Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase *****

This is the 4th in the series that includes The Lion's Daughter, Captives of the Night and the fabuloso Lord of Scoundrels which is the AAR Top 100 #1 book in 2007. I have put off getting it because it hasn't been available on PBS and is out of print. The AAR reviewer really didn't like it, so I just dilly-dallied and then I finally broke down and ordered it used on Amazon.

Why did I bother to pay attention to the AAR reviewer? She and I obviously do so not agree - because I loved this book!! I think Chase used the same wonderful techniques to create this story that made Lord of Scoundrels such a favorite - incredibly witty, rich, layered writing that had me grinning and laughing out loud all the way through the book. Even the dog is funny in this book!

The hero is the Duke of Ainswood, friends with Dain of Lord of Scoundrels, you remember: the one who called Dain's wife Jessica a whore on their wedding day and whom Dain beat to a fare-thee-well because of that comment. Ainswood is all things bad - the last of the hellions in his family. He should never have inherited the title - it went through so many male relatives, down to his cousin Robin, the 6th Duke of Ainswood, who died of diptheria at age 9 after having spent 6 months traveling with Ainswood.

The heroine is Lydia Grenville - she's not high born but suspects her mother was somehow related to Dain, based on a diary Lydia discovered then lost. (the diary was the one piece of info that befuddled me in the story line.) Lydia is a spinster journalist - she is a sort of muckraker, plus she also writes a serial romance under a pen name for the same newspaper. She is hot on the trail of a well known whore who abducts young girls for the trade when Ainswood thwarts her and their first sparks start to fly.

Ainswood manages to continue to thwart her efforts - not really in order to stop her but just because he's intrigued and he follows her. She goes through a number of disguises in order to find justice, but he manages to see through them all. He is so attracted to her, but realizes she must be treated like a lady - and the only thing he can think to do is offer marriage in order to get what he wants (her). She's too independent for that, so he challenges her to a race - if he wins, they marry; if she wins, the prize is money in the form of dowries for her assistant and contributions to her favorite charities.

Lydia has the most wonderful dog - I must be on a roll for great story dogs, since Nora Roberts' Tribute also has a great dog. Susan is a huge mastiff with lots of opinions - and she takes a shine to Jessica's brother Bertie Trent.

Ainswood has 2 wards, Robin's older sisters, that he has been neglecting, and they become the focal point near the end when they run away to attend the wedding (Ainswood and Grenville) and instead get caught by the notorious whore.

So we have mystery, suspense, humor, love - all wrapped up in wonderful writing. What is not to like?? Well, I guess we all have different tastes, because that AAR reviewer pretty much thought everything I liked was bad bad bad.

I think I would consider it a 4.75 if I did fractions, because I did get real confused about the diary and how they discovered Lydia's genealogy in the end (and wondered why it mattered anyway...?) But hey, I'm keeping it because it took me so long to get it. There were plenty of references to characters from the original books, including lots of Francis Beaumont which means it takes place simultaneously to some of the other books (is it a spoiler to say Beaumont dies in the middle of one of the books? I hope not - after all, since he is married to the heroine of the book and he is not the hero, he's gotta go!!) OK, so the AAR reviewer thought it was annoying to have the characters foot-noted - I was glad! I think there were only 3 footnotes, so how annoying is that?

I need to do a full series re-read pretty soon. I have already read the other books 2x each. 5 stars.

I do need to note: the picture on the back cover? NO way is that Lydia or Ainswood, really- that picture is of 2 young, soft looking cute teenagers, and in no way reminds me of the descriptions of the hero/heroine of this book!!

No comments: