This was supposed to be a fluffy, fun read before I tackled my Kindred re-read but instead it made me feel all emotional! I first met Vere Mallory in The Lord of Scoundrels, where he was the somewhat dense, but overall likable and easy going friend of Dain. This novel gives Vere’s extra depths, explaining why he chooses to drown his sorrows in a daze of booze, fighting, and women after losing almost everyone in his family that meant anything to him. Vere was the son of a younger son, and never wanted the responsibility or privileges of being duke. The fact that he is now the duke means he faced a lot of untimely losses, and he has not recovered, especially from the most recent death of his young cousin, Robin.
Lydia Grenville, intrepid journalist of the Argus, has faced injustice and losses of her own. These have inspired her to write the exposes she does, to help bring attention to the blight of those around her and hopefully inspire change for the better. With her large mastiff Susan at her side, Lydia has faced quite a few dangers normally deemed unsuitable for a woman. As a result, she and Vere meet while she is in wild pursuit of a known brothel owner, who is attempting to kidnap and entrap a young woman newly arrived to the city. Naturally, misunderstandings occur, wills clash, leading to quite a few entertaining episodes between Lydia and Vere before they finally admit to their attraction for each other, and the possibility that it might be more than fleeting passion.
One thing that I also was surprised by is that I was rooting for Bertie Trent in this novel! He was Jessica’s useless buffoon of a brother in the previous novel, and while he certainly has not become any smarter, removed from Dain’s debauchery, Bertie ends up having a core of sweetness and kindness behind the confused sentences that even the “Almighty with the aid of all His angels would never find a way out of.” While Lydia and Vere are the main attraction, I was almost as excited when I saw Bertie and Tamsin, Lydia’s latest rescue mission, develop an attachment.
While Lord of Scoundrels had a slightly overdramatic side plot as the end, it works perfectly in The Last Hellion since Lydia and Vere have made enemies in the novel. While I did not need the extra drama, it developed naturally for the narrative, which made it much more enjoyable. So glad Malin recommended this one as a follow up! Lydia might not be quite at Jessica Trent levels but she is close, and I enjoyed Vere so much more than Dain. I appreciated that this one continued the theme of close female friendships, and liked the rest of the supporting cast as well. Vere’s losses and how he finally deals with them and faces them made me a bit misty at the end so this novel didn’t make quite ready for Kindred. Also, while I really liked this one, it seems like in these earlier romances the rakes aren’t simply uninterested in being tied down or making a commitment, they also have sexist views of women until they meet the heroines they fall in love with. While Vere’s statements in this regard were not as bad as Dain’s, they were present, and this characteristic was one of the main things that dates this novel though the rest makes it worth overlooking his initial attitudes.