Friday, February 10, 2012
Review: The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase (5 stars, historical)
Full Description: Amazon
Rating: 5 out of 5
Thoughts After Reading:
Any romance novel, such as Chase's The Last Hellion, that includes the phrase "evilly feminine underthings" is a winner in my book. The question that stayed in my mind throughout reading The Last Hellion was not whether or not I liked it, but the inevitable comparison of whether or not I liked it better than the last amazing book I read by Chase - Lord of Scoundrels. I think Lord of Scoundrels does win, but only by a small margin. In both books, there are very strong/impressive heroines and heroes that undergo an extraordinary amount of change in behavior without forcing the reader to suspend much disbelief. The Last Hellion did not seem quite as flawless as Lord of Scoundrels, but it mostly compensates by having a greater number of unbelievably heartwarming scenes - the same scenes that cause Chase's writing to transcend being merely "entertaining".
I loved the heroine in The Last Hellion. She is a twenty-eight year old journalist and the type of person who would be done a disservice by being labeled simply as a "do-gooder". She cares a great deal about trying to make a difference about the serious issue of prostitution in London, particularly underage or forced prostitution. Having had to grow up quite a bit on her own, she is not one to sit around and pass out pamphlets while pining for a good marriage. Instead, she is familiar with the streets of London, knows some fighting, and is willing to stand up to help others. It's too bad this section of the plot is pushed aside toward the end of the story, but it's probably safe to assume the heroine would carry on with her work. I initially thought the "hellion" in the title was the heroine, but it turns out the title is referring to the hero's perchance for debauchery and mischief. The hero is somewhat tortured, having lost many family members to death that he cared about. As a result, at the age of thirty-two he has become the usual debauched rake. However, just as in Lord of Scoundrels, it doesn't take too much peeling back of the hero's character before we realize he's a much better guy than anyone (including himself) gives him credit. It's always fun to see the hero chasing the heroine around, trying to deny his feelings. At the same time, though, I like it that Chase's heroes don't take too long to come around to wanting marriage (etc). Similarly, I loved how the hero ended up becoming good friends with Bertie (a somewhat slow-witted character from Lord of Scoundrels). There was also a slight secondary romance involving Bertie, which I thought was implemented very well.
I did feel, if one nitpicks, that there was something just a bit off with The Last Hellion. It could be argued that the heroine is too modern, some of her choices didn't seem to be the most logical (taking the jewelry, climbing into things, etc), the hero and heroine bickered a bit more than I would like toward the beginning, the hero was always interfering with the heroine's schemes, the heroine seemed out-of-character in some of her interactions with the hero, and there were some places in the plot that slowed down. But I can't see myself giving the book any less than 5 stars, because as soon as I began to notice something distasteful it was quickly swept up with humor, intelligent dialogue, and a more interesting storyline. And there's just so much greatness to Chase's writing. I very much appreciate that she doesn't need to rely on misunderstandings and secrets to move the plot forward, that the conflicts are at most suspenseful and never depressing, that there's a great deal of story to read even after the hero and heroine marry, that there's a very satisfying HEA, and even that the hero and heroine don't make love until their wedding night. You know a book can't be taking itself too seriously as a romance novel when the hero says "I can't believe you feel for that old going-to-a-brothel ruse".
I think, overall, The Last Hellion is another example of Loretta Chase's impressive authorship. She writes enjoyable and humorous stories, and then takes them to the next level by including some beautifully poignant situations between the protagonists.