Every once in a while Romanceland is gifted with a book that you don't want to end - and
that is the case in It Started with a Scandal. This is another book in the Pennyroyal series by Julie Anne Long and it is a gem. The pacing in this book is a lesson in some genuinely exquisite writing skills. In fact, I enjoyed this book so much that I didn't make that many notes while reading, which is good, in a way. However, now I have to rely on memory - that would be my memory.
We have Lord Phillipe Lavay, a dispossessed Bourbon who has lost almost everything in the French Revolution. He is convalescing after someone assaulted him, which must have happened in a previous book, however I don't remember it. Evidently, it's not all that relevant in this story, except that it makes him grumpy. Really grumpy; he has temper tantrums and throws things and he just cannot seem to keep a housekeeper. Enter Elise Fountain.
Because Phillipe has run off two housekeepers already, his expectations for Elise staying aren't all that great. But Elise is determined; she needs this job. You see, Elise has a secret of sorts - at least a secret that she keeps from Phillipe. She has an illegitimate son. She has also been shunned by her family and fired from her last job. Upon being hired by Phillipe, she moves her son Jack into Phillipe's household and tells Jack to stay put. She neglects to tell her boss that her son is also living in his house. Because the house is so large and Phillipe is incapacitated, the chances of him running into Jack are minimal. At least that's her thinking. And it works, for a while.
As I said earlier, this book is filled with some wonderful pacing. What I love about this book is that everything is solved quickly. Yes, there is angst and there is a protagonist and many lies are exposed. Conflicts are handled right away with minimal problems. There isn't any long drawn out rubbing of hands or repetitious I'm-not-worthy moments. Phillipe and Elise are wonderfully strong personalities. Their characters are witty, charming and share a strong friendship. There are some great poignant moments in this book: Elise's realization of how much Phillipe's French estate means to him; the china that means so much to him because it is one of the things he was able to rescue from France. Elise making up songs about the ogre Lavay, which by the way she gets caught singing - funny moment. They amuse each other, they grow to like each other, both knowing that she is the housekeeper and he is the lord of the manor. And, it is all written with a gentle touch.
Jack. I think he might be one of the best children I've read in a romance book. He isn't an over-the-top precocious child character. He is written very realistically and seems as if he is actually six years old. The relationship he shares with his mother is lovely. Of course, we expect our heroine to have a strong affinity with her child, but the bond he forms with Phillipe is affectionate, endearing and humorous.
One of the things I love so much about this story is that it is a gentle love story. Please don't interpret gentleness as meaning weak, because it's far from being a weak story. No need to worry that you will be sweating tears and ripping your hair out because of all the high intense anxiety - there isn't any. Not that there isn't conflict; there is, it's just handled differently than most romances. Phillipe and Elise face almost all the bumps in the road with intelligence and a sense of rightness. The Redmonds and Everseas make an appearance, but do not overpower the story. On the down side, the ending hints strongly that I'm not going to get my wish in regards to Olivia and Landsdowne.
There is so much to It Started with a Scandal and it all revolves around some wonderful writing. I promise you will be captivated by this story and you, like me, will not want it to end. In fact, this is one that I intend to read again.
Time/Place: Regency Pennyroyal England