Last Night's Scandal

Loretta Chase
Last Night's Scandal
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Harper Collins
Release Date
July 2010
Historical Romance

After surviving the perils of Egypt, Peregrine Dalmay, Earl of Lisle, is back in London, facing the most dire threat of all: his irrational family . . . and Miss Olivia Wingate-Carsington. A descendant of notorious—but very aristocratic—swindlers, the delectable redhead has the ability to completely unhinge him and a long history of dragging him into her scandalous schemes.

Olivia may be Society's darling, but she's aware a respectable future looms menacingly. And so when Lisle is forced to go on a family mission, she sees this as the perfect chance for one last adventure—even if it is with the one man in the world she can't wrap around her finger. But really, she only wants to help . . .

Which is why Lisle and Olivia find themselves in a gloomy Scottish castle inhabited by spiteful ghosts and craven murderers . . . and a shocking secret: the greatest peril of all may be burning within their own stubborn hearts.

Book Review by CarolAnn
Mar 15, 2011   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
154 people found the following review helpful
When I read Lord Perfect, the two adventurous youngsters, Peregrine Dalmay (Earl of Lisle) and Olivia Wingate, really captured my heart. I thought they deserved their own story and I am delighted that Loretta Chase agreed with me because her latest book, LAST NIGHT'S SCANDAL is their story. Wonderfully romantic, deliciously sexy and extremely funny, it is a joy to read.

At the end of Lord Perfect, Lisle goes off to Egypt with his aunt and uncle to pursue his studies. Olivia, meanwhile, is learning to conduct herself as befits the stepdaughter of Benedict Carsington, Viscount Rathbourne. LAST NIGHT'S SCANDAL opens ten years later.

Egypt is Lisle's passion and he has no desire to return to the inhospitable shores of England. Only something really close to his heart will entice him back, albeit for as short a time as possible. He has always regarded the Carsingtons as his family and the 95th birthday celebration ball being held for the Dowager Countess of Hargate, matriarch of the Carsington family, is one event he does not intend to miss. It also gives him the opportunity to see his best friend, Olivia, whom he hasn't seen for five years. He is literally dumbstruck! He can only remember her as a plain, skinny girl and not the beautiful woman he now sees in front of him.

He stared, his gaze going up then down, again and again. The room's heat was suddenly beyond oppressive and his heart was beating strangely and his mind was a thick haze of memories where he was searching to make sense of what his eyes told him.

Lisle isn't the lanky youth Olivia remembers anymore! Her best friend is now ‘a man exuding virility to a dizzying degree' who stirs up all sorts of strange sensations in her:

She felt the spark of contact under her glove, under her skin. Her heart sparked, too, and its beating grew hurried.

Lisle's parents are the main reason he has no wish to return to England:

They were ridiculous. They had children, but it wasn't a family. They were entirely wrapped up in each other and their endless dramas.

Luckily his uncle, Benedict Carsington, was on hand to take the young Lisle under his wing and shield him, for the most part, from his parents' histrionics.

Unfortunately, his plans to return to Egypt are thwarted by his father who insists that his son take charge of Gorewood Castle, a run-down and supposedly haunted family property in Scotland. Lisle's answer is a resounding NO! Unfortunately, Lisle is involved in a public brawl protecting Olivia, and his father now threatens to cut off his allowance completely until ‘he sees a glimmer of filial duty, a semblance of gentlemanly behaviour'. Checkmate!

However, all is not lost because Olivia is about to ride to her friend's rescue on a white charger (those who have read Lord Perfect will understand the reference). She has it all worked out; they will go to Scotland together:-

. . . And it won't hurt to let your parents think they've won one battle. If we play this game properly, you'll be back in Egypt in -- oh, by Spring, very likely.

Lisle thinks it's a ridiculous idea and Olivia seems to accept his decision meekly. Too meekly, as Lisle discovers when he arrives at his parents' house the next morning. Olivia is already there and, somehow, she has successfully persuaded them to let Lisle and herself go to Scotland together! (I was certainly intrigued to discover just how Olivia had persuaded them). Lisle is furious and refuses to go. Undaunted, Olivia, two chaperones and assorted servants set off for Scotland without Lisle, who is forced to follow – ‘Now I must turn my life upside down, drop everything, and race after her – in the middle of the night, no less'.

After a somewhat eventful journey to Scotland, Olivia and Lisle finally arrive safely at Gorewood Castle but find that, in addition to making the castle habitable, they must also contend with ‘ghosts', a missing butler, a temperamental French chef and, above all, their growing feelings for each other. Will they ever be able to admit what is truly in their hearts? What exactly is in Olivia's box of treasures?

First and foremost, I have to say that I absolutely love this book. What makes it so special for me is the wonderful chemistry Ms Chase creates between Lisle and Olivia. From the moment they first see each other at the ball, the atmosphere positively sizzles with the awakened sexual awareness between them. They are uncomfortable with these strange new feelings because they still regard each other as ‘best friends'. I chuckled to myself at the way in which Lisle keeps trying to distract his thoughts from her ‘creamy bosom more than amply on display'.

They are as different from each other as night and day. Olivia is volatile, impulsive and stubborn while Lisle is practical, honourable and principled, but they just seem so right for each other even Olivia says at one point – "We balance."

I really like Olivia probably because I have a soft spot for unconventional heroines. She is such a vivid and memorable character and I think it's her oddball qualities that make her so. After all, she does have the blood of those dreadful Deluceys flowing in her veins!

I see her reason for wanting to go to Scotland as partly selfish because she feels pressured into settling down and wants one more taste of freedom before that happens. She sums up her feelings eloquently:

Women lead narrow lives. We're somebody's daughters, then somebody's wives and somebody's mothers. We never do anything, not as men do.

I also see her determination to help Lisle because she understands him better than anyone else and knows that Egypt is his first love and she is willing to try anything to help him get back there. This is the main reason why she knows that she and Lisle would never suit. She wants to be first in a man's heart but she knows that Lisle's heart is already given to Egypt. Underneath, Olivia is really a romantic!

Lisle has a difficult time resisting Olivia's allure but he is wary of anything that upsets his orderly life and Olivia certainly does that. At one point, he describes her as a ‘simoon' – a sudden, immense whirlwind racing across the desert – which I think is a very apt description. Despite his rational exterior, Lisle does have a temper, which explodes when he sees Lord Belder, one of Olivia's admirers, manhandling her. When Olivia sprains her ankle at York Cathedral, his concern transforms into anger because she could have been badly injured or even killed. As with any argument, this one gets out of hand and they say hurtful things to each other. Lisle's remorse afterwards is really heartfelt:

She was his friend. A demented and dangerous friend, true, but he was far from perfect.

His temper, for one thing. Too quick, he knew – but when before had he unleashed it so cruelly on a woman?

And this woman who'd loyally and faithfully written to him, week after week. This was the woman who'd always understood what Egypt meant to him.

It is these very human traits that make Olivia and Lisle come alive for me.

The eventful journey to Scotland and the assorted goings on at the castle are like watching a zany slap-stick comedy and, while I accept that it may not be to everyone's taste, I love it. Then again, I am British and was brought up on this type of comedy and so that may account for it! The two elderly chaperones, Lady Cooper and Lady Withcote, certainly add spice to the proceedings. I knew I was in for a treat when Lisle makes the following observation about them:

Like all the dowager's friends, they lived to gossip, drink, gamble and ogle young men. There couldn't exist more unsuitable chaperons outside of a brothel.

Their bawdy conversations certainly brought a smile to my face.

I enjoyed seeing Olivia and Lisle trying hard not to succumb to their obvious attraction to each other but failing miserably. Ms Chase evokes their initial passionate encounters so well:

It was hot and lewd, a kiss of tangled tongues and thrust and withdraw, like the coupling every instinct screamed for.

It is refreshing to have a heroine who, although a virgin, is neither shy nor naïve and Olivia embraces Lisle's lovemaking in a totally unrestrained way when they make love for the first time. Ms Chase is one of the few authors who can combine sensuality and pure romance all in one scene.

When reading the book, I found myself conjuring up vivid images of scenes in my mind, thanks to Ms Chase's superb writing such as when Lisle studies Olivia as she is gazing at Gorewood Castle for the first time:

Over the mass of red curls she wore the usual milliner's insanity: a thing with a brim the size of a flagship's foredeck, with feathers and ribbons sprouting out of the top.

I could just imagine that enormous hat with all the feathers and ribbons waving about. I don't think even the outrageous creations at Royal Ascot could ever compete!

I also love the way she combines rib-tickling humour, social commentary and glorious romantic prose with such ease. I am sure I have filled a notebook with worthy quotations. Here are just a few of my favourites:

He was a man. Men always had lewd thoughts. It was perfectly natural and normal.

Just because I squeezed my gigantic bottom into men's trousers, you needn't assume my brains have shrunk to masculine size.

All he could see was her. All he could think was her. All the world was Olivia.

Why must women stay quietly? Why must we be little moons, each of us stuck in our little orbit, revolving around a planet that is some man? Why can't we be other planets? Why must we be moons?

This is a marvellous book for anyone who loves fine historical romance laced with bags of humour. I can highly recommend LAST NIGHT'S SCANDAL and it's certainly finding a place on my keeper shelf.
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