Saturday, February 22, 2014

Review: The Last Wicked Scoundrel by Lorraine Heath (e-novella)


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The title says it all: this is the story of the last remaining Scoundrel of St. James. Dr. Michael Graves rose from the gutters to become one of the Queen's most trusted physicians. He has devoted his life to the practice of medicine and to seeing to the welfare of all his patients. His methods are revolutionary, but, in one such case, William crossed the line and, instead of protecting life, he was complicit in the taking of one.

The first time William met Winifred Buckland, the Duchess of Avendale, he believed she would die from the terrible beating from her husband. William cared for her and saved her life, but he knew Winnie might not be so fortunate during the next beating. so he and the rest of the Scoundrels plotted to get rid of the Duke of Avendale ... and succeeded. They have all carried the burden of their actions since then.

It is a small sacrifice for William to make, for the sake of Winnie -- and, for three years, he has watched her blossom and become a formidable woman -- and he has loved her all this while.

Winnie believes her husband died in a fire at the Earl of Claybourne's estate, but, even after three years, she hasn't fully recovered from her ordeal. So, when mysterious things start to happen: when rings buried with the dead suddenly find themselves reappearing; when the smell of caraway seeds seem to pervade her inner sanctum, Winnie believes she is losing her mind and turns to Dr. Graves once more.

I don't think there was any doubt that William would eventually find his own true love and the greater question was: who would be a good match for the doctor, whose background and story is full of pain, rejection, abuse and suffering. Winnie fits William's life because she has experienced hell and lived to tell her story. Three years, they became close friends -- but they secretly loved each other from afar. Honor demanded that William keep his distance: she was a duchess and he was her doctor. There were rules in their world about such social transgressions. Add to that, William's secret about his role in the Duke of Avendale's "death" --

Dancing with Winifred Buckland, Duchess of Avendale, served as his favourite moment of the year. Even though the activity was pure torment.
- Chapter 1

While we expect our heroes and heroines to suffer (just a little bit) for the sake of love, we also expect them to be rewarded for their courage and sacrifice -- it is a matter of finding the key to unlocking the prize. In William and Winnie'a case, the past proves to be the key to unlocking their future. What I loved about Heath's novella is that it shows Winnie taking control of her current life. While she was too young and too naive to defend herself before, she is a much stronger person now and believes she can face her own demons and vanquish them herself, without the help of William or anyone else.

I'm just a little, little bit disappointed because I've waited 3 years (I read the series almost 3 summers ago) and Michael was such an enigmatic, but constant figure in the previous stories. There's very little development in terms of character or relationship since William and Winnie were already in love with each other to begin with and all we see is how they would overcome the last hurdle (the ghosts of the past) and finally be together. In some sense, Dr. Graves's story serves as an epilogue for the Scoundrel of St. James series: a tying up of loose ends and such. And, in this novella, we say hello and goodbye to the characters that started it all: Catherine, Lucian, James, Jack and William -- which is why I will forgive the hastiness of the resolution (considering how long and thorough the set-up of the conflict is).

My favourite line of dialogue in this novella: "Come on, Winnie. It's dark out, Lovely things happen in the dark." - Chapter 4

The Last Wicked Scoundrel is book 4.5 of Lorraine Heath's The Scoundrels of St. James series. To find out more about Lorraine Heath and her books, click below:
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