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Dear Author Book Club: Last Night’s Scandal by Loretta Chase

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Welcome to Dear Author’s Book Club. The theme was friends to lovers and the DA crew pitched a selection of books and the readership selected Last Night’s Scandal by Loretta Chase. Ms. Chase kindly answered a few questions about the book and we hope you join us this week to chat about the book.

Loretta Chase Last Night's Scandal

1) Was it a challenge to age Peregrine and Olivia from the children they’d been in Lord Perfect into young adults, yet keep them recognizable as the same characters?

When I first created Olivia and Peregrine in Lord Perfect, it was obvious they’d have a story of their own. Which I managed to put off for about four years, because it turned out I had no clue how to do it. It was trickier than I’d assumed: I needed to analyze two characters already very well known to readers, decide what was the essence of each personality, then decide how it would express itself in adulthood. In what way(s) do we change with maturity? Olivia was the major problem, because she’s complicated to begin with. Then she’s further complicated with the change in status when her mother marries Lord Rathbourne. One example of the problems she presented: How does growing up among the upper classes influence the person she turns into? I did know she wouldn’t become a conventional young woman—but that knowledge is not terribly helpful, considering I’ve spent my career trying not to create conventional heroines. Peregrine was much easier. He’s forthright to a fault. He’s already an adult, to an extent, when he’s a boy. But the most delicate part of the operation was developing their sexual relationship.

2) Olivia is an unusual heroine, manipulative yet filled with good intentions. Did you feel you were taking a chance in creating such a character, and what was readers’ response to her like?

It didn’t seem a very big risk, or no more than usual. Writing a book is always a gamble. You write it, you put it out there, and you hope for the best. But it wasn’t as though I hadn’t precedents for using shady characters as heroes. I do believe the old Maverick shows were in the back of my mind when I created the Dreadful Deluceys. It’s really fun to work with characters who are not upright citizens. And it’s fun, too, to find the qualities that make them sympathetic, heroic, in spite of themselves. As to reader response: The main way we gauge it is sales, and my publisher was happy with the numbers. Then the jury of my peers made it a Rita finalist, too. So it seems that, for the most part, people are OK with Olivia.

3) Peregrine is the proper, upstanding straight man to Olivia’s madcap, funny, larger-than-life figure, and Last Night’s Scandal is a story of opposites attracting as much as a friends-to-lovers story. How did you go about making the characters’ appeal to one another understandable and believable?

Making the relationship work isn’t a conscious process. Well, frankly, very little I do is. I’m not analytical or linear in my writing. It’s mainly instinct: Does this feel right or wrong? If it feels wrong, I throw it out and try something else. Not the most efficient process, but the only one I’ve got. With relationships, on some level, I’m seeking balance—one character’s positives and negatives complementing his/her partner’s. In this case, Peregrine reacts to his parents’ excessive drama by going in the opposite direction: As a boy, he likes being with his uncle Lord Rathbourne because Rathbourne makes rules. But that can result in someone who’s humorless and repressed and basically, not fun. Olivia makes her own rules. To Peregrine this is anarchy. But she’s good for him. She keeps jolting him, and this checks his tendencies toward pomposity and pedantry. Meanwhile, he helps her find her moral center. We see this in real life, in good relationships, where the partners have a mellowing effect on each other. The act of maintaining a relationship calls for compromise; in the good scenarios, this smoothes rough edges, helps keep one’s judgment balanced, adjusts perspective. I wanted their compromises to result in their growing up and becoming their better selves.

4) The opposites attract dynamic is one you have explored in many other of your books. What draws you to that kind of romance?

This is one of those writerly tactics I feel should have a big warning sign: Don’t Try This At Home. But the opposites-attract dynamic makes for such strong conflict, and the process of two people trying to deal with that and trying to communicate and create a balance is so interesting to write about. In real life, this works only to a point, and I’ll say of some of my heroes that while I love them in a romance, in real life I’d run away screaming.

5) Both Olivia and Peregrine struggle to define themselves outside the expectations and demands of their families. Peregrine, in particular, is so different than his fairly awful parents. He, unlike Dain, isn’t limited by his family’s history. Why is Peregrine able to transcend his background so much more easily than Dain?

Peregrine had Lord Rathbourne as his uncle and godfather. The difference is in having a loving and rational father figure/role model. Rathbourne offered the sanity and stability Lord and Lady Dalmay were incapable of providing. Rathbourne lives by rules. He isn’t driven by emotion. He pays attention to Peregrine and treats him like a thinking being. Dain had no one to create a stable, loving environment. Essentially, he was abandoned—and as I saw it, this happened even before his mother left, because she was self-absorbed. His situation was rather like being brought up by wolves. He went from a home where he was basically ignored to Eton, a world ruled, really, by boys—perilously close to a Lord of the Flies environment.

6) The theme for this month’s book club book was friends to lovers. It’s a popular romance trope. Are there particular advantages to writing a friends to lovers? How about disadvantages?

I believe this was a first for me, and it was much harder than I expected. The advantage is, they’re already friends and they have a bond. The difficulty is transforming friendship to a sexual relationship. If it isn’t done right, it just feels . . . icky. I could not figure out where and how to have that key moment when things start to turn. Then I had them on that fence near the Balloon Stone, and I knew that was the moment. The symbolism of their sitting on a fence—between Then (Friends) and Now (Lovers) only hit me later, and then I had to give myself a dope slap and laugh.

7) What was the starting point for Last Night’s Scandal?

Wondering what was going to bring them together. The problem simmered in the back of my mind while I wrote three books after Lord Perfect. A few things were fairly clear: I knew Peregrine would already have a life in Egypt, because that was who he was. It made sense to keep them separated for most of their growing-up time, so that when their story started, they’d see each other with fresh eyes. I definitely wanted echoes from their first adventure together. The letters in the beginning solved a host of problems in terms of those intervening years, as well as helping readers unfamiliar with Lord Perfect understand the characters. That’s as much as I can explain. My stories often come together like a collage rather than a drawing. Pieces arranged and rearranged, added, taken away, until things feel right. So I wrote the first three chapters about five or ten different ways before the landscape of the story started to become clear.

8) When you are crafting a novel, do you begin with characters or a plot? Does one shape the other? Or does it depend on the book?

While the stories grow out of the characters, I need some sort of plot to get going. I write an outline, based on a vague sense of the characters, and a plot idea that may or may not be the final one, because the characters don’t always turn out as originally envisioned. Again it’s a process of assemblage, rather than a linear sense of where things are going. It isn’t until I’ve been writing scenes that I get to know my people. It’s like getting to know a stranger: Sometimes that happens quickly; other times, it’s a lengthy process. Sometimes my understanding of a character is very superficial (and at least partly wrong) until I’ve written more than half the book. So then I have to go back and rewrite. I know: It’s a harebrained process, but that’s the way I write.

9) You’ve been writing for over twenty years now, do you think your audience has changed? Have you as a writer changed?

The audience is always changing its reading tastes, otherwise genres wouldn’t go in and out of fashion. In the earlier days of my career, paranormal was more or less extinct, and inspirational romance seemed not to have an audience and if erotic romance was getting published, it was off my radar. From the time I left traditional Regencies to write Regency-era historicals, I’ve stuck to the same genre. My writing, on the other hand, has changed over the years, and I like to think it’s for the better, that I’ve learned and matured and improved my craft. Too, one simply changes and Life happens. Even if I wanted to, I simply couldn’t write the kinds of books I wrote ten or twenty years ago. I’m not the same person. There’s no way to put myself in the state of mind/experience that gave rise to any particular book.

10) How important do you feel historical context is for your books?

For me it’s crucial. The setting is practically a character. I came to writing historical romance out of a love of history, so that’s part of the push to create a strong sense of place and time, using every tool available to make it feel real. The books that have the strongest impact on me do this. As well as helping me create a world that feels solid, history offers me so many sources of humor, misery, irony, and so on. So many small, everyday things—not great political moments—offer inspiration. OK, yes, I love history to wretched excess. So much that a writer friend (Susan Holloway Scott aka Isabella Bradford) and I created a blog devoted to the idea that History is Fun, Really. It’s called Two Nerdy History Girls, and it’s my outlet for all the historical deliciousness I can’t fit into my books.

11) Why do you think Lord of Scoundrels resonates with romance readers?

I’ve been asked this question before, and so far have not produced an intelligent answer. Judging by the different reasons readers give me for liking it, I don’t think there’s a consensus. Somehow this story came together, and it manages to hit a lot of readers in the right place. I’m not sure how I did it, but I’m very proud of that book and grateful to readers for continuing to love it for all this time.

12) Can you talk a little about how you pace the physical relationship between your lovers in your books? Do you feel readers respond better to relationships that take time to make it to the bedroom or to those that heat up more quickly?

The characters determine the pace of the physical relationship. I’m not sure whether I’m slower than most in getting to the consummation, but I do know I’d rather not rush it. That’s for a number of reasons, some of them purely practical. For instance, once the characters have had sex, the sexual tension dissipates, and one needs to find ways to either rebuild it or create other kinds of tension. These days, my characters seem to need at least half a book’s foreplay before the Big Smoochies happen. As to readers—I think the situation is the same regarding the sex as it is with other aspects of the book: Readers don’t all like the same things. A writer can’t please every reader. And so she has to write what she believes in, what feels right to her. Then, of course, the book goes out into the world and we hope our writerly instincts weren’t Horribly, Fatally Wrong.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

20 Comments

  1. Arianne
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 04:37:40

    Great feature, I really like the insight into Ms Chase’s writing process. With respect to question #12, I did notice that the tension between characters is resolved far sooner in her recent books than say, her traditional Regencies. I miss the non-stop banter that her older books like Devil’s Delilah, the English Witch, and even Lord Perfect had. Of course, I understand that, though I love Ms Chase’s screwball comedies, it seems most people prefer her drama. IMHO it is a pity for I can’t quite enjoy the Noirot series.

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  2. dick
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 14:30:17

    I prefer the earlier books like The Lion’s Daughter myself, wherein the relationship of the H/h was, in my opinion, more balanced. I’ve enjoyed the laughs the later ones have supplied, but I’d skedaddle rapidly away from some of the heroines in them.

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  3. rachel
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 15:42:15

    I love Last Night’s Scandal and Lord Perfect so, so much. Humor in historical romance is so tricky (at least in my opinion) and Chase is a master at it, especially these two novels. The letter that Olivia writes Peregrine at the end of Lord Perfect is a complete joy to read and the way Chase punctuates and capitalizes it is the icing on the cake. The line about ‘being a bachelor and leading an unsettled life’ is genius and the key to Olivia’s whole character. I am really curious to see how people feel about Last Night’s Scandal if they have never read Lord Perfect. It’s impossible for me to separate the two novels and I can’t imagine I would have enjoyed the second without having ever read the first.
    Uptight hero/wild heroine and friends-to-lovers are my two favorite tropes so there was basically no way I wasn’t going to love this book.

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  4. Elyssa
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 19:03:46

    This was a great interview. It is no secret that I love Loretta Chase and her books, and LAST NIGHT’S SCANDAL is definitely one of my faves.

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  5. Joanne
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 21:21:46

    Olivia and Peregrine grew into the people that I hoped they would when Lord Perfect ended. I can’t say how grateful I am to the author that they didn’t become altogether different characters just because they grew up. I was also happy to learn more about Peregrine’s family background, something that we didn’t see much of in their original story.

    Also: applause, applause, applause for Chase’s Two Nerdy History Girls site. I’ve always loved her description of women’s clothing in her books but that site and the information on it – and the pictures! – is a beautiful work of art.

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  6. Sharlene Wegner
    Aug 14, 2012 @ 21:38:08

    I really liked every book in the Carsington Brothers series. I wasn’t sure I was going to like Last Night’s Scandal because of thinking of the characters as children, but it really was a great story. I’m loving the Dressmaker’s series also!

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  7. Karenmc
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 09:28:18

    Last Night’s Scandal was a real success for me. I re-read Lord Perfect before tackling it, and that made LNS that much sweeter and funnier. When Olivia shows Peregrine all the treasures she’s kept in a box, my heart melted.

    Great interview, and I also love Two Nerdy History Girls. They tweet so much fascinating stuff that I really don’t know when they have time to write.

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  8. Janine
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 12:30:33

    @rachel:

    I am really curious to see how people feel about Last Night’s Scandal if they have never read Lord Perfect. It’s impossible for me to separate the two novels and I can’t imagine I would have enjoyed the second without having ever read the first.

    I wonder how I would have responded to LNS if I hadn’t read Lord Perfect first. I have a couple of friends who managed to forget Lord Perfect by the time Last Night’s Scandal came out and didn’t enjoy it so well. But I think I’ve seen at least one person say they liked it and hadn’t read Lord Perfect first. For me the two books go together and I think a reader will get more out of Last Night’s Scandal if they have read Lord Perfect recently enough to remember it.

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  9. njoireading
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 13:51:39

    LNS was and still is one of most favorite books. I think one of the things that made it so enjoyable is the relationship Olivia and Peregrine had as children, spilling over into adulthood. Like all best friends who are separated by distance, they wrote letters and saw each other on a rather infrequent basis. That friendship has endured through multiple broken engagements, his love of Egypt and Olivia’s banishments to the country. Its not that they don’t know each other, it is that, as adults, the love for each other changes and matures.

    When Peregrine realizes it is Olivia who is attracting all the attention at the ball, he is not surprised. No the surprise is that she is no longer the girl of his teenage years, but a woman who is beautiful, witty and one who is sought after by many. Olivia’s tactics to get to spend time with him before he returns to Egypt is not without antics that call up memories of old and Peregrine really isn’t surprised.

    His realization that she is the woman he wants hits him hard. He doesn’t want to give up his dreams in Egypt and he doesn’t expect her to follow him there. Olivia knows this about him and is ready to set him free. It is the moment when she brings out the treasures that she has saved all those years, that both of them realize what they have. For me that is one of the most poignant scenes I have read where love is declared. For Olivia, words are just words and Peregrine knows it. It is the small things, the actions where Olivia shows her love and Peregrine is smart enough to understand this.

    This was a wonderful interview and I enjoyed reading how Olivia and Peregrine were created and written as adults. An aside, it was fun to see them mentioned in Ms. Chase’s latest book!

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  10. Carolyn
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 18:18:10

    I never understood why Peregrine’s love affair with Egypt would keep them apart. Olivia herself is fascinated by it and has always wanted to see the world. Why couldn’t they just declare themselves and take off for Egypt?

    It’s been awhile since I read this book, so I may be remembering wrong. I do remember being confused and thinking ‘they’re both adventurers, what’s the problem?’.

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  11. LeeF
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 19:53:52

    When I saw LNS was the pick for bookclub, I was a bit concerned since I didn’t remember really liking it on the first read. However, reading it the second time, I found it interesting and enjoyable, with lots of secondary characters worth noting. Almost wish I had read Lord Perfect first but don’t think that hindered my interest in Olivia and Peregrine.

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  12. Jane
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 19:55:37

    @Carolyn: I had similar thoughts. I wasn’t convinced about the emotional conflict because I also thought that they both were adventurers. I did find the struggle between the two personalities engaging and that Chase did a marvelous job of aging the character without losing their uniqueness.

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  13. Janine
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 20:43:37

    @Jane & @Carolyn: It’s been a couple years since I read it but I think the real conflict wasn’t Egypt per se, but rather that Peregrine didn’t want the drama Olivia generated to be part of his daily life. He’d had enough drama from his parents, so he was afraid of having Olivia in Egypt for that reason.

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  14. Meoskop
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 23:16:31

    I didn’t have time to reread this and it’s driving me a little crazy. I recall there was a dropped/changed plot point that bugged me but I didn’t detail the particulars. Anyone notice a plot hole? Do I have to reread after all? It was in the last third as I recall?

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  15. Marianne McA
    Aug 16, 2012 @ 07:16:14

    Just re the Why was Egypt a problem? question, I also seem to remember Peregrine thought Olivia would be bored: that a lot of the day-to-day work was very routine, and that wouldn’t suit her. And I think he says at some point that he wouldn’t have his brothers in Egypt because the climate isn’t healthy for English children (something along those lines), which might suggest that he wouldn’t choose to bring up his family out there.

    Lord Perfect was a DIK for me – and I was almost worried I wouldn’t like this one, but I really did. I liked the way the characters were proper friends, and knew each other. And a big bugbear of mine is all the premarital sex in Regency novels, but I really believed that Olivia – because of her personality type, because of her childhood experiences, and because her mother would have supported her – could have coped with a pregnancy, and I liked that she knew that about herself.
    And I loved the way she told him she loved him by showing him her collection of keepsakes.

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  16. Rebecca
    Aug 16, 2012 @ 13:42:47

    I loved the Carsington series–I never wanted it to end. My hopes for this book were very high, and so it’s impossible for me to say how I would have felt without reading Lord Perfect. On my first read of LNS I was not convinced, but I did like it much better the second time around. The first time I read it it seemed to me that Olivia always knew what she wanted (the treasure box is awesome) but I was not convinced that Peregrine loved her as much as she loved him. I thought Olivia made sense throughout her character arc, but I didn’t end up liking the adult Peregrine as much as the boy Peregrine. I found the adult P to be a bit of an ass, when the boy P seemed more honest with himself, ie, admitting that he never would have so much fun again as he did when he ran off with Olivia. The second time around maybe I read it more closely and some of my doubts were resolved. I also liked the tiny shoutout in the latest Dressmaker book about Olivia in Egypt. Now, the Dressmakers series…better leave that for another time.

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  17. cleo
    Aug 17, 2012 @ 12:34:49

    Was anyone else annoyed by Olivia? I remember enjoying this book but never, ever feeling like I understood Olivia’s behavior or motivations. She was a little too manic pixie dream girl for my taste.

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  18. Dabney
    Aug 18, 2012 @ 14:15:02

    @Rebecca: When I first read LNS, I thought it was good but it didn’t blow me away. I realized though I was viewing the story so strongly through the lens of Lord Perfect, which I love, I wasn’t giving Olivia and Peregrine a chance to be adults. When I read LNS the second time, I liked both the leads much better. I still prefer Lord Perfect–it’s my favorite Carsington tale–but I think LNS is quite good on its own terms.

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  19. Leslie
    Aug 19, 2012 @ 13:33:43

    I just got a reminder from Overdrive that Last Night’s Scandal is due in a three days. The book has been on my Kindle for almost three weeks and I’ve read about six chapters which is further than I got the first time I began to read LNS.
    I want to finish it, but I am so bored with Olivia and her antics.
    Loretta Chase is great and Lord Perfect is such a wonderful book, I was really looking forward to LNS before it first came out. I was disappointed to say the least. I would have liked it if she had found other partners for them. A farce of four rather than what I’ve read so far with just Olivia and Peregrine.
    I am going to try and finish it this weekend.
    I find it interesting that so many people voted for this book over A Civil Contract and yet there is very little action in the LNS thread. Hmmm?

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  20. Selene
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 09:32:58

    I guess I’m in the minority here, but this is one of the few Chase books that I don’t like–in fact, I never finished it. (Yes, I’d read Lord Perfect, but it was years before.) I had problems with both the hero and heroine, finding them both, well, annoying. The heroine struck me as a capricious child, which is not an endearing trait to me. OTOH, at the same time I got annoyed at the hero for treating her as one.

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