Thursday, March 6, 2014

Review: London's Last True Scoundrel by Christina Brooke


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Imagine being a damsel in distress, but the man who rescues you is far from a knight in shining armour. Imagine being a damsel that not many people would rescue in the first place.

Because of her unfortunate surname, Hilary bears the burden of her family's well-earned reputation. Though she has worked very hard to free herself from her family's influence and reputation, she has now learned that she cannot escape her blood or heritage. Dismissed from the school where she teaches, Hilary doesn't want to go home to her brothers, who would only either ignore her or insult her. Her trustee hasn't cared about her welfare and has ignored her many pleas for assistance, so she has no where else to go.

A sense of helpless frustration threatened to choke her. She'd tried so hard to prove herself here. She didn't know how she could have done more to show that she was not one of those reveres but a properly behaved, virtuous lady who didn't deserve to be judged on the sins of her forebears.
- Chapter 1

When Hilary meets Jonathon, she is wary of him because she knows exactly what kind of man he is because her brothers are the same. She tries to steer clear of him, but she can't think of any other option except to go with him to London where she would beg the help of her very distant relative, Lord Griffin deVere (who happens to be married to Jonathon's cousin, Rosamund).

Jonathon's hell-raising ways have shocked even his own Westruther cousins and they have staged an intervention, fearing what might happen to Jonathon if they allow him down this terrible path. Everyone (his cousins, and us readers) wonders what happened to him. For followers of Brooke's Ministry of Marriage series, everyone believed Jonathon had died years ago, but has now "return from the dead" -- and, during those years when he vanished, he changed so drastically into the man he is today: far from the quiet, studious man who delighted in scientific research and scholarship.

Jonathon and Hilary might seem polar opposites: the former a poster boy for over-indulgence, dissipation and rakishness and she is the epitome of grace and propriety -- but they have something in common: they are both trapped in circumstances where very few options are given to them -- and they are struggling to make the best decision from the lot. Brave or foolhardy, both of them have taken control of their lives and I admire them for it.

And she knew to a nicety how to hold a household, if only she was given the chance.
- Chapter 1

Jonathan Westruther, the Earl of Davenport, is exactly the kind of hero that I love to read about: complicated but not impenetrable. We see glimpses of Jonathon's old self when he explains thermal conduction to Hilary (read Chapter 1) and his own quiet, personal musings on the life he left behind. He is clearly a man with many regrets, but he is also a man of action: I love how he defended Hilary's honour from her brothers in Chapter 4. I love how he managed to do damage to two of his cousins who drugged and kidnapped him as part of their intervention.

Is Jonathon the fraud the scientific community all say he is? Is Jonathan the scoundrel Polite Society thinks he is?

Our hero doesn't really dwell on other people's opinion -- and it might come across as a bit arrogant. This is how Hilary judged him when they had arrived at Rosamund and Griffin's house and found out there was a party. Hilary wanted to sneak in from the servant's entrance, but Jonathon wanted to go in from the front door. I didn't see it as arrogance, though -- I saw it as confidence. What does matter to him is his family -- and there are tinges of longing and sadness when he talks to his sister, Cecily and to his cousin, Rosamund.

With an unconcerned laugh, Cecily said, "I'm sure I can find you a better partner than my dull old brother, Miss Mason. Come with me and we'll see who might be interesting."

With a minatory look at Davenport that sent a silent command to behave himself, she led Miss Mason away, leaving him with Ashburn and Gerald.

Cecily needn't have worried. Davenport's anger was directed at himself, not Gerald. For a few moments, he'd forgotten he was considered to be a libertine and a rotter. He was the kind of fellow a gentleman like Gerald wouldn't let breathe the same pure air as his virginal sister. Who could blame him? Certainly not Davenport.
- Chapter 12

Truly, this story would have been compelling with just the love story of Jonathon and Hilary -- but I also appreciated the added scope of Jonathon's backstory (and how it ties into Cecily's story). It is excellent family drama. (Not compared to Hilary's, though -- her family's indifference was so, so annoying! Grrrr.....) Though I worry about readers new to the series, because there are so many names and side stories to sort through and the author doesn't really take time to explain who is who, etc. (I understand the decision -- as it is, London's Last True Scoundrel has so many plot threads running through it and any sort of side narrative would have weighed this story down.)

The love story between Jonathon and Hilary hinges on Hilary's acceptance of who Jonathon is. Scoundrel. Disgrace. These are things that Hilary has devoted her life to escaping from -- she dreams of acceptance and stability -- and the symbol for this is an Almack's voucher. For Hilary, a severe accepted into Almack's would be a dream come true. I had to laugh a little bit as Jonathon played the role of both fairy godmother and handsome prince to Hilary when they arrived in London. ^_^

There is one point in the story that didn't sit very well with me: that Jonathon was originally promised to Hilary (by their parents) when they were children. The coincidence seemed too convenient and wasn't really developed the first time the subject comes up (read Chapter 2) and then brought up conveniently during a very dramatic family confrontation in Chapter 13. The deVeres and the Westruthers were in the same room and our hero and heroine were facing them together. I thought it was such a pivotal moment and could have been a turning point for Hilary -- but she quietly bore her trustee's misconception of her. I would have loved to see Jonathon and Hilary reason with both their families. I would have loved to see them fight for their future. I would have loved to see them push back at all the negativity and resistance. Instead of facing their accusations, Jonathon throws a curveball and announces their engagement. (Sigh~) I am relieved, however, that Hilary gets another chance to say her peace in the latter part of the story.

On the whole, this was an excellent read. I was charmed by Jonathon, the reformed scoundrel, and was glad to see him and Hilary get their happy ending. (I loved this book so much and was intrigued by the teaser for Beckenham's story that I went on to read it next. Coming very soon: my review of The Greatest Lover Ever. ^_^)

London's Last True Scoundrel is book 4 in The Ministry of Marriage series and book 1 in the Westruthers sub-series. To find out more about Christina Brooke and her books, click below:
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7 comments:

  1. I loved your review of London's Last True Scoundrel and read it when it was first released in July last year. Christina's books aren't to be missed and anyone who hasn't already read it should check out this and all her other stories!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, Jeanne!

    Thank you for your comment! I love Christina also! (What did you think of the second book in the series?)

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