Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-163267-9
Historical Romance, 2010
Last Night’s Scandal is what the Ton calls Olivia Wingate-Carsington. Our young lady skirts the edge of propriety with her constantly outrageous words and antics, her ability to drive men to shoot each other for her attention, and a string of broken engagements in her wake. However, she is one of the richest unmarried young ladies in town – if not the richest – thanks to her late grandfather leaving her the bulk of his money. Furthermore, her stepfather being the heir to the Earl of Hargate’s even more impressive fortunes only makes the Ton humor her more than they otherwise would.
Peregrine Dalmay, the Earl of Lisle, knows Olivia too much for his liking. The formerly troubled step cousin of Olivia had since grew up to become a pretty good Egyptologist in his own right, and he has been in correspondence with his teenage partner-in-crime all this while. To him, she will always be Olivia. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. Her cheerful letters detailing her misadventures only reinforce his opinion of her as a person who is too impulsive and reckless for her own good.
When the story opens, he returns to England to attend the Carsington matriarch’s birthday. Imagine his surprise when he realizes that the tomboy he’d left behind in England has blossomed into a gorgeous and sexy young woman. Likewise, she can only admire the view when she realizes that Lisle is now a gorgeous hunk that is more rugged adventurer than foppish dandy. As they bicker and spar wits while trying to ignore their attraction to each other, they will eventually find themselves on a trip to Scotland where they will try to restore Lisle’s family holding – a crumbling castle – into some semblance of respectability. And what do you know, soon it’s no longer Olivia. Suddenly. Unexpectedly but Ye gods. Ye gods. Olivia.
Olivia and Lisle first met in Lord Perfect, which is the story of her mother meeting and falling in love with his uncle – but you do not have to read that book to catch up with this story, provided you are willing to spend some time and effort in the first few chapters to work out the relationships between the characters in this story. I personally thought the children were more annoying than adorable in that book, and I happen to enjoy this book so much more, so I am a living example that you don’t have to adore Lord Perfect to feel the same way about Last Night’s Scandal.
Now, it’s no secret if you have read my previous reviews of the author’s books that I am fond of her character banters and sense of humor. This one has plenty of that, and what I find really impressive here is that both Lisle and Olivia can behave like silly kids at times, and yet I still adore them silly. To be fair, they are barely more than kids as they are in their very early twenties – Lisle is almost 24 in this story – and they just can’t help reverting to their childhood dynamics when they reunite at last. She’s the reckless one always dragging him into trouble, he’s the literal and more sensible one who nonetheless goes along with whatever she comes up with again and again.
It isn’t just humor that makes this book work. Loretta Chase is very good at switching effortlessly and seamlessly from humor to emotional poignancy. It’s not surprising, therefore, that there are some really beautifully written and tender scenes between these two characters that make me switch in a heartbeat from guffawing in laughter to feeling a little choked up inside. The romance does ring real as both characters are very aware of why they are probably better off as friends rather than lovers, but sometimes the heart never listens to the brain. Therefore, when they do finally agree that they are in love and they have better get married, their feelings seem real because they know what they are getting into.
Oh, and this is one of those rare books where the heroine dares to be imperfect, spoiled, and absolutely darling without making apologies for her behavior. In fact, despite being a reckless and manipulative darling now and then, Olivia never crosses the line into outright stupidity. It is she who comes up with amazing plans, one that eventually allows her and Lisle to have the perfect happily ever after. And Lisle can only watch in admiration as she takes over the management of the staff like a veteran general in the battlefield when they are in Scotland. If you are looking for a more take-charge hero, you may be disappointed with Lisle as he broods better than he does the alpha male thing, but if you like spirited heroines who break the rules and turn out to be right, you may just adore Olivia.
The reason why I’m not able to give this book a keeper grade is that the romance loses some momentum in the middle third of the book because the author focuses a lot on the shenanigans of her characters in Scotland and the romance becomes repetitive as the two characters bicker and argue in a circular manner. Fortunately, the last third or so of the book manages to revive the relationship with some tender scenes and beautiful emotional moments.
Last Night’s Scandal, therefore, may not be comparable to some of the author’s previous titles, but this is still a very entertaining as well as emotional romantic story that works very well for me. I may not like every book by this author, but I definitely like this one.