Review + Giveaway | It Started with a Scandal by Julie Anne Long

Lord Philippe Lavay once took to the high seas armed with charm as lethal as his sword and a stone-cold conviction: he’ll restore his family’s fortune and honor, no matter the cost. Victory is at last within reach—when a brutal attack snatches it from his grasp and lands him in Pennyroyal Green.

An afternoon of bliss brings a cascade of consequences for Elise Fountain. Shunned by her family and ousted from a job she loves, survival means a plummet down the social ladder to a position no woman has yet been able to keep: housekeeper to a frighteningly formidable prince.
The bold and gentle Elise sees past his battered body into Philippe’s barricaded heart . . . and her innate sensuality ignites his blood. Now a man who thought he could never love and a woman who thought she would never again trust must fight an incendiary passion that could be the ruin of them both.

So, let's talk about how much I absolutely loved It Started with a Scandal by Julie Anne Long. Much like the title would imply, a scandal forced Elise Fountain to leave her childhood home when she found herself impregnated by a fickle rogue. After making a home for herself as a teacher in a school for recalcitrant girls and once again being forced out of a secure environment due to fear of her scandal being exposed, Elise is hired as the housekeeper to our hero, the temperamental and wounded Lord Philippe Lavay. He's known far and wide for his propensity for throwing vases and scaring off servants but with a bit of ingenuity and some homey touches, Elise goes quite a way towards taming the French prince. 

Elise was such an amazingly strong heroine. She could easily dwell on the unfair hand that life dealt her but she puts all her effort into making a better life for herself and her son. She's incredibly caring and considerate but she's no push over. Elise has sass and whit for days and is no wallflower when it comes to verbal sparring. When she stood up to the thief of a cook and set her straight before tossing her out I couldn't help but cheer wholeheartedly. Her banter with Philippe made for some of the very best dialogue in the novel and some of the most amusing moments. She has a nurturing nature, whether it be with her son, her staff or Lord Lavay's wounds. 

Phillipe is incredibly doubtful that Elise will last the fortnight but her spirit and ingenuity quickly turn his house into a comfortable home. Though all he longs for is a chance to reclaim his ancestral home in Provence and support his grandfather and sister in the luxury they were accustomed to before the revolution, Elise and the love he develops for her show him what's really worth holding on to in this life. Though he was a bit of a grumpy bear in the beginning of the novel, his snark and whit are balanced by his strength and sense of humor. He's also wonderfully sweet and encouraging with Jack, Elise's excitable and imaginative son. Sigh. Really...he's the whole package.

The push and pull of chemistry and obligation between Elise and Phillipe made the gradual build of their physical relationship all the more intense. Their dance of attraction seemed to draw them inescapably closer as much as they tried to avoid each other and their growing feelings. The slow burn was absolutely delicious and made for some scorching scenes when these two finally gave in to their rising lust. I couldn't get enough of Elise and Phillipe together, both in and out of bed. Their interactions made me genuinely smile and hold my breath. Always a good thing in a romance, I think.

Julie Anne Long has such a wonderful writing style that I honestly couldn't help but devour the novel. I didn't want to put it down! Her characters were complex but relatable and though they were far from perfect, they were the kind of heroes you take a bit of pride in. I would love to be as strong, resourceful and passionate as Elise, with or without the prince in my corner (though, honestly, I wouldn't mind one). Phillipe starts out as a bit of a brooder, but considering he lost most of his family, home, and wealth in the revolution, was then nearly killed by six hoodlums and was forced to recover in a drafty, dusty house with lazy servants, his disposition is remarkably sunny. Ultimately, It Started with a Scandal is a story of two survivors, and the love they build together. This is definitely a must read for any historical romance fan, even if you're not usually into Master/Servant romances (which I'm not). I need to check out the rest of the Pennyroyal Green series ASAP!

Disclaimer: I received this book free in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions shared are my own.

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About the Author:
USA Today bestselling author JULIE ANNE LONG originally set out to be a rock star when she grew up (and she has the guitars and fringed clothing stuffed in the back of her closet to prove it), but writing was always her first love. Since hanging up her guitar for the computer keyboard, her books frequently top reader and critic polls and have been nominated for numerous awards, including the Rita, Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice, and The Quills, and reviewers have been known to use words like “dazzling,” “brilliant,” and “impossible to put down” when describing them. Julie lives in Northern California.

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