Title: The Last Hellion
Author: Loretta Chase
Review number: 10
Genre: Romance – Regency
Stand alone or series: Stand alone, although many characters were introduced in Lord of Scoundrels.
What follows is an endearing, hilarious contest of wills between a woman determined to hold her heart and body safe, and a man just as determined to conquer her. In a final, winner-takes-all contest, Lydia and Vere come to terms, but neither is sure just who won and just who lost the wager. Is it possible they may both come out winners? Meanwhile, Lydia’s very public crusade against the worst offenders in the city’s illegal prostitution business has earned her dangerous enemies. Just when it seems that Vere and Lydia may resolve their personal contest of wills, the dark forces at work in the seamier side of London threaten not only Lydia, but also Vere’s beloved nieces.
The Last Hellion has a cast of well-drawn characters who play out their scenes against a backdrop of Regency England that’s both lushly rich in descriptions of the wealthy and darkly gritty when traveling the back streets where poverty rules.
Why did I read the book: It says Loretta Chase in the cover. I need no other reason.
Vere Mallory is the last Mallory Hellion. History says that the family name means Trouble and no one could be more of a hellion than Vere: the obnoxious, conceited, conscienceless, et cetera, et cetera, Duke of Ainswood. But the family name also means Sadness – in the past 10 years Vere has been to more funerals than he would have liked, the last one being that of his beloved cousin Robin, the previous Duke. So, on top of being the obnoxious, conceited, conscienceless, et cetera, et cetera he is also Sad and Lonely. His has been a life of Dissipation and Debauchery ( along with his childhood friend Sebastian, Marquess of Dain) that got even worse after he inherited his title after the death of so many family members. He cares not for his title or for his wards (Robin’s two sisters). Until he meets Lydia Grenville.
Lydia is a 28 year old spinster who works as a journalist for a London newspaper – her articles talk about social problems like prostitution and her research usually takes her to not so good parts of the town where she tends to get into trouble. This is how they first meet – she is trying to save a girl from being co-opted by London’s most famous female pimp and a fight is in the making. Vere tries to “save” her without realising that this woman does not need saving and is rewarded with a punch in the gut that knocks him down. What he doesn’t know yet is that what really hit him was love with capital L. Over the following weeks he can not avoid bumping into Grenville, who is an independent and intelligent woman that knows what she wants. And what she wants is to remain independent even though she can’t help falling in lust and in love with Vere and when he first proposes to her she says no. And so they fight and they argue and the sparks fly until she relents and their story enters into a second phase.
This was my favourite part of the book – where Vere is in love and feels connected to a woman for the first time in his life. He is completely shaken on his wedding night because they made love and not sex and his turn from obnoxious, conceited, conscienceless, et cetera, et cetera to a loving man was ever so sweet. The night he presents her with tools of her trade was the epitome of what any hero must be – an adoringly husband who respects the individuality of his beloved and is not afraid to show it.
But then a lot of other things get in the way of their story and I got frustrated because I wanted to see more of this Vere but had to endure: a plot about Lydia’s past and how she is related to Dain and the Ballisters; a plot about some jewellery stolen; a plot about Vere’s two wards and their disappearance; even Bertie Trent (Jess’s brother from Lord Of Scoundrels) gets a storyline and all of a sudden it’s too much happening at the same time and the plot is all over the place.
I loved Vere, I love Lydia, I loved the usual witty banter, loved to see Dain and Jess again but I thought this is not Loretta at her best. But hey, even though The Last Hellion may not be one Great Book like Lord of Scoundrels or Mr Impossible, there is still enough Lorettachaseness to make this a smart and enjoyable read.
Verdict: A keeper. Recommended to any Loretta Chase fan.