Publisher and Release Date: May 12, 2015 by NYLA
Time and Setting: London, England, c. 1830
Genre: Historical Romance, Audiobook
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 stars
Review by Lady Wesley
Like thousands of others, I count Lord of Scoundrels as my favorite historical romance, but The Last Hellion is justthisclose to topping my list. I have read them both many times and each time these Loretta Chase titles leave me sighing a romantic sigh with a happy smile on my face.
You can imagine the excitement last year when the audiobook version of Lord of Scoundrels finally came out, with an almost perfect narration by Kate Reading. And now, she has followed up with another excellent rendition of The Last Hellion.
Let me count the ways that I love this book:
1. The hero. Vere Mallory became the seventh Duke of Ainsworth after the deaths of virtually everyone in his family, the last two being his beloved cousin Charlie and then Charlie’s young son, Robin. There was nobody but Vere left to serve as duke, but he had no interest in being a duke. As in Lord of Scoundrels, Ms. Chase writes a heart-tugging prologue explaining the many tragedies that led Vere to become a hell-raising sot who ignores his young wards, Robin’s two young sisters. When urged to do his duty, Vere erupts:
“Why the devil should I consider the title? It never considered me.” He snatched up his hat and gloves. “It should have stayed where it was and let me alone, but no, it wouldn’t, would it? It had to keep creeping on toward me, one confounded funeral after another. Well, I say let it go on creeping after they plant me with the others. Then it can hang itself on some other poor sod’s neck, like the bleeding damned albatross it is.”
Vere’s heart has been so badly wounded that he simply cares for nothing and nobody, not even himself. He is careless in his dress and manner, and he frequents the lowest taverns and gambling hells in London, which is where he first encounters . . .
2. The heroine. Lydia Grenville is lovely – fair-haired and blue-eyed – but she stands nearly six feet tall and prefers to dress in dull black bombazine. She was brought up unconventionally by her late aunt and uncle and was tutored by the Grenvilles’ educated manservant and discovered a talent and passion for writing. Now she is a reporter for The Argus and known popularly as “Lady Grendel” (Grendel being the giant monster in Beowulf). Lydia – acutally everyone in the book calls her Grenville, so I will as well – is a crusading reporter, and her latest mission is to expose the crimes of a procuress who forces unsuspecting country girls into prostitution. As the story opens, Grenville, accompanied as always by her black mastiff Susan, is chasing the madam through the filthy alleyways of Drury Lane in an effort to rescue a girl whom Coralie has just abducted. Grenville grabs the girl and commands Susan to guard her while she and Coralie square off, which leads to . . .
3. The first meeting. Into the melee strides the Duke of Ainswood, who is well known to all the lowlifes gathering to watch the fight. Ainswood assumes that Grenville and Coralie are rival madams and steps in to mediate:
“Ah, now, ladies, ladies.” The tall ruffian shoved another clodpole out of the way and pushed forward. “All this daring and daunting will burst your stays, my fair delicates. And all for what? The smallest problem: one chick, and two hens wanting her. Lots of chicks about, aren’t there? Not worth disturbing the King’s peace and annoying the constables, is it? Certainly not.”
He drew out his purse. “Here’s what we’ll do. A screen [pound] apiece for you, my dears—and I’ll take the little one off your hands.”
Grenville assumes that Ainswood is just another bum until somebody calls him by name. As she prepares to leave the scene with the rescued girl, Ainswood grabs Grenville and gives her a passionate kiss, whereupon she faints. He thinks. Just before her fist meets his jaw and leaves him flat on his back in the mud, which is the beginning of . . .
4. A well-matched battle of the sexes. Ainswood and Grenville do not like nor respect one another and neither will admit their growing physical attraction. Although Grenville seems rather worldly, Ainswood’s kiss was her first and she can’t forget the feelings it aroused. Ainswood is totally bumfuzzled as well, to the point that he invites Bertie Trent (Jessica’s idiotish brother from LoS) to party with him and move into his townhouse. He finds himself drawn to taverns where London’s newspaper reporters tend to gather; he knows subconsciously that he and Grenville have . . .
5. Sizzling chemistry. As Ainswood engineers ways to accidentally run into Grenville and insinuates himself into her life, he steals kisses whenever he can, and Grenville lets him. As things grow more passionate, Ainswood finds himself doing the unthinkable. He proposes marriage, which prompts an example of . . .
6. Hilarious banter between Ainswood and Grenville. Loretta Chase is know for working plenty of humor into her romances, and The Last Hellion is a great example of that talent.
“I should like to know why I am the only woman who has to marry you,” she said, “merely to get what you pay to give other women. Thousands of other women.”
“Leave it to you,” he said, “to make it sound as though you’ve been singled out for punishment — cruel and inhuman, no doubt.”
Grenville turns down Ainswood’s proposal, which is the beginning of his unorthodox courtship. I won’t spoil the rest for you. Honestly, besides these six things, what I like about The Last Hellion is . . .
7. Everything else. There are so many other things that I love about this book beyond the primary story.
Grenville’s mastiff develops a crush on Bertie Trent, who acts as a true friend to Ainswood, gets some respect , and finds his own HEA.
Ainswood shows that his heart isn’t completely hardened by doing charitable works behind Grenville’s back.
Grenville pseudononymously writes a wildly popular serial romance followed by seemingly everyone in London, and Ms. Chase quite skillfully works the twists and turns of that story into her plot.
Lord and Lady Dain appear several times, and the reconciliation between Dain and Ainswood – two uber-macho men – is touching.
Ms. Chase was not afraid to make Ainswood a thoroughly degenerate slob nor to let Grenville be obnoxiously stubborn and opinionated.
The surprising revelations about Grenville’s family, which I did not see coming, even though Bertie Trent did.
And finally – narrator Kate Reading more than does justice to Loretta Chase’s story. That is to be expected, as she is one of the best narrators in the business. She finds just the right voice for each character, handling male and female voices equally well and using regional accents when needed. She is especially well-suited to Ms. Chase’s style, handling the rapid-fire dialogue faultlessly. Loretta Chase and Kate Reading get A++++ from me.