London's Late Night Scandal
‘Tis the season to be jolly, and London’s Late Night Scandal is both jolly and heartbreaking in its holiday setting. A nicely written comedy of manners and a perfectly cute romance, it’s all about scholarly pursuits, true love and gentle farce.
Dedicated scholar Lord Matthew Strathmore, Earl of Whittingham, is on a mission with his friend and valet, Coggs. It’s a journey Strathmore, Chief Officer of the Society for the Intellectually Advanced, has undertaken because he is fascinated by the existence of one Lord Talbot, whose recent postings to the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society have left the SftIA scratching its head because Talbot has not sought fame on the lecture circuit nor made himself physically known. Strathmore has been bugging the Earl nonstop with requests and notes about his articles, but today he’s seeking the man’s company both to pick his brain and puzzle out why the last article he posted seems so unlike him – so poorly reasoned out and unscientific.
Theodosia Leighton is the Earl of Talbot’s granddaughter and she guards his privacy closely while also publishing articles in his name – including the poorly reasoned one that Matthew wants to complain about – to fill in the gap of his actual correspondence as his mind weakens with age. Happy to expand her mind instead of spending time in the city amid the social whirl (and to avoid revisiting a traumatic finishing school incident that’s left her forever wary of public life), she’s still feeling her way as a scientist, which resulted in the error she published in her grandfather’s name. To keep him from being bothered by Strathmore she actually burned some of his letters before they reached her grandfather, but sadly, not the one requesting a meeting, and Strathmore’s arrival is imminent.
Theodosia doesn’t expect Matthew to be so young and handsome, and Matthew doesn’t expect to find delicate, sweet Theodosia to be so charming. Soon the two of them are falling in love, with Theodosia producing poultices for his painful, gunshot-wounded left leg. But will true love reign when Matthew figures out Theodosia’s the scientist he’s been seeking?
London’s Late Night Scandal is both cerebral and tenderhearted, a nice story about two characters healing one another’s emotional and physical wounds while getting to know one another combined with a story that wrestles with matters related to both the heart and mind.
The book has beautiful moments of poignancy as Theodosia must deal with her grandfather’s deterioration and her anxiety over returning to London. This culminates in her hosting a party at Matthew’s palatial home, a stress-inducing prospect that Matthew supports her through.
I liked both of them very much; Matthew for his responsibility and his intellectual curiosity, Theodosia for her brainy vulnerability. Also great is Coggs, even though he’s yet another Valet Character Who Is Anachronistically Too Close To His Employer. The way Bryant handles Matthew’s injury and the resultant disability he’s living with because of it is excellent; the injury doesn’t just disappear because of the treatment he receives.
Matthew and Theodosia’s relationship is nicely handled. I liked the way they took care of one another and how they managed to find an understanding and common intellectual ground that added depth to their passion, but unfortunately the last quarter of the book indulges in a convoluted plot point that treats Theodosia as a brainless ninny and her soul and form like a football in petticoats. That caused me to lower my final grade as it felt like padding that didn’t belong in the volume at all.
But in spite of my misgivings, London’s Late Night Scandal works as a pretty romance and a touching story about growth and interpersonal change.