123 - The Last Hellion
Updated: Apr 16
Vere Alwyn Mallory is the last of the Mallory Hellions and the last of the male heirs to the Dukedom of Ainswood. He has been on course of self-destruction but just when he's ready to give up or pull himself out, he meets Miss Lydia Grenville. Lydia is a well known journalist and has a reputations for being the woman every man wants to tame, but no one has yet to succeed. After their fist run-in lands him on his ass, Vere is unable to stay away from this she-dragon. Sparks fly as two these two passionate, reckless individuals collide. We are delighted to read patron choice, The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase.
Pick up a copy of today's book, The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase!
If you'd like to listen to a certain segment of our show, here's our outline this week:
0:00 - 09:11: Intro, Author, and History Fact
09:11 - 25:55: Synopsis
25:55 - 26:57: Parlour
26:57 - 57:06: General Discussion
We include our synopses as a semi-transcription of the episode in our blog posts. You can learn more about how we compose these by reading this article. As a reminder though, our synopses are FULL of spoilers. Read ahead at your own risk :)
The Last Hellion Synopsis:
**General Warning: We will not do justice to this story in this synopsis. It is very dialogue heavy and that is some of the magic of it. That will be lost in telling the plot points**
Prologue - It just breaks your heart. It starts at the funeral of Vere’s best friend and cousin Charles, 5th Duke of Ainswood. For some reason he saw fit to make Vere the guardian of his 3 children, Robin, the youngest is now the Duke and he is furious at fate. Vere is also furious and so he takes Robin on the road with him. He meant to stay away but he took comfort in comforting his cousin’s son who was 9 years old, a similar age to when Vere lost his parents.
They travel around for 6 months and then at the urging of Charles’s sisters Vere returns Robin to his sisters so he can continue his education and not be under the terrible influence of Vere, the last Mallory Hellion.
Sadly after only 3 weeks away, Vere is called back because Robin has caught diphtheria and is on his deathbed. Vere makes it back just in time to hold the boy’s hand as he passes.
“Give it up, please,” Vere urged, choking back tears, stifling the useless grief. “It’s too soon for you, Robin, you know it is. You’ve scarcely begun to live. You don’t know a fraction of it—what there is to see, to do.” The young duke’s eyelids fluttered and opened. Something like recognition seemed to flicker there. For an instant, his mouth shaped a ghost of a smile. Then the boy’s eyes closed. That was all. Though Vere went on talking, coaxing, pleading, though he clung to the little hand, he could not draw the disease away and into himself. He could do nothing but wait and watch, as he’d done so many times before. It was a short watch, this time, the shortest, hardest of all.
Making Vere the reluctant 7th Duke of Ainswood.
A year and half later and Vere still resents the title. He has done nothing but drink and wench and in general try to drown out the fact that he is the last male of the Mallory line.
We know some of his misdeeds, as they were chronicled in the Lord of Scoundrels when he assumed Sebastian Ballister’s new wife was a whore (Marquess of Dain if you remember). He then made things worse by declaring a driving race in which one man had to put down his horses after a bad accident.
However, fate has a way of playing tricks on you and he winds up saving a man (who turns out to be Bertie, Sebastian Ballister’s jovial brother-in-law) from the path of one Lydia Grenville, who is driving a breakneck pace down the London streets.
Lydia is our heroine and she is the orphaned daughter of a lady who ran away with an actor. Her mother died when she was 10 and her sister died a few years later after contracting consumption while they were in debtors' prison with their father. She then went to live with her great aunt and uncle, who died a year ago which was when Lydia decided to try her hand at journalism in London.
She is actually very popular and saved a magazine from bankruptcy by being the mystery author behind a very popular serial novel. She is also known for deep investigative journalism in the lower slums of London, most particularly showcasing the plight of London’s lower class women.
Right now she is rushing to save a young woman who is about to be sold into prostitution against her will.
Vere pursues Lydia as she gets out of her vehicle and runs after the bawd and the young girl. Vere is worried that in trying to save the girl Lydia is going to start a riot, so he quickly teases her and makes light of the situation. He even reaches over and gives her a kiss in view of everyone.
Though she’d seen a great deal of the world—more of it than the majority of London’s most polished sophisticates, male and female—she was not altogether as worldly as the world believed. No man had ever kissed Lydia Grenville before.
To which, Lydia punches him in the face, laying him flat on his arse.
Instead of being deterred by this, Vere becomes a bit obsessed with Lydia. He finds her fascinating and a bit reckless.
On Lydia’s end, Vere seems to keep showing up at the most inopportune moments. He believes he’s saving her from her reckless self and she thinks he’s following her to get even for publicly humiliating him.
As he follows her they do get into some interesting places. There is the time he comes across her dressed as a man and then proceeds to help her covertly get her clothes back and change into them.
There is the time he finds her dressed as a gypsy after speaking with one of her informants and they get into a Shakespeare quote off.
He caught up with her near Russell Street. Planting himself in her path, he withdrew the cluster of straggling bouquets from under his arm, where he’d absently stowed them, and held them out to her. “‘ Sweets to the sweet,’” he quoted from Hamlet. With a shrug, she took the crushed flowers. “‘ Farewell,’” she said, and started to move away. “You mistake me,” he said, following. “That was the beginning.” “So it was,” said she. “But the line ends with ‘farewell.’ Then Queen Gertrude scatters the flowers.” Suiting action to words, she strewed the posies about her.
“Mad for you,” he cried poignantly. A harlot nearby giggled. Nothing daunted, he announced to the onlookers, “Into the desolate darkness of my weary existence she came, all burning color, like the Aurora Borealis—” “‘ O heavenly powers, restore him!’” she wailed. “And lit me ablaze!” he went on in stirring accents. “Behold me burning for but a smile from these ruby lips. Behold me consumed in the sweet fire of undying devotion—”
All the while Vere is stealing kisses and even after realizing Lydia is virgin and has no interest in an affair, he cannot stay away.
Lydia finds Vere annoying and attractive. Yet she has seen the damage that can be done to a woman in a bad marriage and she has never been interested in losing her freedom to the joys of matrimony.
By chapter 10 though, things are progressing nicely and Lydia is finally ready to submit to letting him bed her but instead he surprises her by asking her to marry him.
She refuses of course, even after Vere puts in a few very solid points to the benefits of being a duchess, and since the two of them cannot seem to help themselves, their marriage becomes predicated on who wins a race.
If Lydia wins the race, there will be no more talk of marriage and Vere will give five thousand pounds to Tamsin (the girl Lydia saved the day they met)as a dowry. If Vere wins…quote
“Are the stakes too high for you?” she asked. “Perhaps you are not so sure, after all, of my incompetence.” “I’d like to know how sure you are of mine,” he said. “What will you stake, Grenville?” He advanced another pace to loom over her, his mocking green gaze slanting down his nose as though she were ever so small and inferior. “How about your precious freedom? Are you confident enough to risk that?”
“My freedom, then,” she said, her voice low and hard, her chin high. “If I can’t beat you, I’ll marry you.”
Despite them both knowing it was a silly idea, they both turn up to the race, Tamsin and Bertie in tow. The two of them have a bit of a thing going on as well and it’s frankly adorable.
Things go well until a storm comes in just as they hit the worst part of the road. Vere tries to convince Lydia to call off the race, they’ll call it a wash and no one wins, but she is stubborn and will not lose to him.
In the end it is not Lydia who was in danger but Vere, whose horse is frightened by the lighting on the way down the hill, breaking loose of the carriage, which then crashes. Bertie was able to jump to safety but Vere is thrown out of the vehicle. Lydia immediately stops her carriage and runs to him.
“Don’t you die on me, you beast,” she choked past the burning thing in her throat. “I’ve grown … attached to you. Oh, come. I never meant… Oh, I shall be wretched. How could you, Ainswood? This is not fair—not sporting of you. Come. You’ve won.” She shook him. “Do you hear me, you thickheaded cockscomb? You’ve won. I’ll do it. The ring. The parson. The whole curst business. Your duchess.” She shook him again. “That’s what you wanted, isn’t it? Make up your mind. Now or never, Ainswood. This is your last chance. Wake up, damn you, and m-marry me.” She choked back a sob. “Or I’ll leave you as I found you.” She bowed her head, despairing. “Here. In the mud. In a ditch. I knew you’d come … to a b-bad end.”
He should have opened his eyes sentences ago, but he was afraid he’d wake up and find it was only a dream: his dragon-girl scolding him and grieving for him.
“I’d rather you, wicked girl, than all the seraphs in heaven. Will you have me, sweet? Do you mean it?” She let out a shaky sigh. “Yes. I mean it, plague take you. And I am not sweet. Get up, you great fraud.”
They arrive at the inn and are married that day.
Lydia does try to back out, telling Vere she really is unworthy of sharing his title but he will not hear of it.
Then after we encounter number 1, Vere finds out a bit of Lydia’s secret history. It is done in dramatic fashion, when he goes and knocks on the Marquess of Dain’s door (who was there and gave Lydia away) and demands to know why he did not tell him that Lydia was a Ballister.
Lydia knew her mother was from an obscure branch but never approached Sebastian because she was worried he would not want the old scandal brought to light.
Sebastian is all, I’m Lord Bezelbub and I welcome all family. He even insists on giving her a dowry. Most importantly though, he gives her her mother’s diary. Something she thought was lost forever.
So now Lydia has a husband and a new family in Sebastian and Jessica.
As this is a romance tale though, there is more excitement to be had!
Vere’s two remaining wards are found to have run away from home and are now missing. Vere is beside himself with worry but feels good knowing that Lydia is there acting as general. He is really desperately in love with her but until she can say it to him, he does not want to say it aloud.
Vere’s wards end up making it to London where they are met up by Coralie, the woman who tried to kidnap Tamsin at the beginning of our tale. She has it out for Lydia for not rescuing back Tamsin but for stealing back Tamsin’s and many other girls’ stolen jewels.
It is a close thing but Lydia is able to rescue the girls and Vere comes in the nick of time to watch Lydia defeat Coralie in a knife fight.
Lydia is cut though and faints as soon as Vere can get to her. Susan, the trust canine sidekick, also helped in the rescue effort.
Lydia is luckily not permanently damaged and is set about to recover from her ordeal with a scolding from Vere.
“I’ll never forgive you, Grenville,” he said, his voice choked. “You were supposed to stay home and be the general. You were not supposed to go charging out on your own. I can’t trust you out of my sight for a minute. I vow, I must have died months ago and gone direct to hell—which is why I haven’t hanged myself, because it would be redundant.”
And as always, we get our hero admitting his love. Because he could not live with himself if she died without ever telling her.
“The most precious?” He disentangled his hand, then stood and walked to the windows. He stared into the garden. Then he came back to the bed. He stood at the foot, his hand wrapped round the bedpost. “What about love, Grenville? Do you think, in time, you might be so graciously condescending as to endure my love? Or is love only for mere mortals? Perhaps the godlike Ballisters have no more need for it than the Olympian deities need a curricle to take them down to Delphi, or a vessel to take them to Troy.” She gazed at him for a long moment and sighed. “Ainswood, let me explain something to you,” she said. “If you wish to make a declaration of love to your wife, the accepted form is to say, simply, ‘I love you.’ The accepted form is not to dare and daunt and go about it in your usual belligerent way. This is supposed to be a tender moment, and you are spoiling it by making me want to throw a coal bucket at you.”
He also very self consciously asks if she might ever consider saying the same to him.
She tells him that of course she loves him. She may not always say it in those words but she will always do everything to show her love for him.
As always he ends with a cheeky reply:
“A Ballister devil. Nothing less than a Mallory hellion would ever suit you.”
I should also mention that Bertie and Tamsin get married. Sebastian and Vere are becoming good friends again. Jessica and Lydia are thick as thieves and Vere’s wards are coming to live with them because family is everything to Lydia, especially found family. Vere has told her they can adopt as many stray people as she likes.
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