It Started with a Scandal by Julie Ann Long
Released: March 31, 2015
Reviewed by: Prachi
Bio: Prachi is many things. A counselor, a writer, a hopeless optimist and perhaps most significantly a reader. She doesn’t know her first book and can’t for the life of her pick a favourite. (‘Tis a crime! ) She loves Historicals and Contemporaries which are character driven and bereft of werewolves and vampires. Her favourite authors are Sarah Mayberry, Sherry Thomas, Samantha Young, Courtney Milan, Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas. You can find her , if you’re inclined to ramblings are out books, food and psychology @prachij1989 (Twitter) or on https://www.goodreads.com/
Favourite Quote: “There is life and there is death but they are one and the same without you, Elise”
Lord Phillipe Lavay, Prince of the House of Bourbon, had once conquered the high seas with every aspiration that he will be able to restore his family’s fortune, ancestral home, and honor after having lost everything to the French Revolution. He is charming, dangerous, powerful and so close to being victorious. Just then, an attack in the dark of the moon has left him injured and in exile in a corner of Sussex – Pennyroyal Green. He’s recuperating at Alder House which is all but fallen apart. The candles haven’t been trimmed, no fires burned and dust caked every surface. He needs a housekeeper but given his foul temperament none seems to last. Enter Elise Fountain. Having lost her job as a teacher for speaking a tad bit much to the wrong person, she seeks employment to shelter herself and her son. Ostracized by her family, she has nothing and no one to rely on but herself. Securing and retaining this position becomes all the more important hence, despite the frightening Prince.
Elise is everything you look for in a heroine. She’s funny, she’s cheeky and she is formidable. Her sense of self is astounding. Long doesn’t write her as one normally does a female protagonist shunned for being pregnant out of wedlock. There is no sense of being sinful, there is no inner monologue of judgmental angst. There is such refreshing acceptance of who she is, what she did and how she still continues to feel lust. Her six year old son Jack has been also written beautifully. He doesn’t interfere with the progression of romance, but through him we learn more of Elise.
We first met Lavay, as first mate to Captain Asher Flint (of I Kissed an Earl). He was charming, rakish and overall a great fun to read. Which is why opening this book to meet an irritable and grouchy Lavay is an intriguing surprise. He has no expectations of Elise at first. The two housekeepers before her ran off, why should she be any different? Lavay is.. angry. He’s angry at being injured, He’s angry about not being able to restore his family home because of said injury. All he wants is to be able to help his family out but instead he’s in a position where he can barely even bend to pick up a quill.
And he’s also typically proud. So, asking for help to recoup at peace is out of the question. There’s lots of throwing of vases as a result.
As a reader, the first thing I expect of the characters is to have an understanding of each other. That they recognize even what the other does not show. And the second is to have a connect. Something which draws them to each other; makes them understand their plight. Both of these expectations are met, and met thoroughly. At first Elise dismisses Lavay as a haughty blue-blood but when called for writing letters on his behalf, she understands his pain. Both, from his injuries and from having lost his home. In this they are similar. Despite the differences in their socio-economic background, the feelings of having lost their home and broken their families trust, in albeit different ways, unites them.
“The break in his voice when he’d said the word “home”. That little break was very like a crack in his facade through which light poured. How she longed to see through the other side. And she had felt, in that moment, her own heart crack a little for him. She’d begun to suspect “steely and impassive” was in fact the opposite of “coldhearted and indifferent”.
What I like most of the book is that there’s no feeling of dread. All conflicts are just a matter of fact. Lavay needs to face the fact that he may not be able to recuperate in time to bid back his home. So the only other option is marrying for money. He doesn’t prefer to do it, but given his circumstances he’s okay with it. Elise needs to deal with being in love with Lavay, having his love in return but yet losing him to the very woman who cost her her job. (mild spoiler) This could easily take the book down in a dark alley full of forbidden angry sex and self recrimination. But it doesn’t. They both respect what the other has to do. Their love doesn’t interfere in making the other’s life’s goals. I also particularly like the way they deal with each other. Lavay is dour, Elise is cheeky. Elise is cheeky, Lavay is amused and humbled.
“Oh, you’d better not get in the way
Of the dour Lord Phillipe Lavay
He’ll throw a vase or cup or two
Or he might decide to run you through!
He fought with dozens and dozens of men
And he’d happily do it all again
So you’d better run away from him
Before he gets you, too!
you’d better not get in the way of the way-accckk”
“Lord Lavay….” she managed faintly. “I….”
“That is indeed, my name. And how very convenient that so many things rhyme with it.”
I have always thought Long had a penchant of writing brilliant love scenes and this one is no different. There’s this one scene in the kitchen where they don’t even get to the sexy times (or the entirety of it) but it’s hot and sets the tone for anticipation perfectly. Since this is my first review and I am undoubtedly going to make a huge and cry about it, I rather not get into the details. But I will say, that they were done perfectly and added wonderfully to the story since being aware of their own innate sexuality is a huge part of both Elise and Lavay.
I had only two problems with this book. I didn’t really think the title of the book did it’s writing justice. “It started with a scandal” paints a very stormy and angst ridden picture in my mind, but it was anything but that. There is the scandal with Elise, ofcourse but since it took place prior to the beginning of the book atleast to my mind it wasn’t a huge deal. Secondly, the hesitation for both of them to be together wasn’t in alignment to their previously described characters. They are both sturdy , independent and capable of bouncing back on their feet regardless of what curves life throws at them. Given this, I didn’t understand why it took them so long to accept that regardless of what the situation may be like, they need to be together. Maybe this is me being piqued ridiculously, but I had gotten use to their strong sense of self and this felt like an unnecessary deterrent.
But all said and done, this is a wonderful addition to the Pennyroyal Green series and can be just as well read as a standalone. There are references to previous books but since this book doesn’t involve either the Redmonds or the Everseas, the two major rival families it is a good book for a new reader to jump into the series with.
The prose, the characters, the romance make it an almost perfect book I am sure to revisit again.