to ensure mutual success.”
“Very well.” She held her chin up to him primly. “I require five hundred pounds.”
He whistled. “Do you?”
“You forget, Mr. Cohen, I am thoroughly broke and likely can’t afford so much as a hot cross bun.”
“Shouldn’t one in your position be asking for the bare minimum?” He set his elbow on the table, rested his chin onto his palm. Was he enjoying himself?
Good heavens, was she? Her heart was hammering, not at all erratically. More like when spinning through the ballroom in the arms of a skilled partner. “You’ve seen how my father gambles. A large risk requires a large reward.”
“If I handed you five hundred pounds today, you could disappear by tonight. No. No money without your own token of good faith.”
Lydia clutched her frayed reticule. Within lay the emerald ring. All she had left of Mama. She forced herself to pull it out and lay the ring on the table. “It is the Plantagenet emerald. The provenance alone makes it priceless.”
“To an English collector.” She poured herself a cup of tea, impressed that neither her voice nor her hand trembled. “Why I suppose I could sell the ring and have no need to hide in your lovely town house and cull through your myriad fakes.”
He steepled his fingers, tapped them against his mouth. Lydia suspected he was hiding something akin to a smile. “You’re bluffing.”
“Oh ,but Mr. Cohen. Why would I need to?” She practically purred, a newfound skill. Not at all ladylike. “You need me.” She reached for the lemon curd.
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About Suzanne Tierney
SUZANNE TIERNEY – WHETHER it’s restlessness, wanderlust, or train fever, I love stories about journeys. So that’s what I write–books steeped in the lush details of history that tell of heroines thoroughly devoted to their sense of place, even when it’s the wrong place, and the heroes who catapult, challenge and cherish those heroines, even when they have no intention of setting down roots.
FROM your arm chair, your train carriage, your vivid imagination, come and join me on the ultimate adventure.