Having just finished a book in which the main characters were rarely in the same country, it was a pleasant change to read a book in which the hero and heroine are almost always in the same room, and by one of my favourite authors as well. Julie Anne Long’s new, potentially penultimate, Pennyroyal Green novel, It Started with a Scandal, includes small visits from previous stories’ characters and the return of one of her most charming men, the displaced French aristocrat and raffish rogue Lord Phillipe Lavay of I Kissed an Earl.
Assaulted by no less than six thugs, Lavay is recuperating in a somewhat sad little house in Pennyroyal Green. As a tenant, rather than the owner, the servants have become shiftless and indolent. (As a plebe, rather than the gentry, this is not a trope I enjoy.) Enter a new housekeeper in the form of Elise Fountain. Abandoned by her family when she had a child out-of-wedlock, she worked at the local school for recalcitrant young ladies until her unseemliness became widely known. Moving onward and belowstairsward, this is her first position as a servant and her desperate circumstances provide enormous motivation to succeed. Lavay, leonine and grumpy, lays odds against her success, but doesn’t count on Elise’s determination or the conveniences of historical romance plotting.
As in all Long novels, each of the leads has to lay down their inhibitions and be willing to emotionally bare themselves for a chance at true happiness. Elise has spent years trying to tuck in her natural exuberance and verve in order to avoid either repeating her youthful mistake or making another one. Lavay has been working towards restoring his family’s status and wealth in French society but, while his behavior is strangely honourable, I don’t think that anyone feels the French Revolution was a bad idea. Lavay needs to come to terms with the loss of what he considers his proper life and Elise with the chance that she can still build a future beyond safety and simple survival.
I have read so very many romances at this point and I always look forward to a new Julie Anne Long book. It Started with a Scandal never quite grabbed me the way some of her other books have *cough*What I Did for a Duke*cough*. I found it a little too divorced from historical reality and a little too neat, even for a genre with carefully prescribed outcomes. The novel was still an entertaining read as Long is incapable of being anything less than a wonderfully clever writer, but not necessarily a potentially re-readable story. On to Lyon and Olivia’s book The Legend of Lyon Redmond coming in October which I have already ordered and may take a day off work to read in a wantonly luxurious gesture.
A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.