I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Lord Philippe Lavay is a prince of the house of Bourbon, agent for the English crown, and currently recovering from injuries in Pennyroyal Green. Elise Fountain is a former teacher of Miss Marietta Endicott's Academy (School for Recalcitrant Girls), mother, and currently working as Lord Philippe Lavay's housekeeper. Neither foresaw ending up in such circumstances and due to class differences neither should even know of each other but with the help of some willow bark tea both are about to become aware, very aware of one another.
Elise had a child out of wedlock and with the time period she is living in, she is experiencing all the prejudices that follow this situation. Her family has disowned her and the school she was teaching at had to let her go so as not to blacken their reputation. When Elise arrives on Lavay's doorstep she is at the end of her rope for options. She reminisces at times about how carefree and foolish she was in her youth but after she becomes a mother Elise really rises to the occasion. Women will especially feel for Elise as she and she alone pays for her indiscretion and the unfairness of the shame society places on her. It is not the main focus of the story but Elise's interactions with her son are sweet and darling, her love for him shines through brilliantly. Even though she has to temper it due to her circumstances, Elise has quite the mischievous streak. Philippe Lavay not only notices this streak but also seems to encourage it. When the two first meet there is an instant awareness between them but it is when Elise recognizes Philippe is in pain from injuries not fully healed and makes him willow bark tea to ease it that they start to really pay attention to each other. The air fairly crackles with tension when they are in a room together.
The majority of the story centers on Philippe and Elise's interactions in the house with outside influences not making an appearance until the end of the story. I found it perfect that Philippe was of the house of Bourbon because reading this story was like sipping slowly on a glass of bourbon; Elise and Philippe's relationship is a slow burn but sweeter for the anticipation. The complication of Elise being a housekeeper and Philippe needing to marry for money are nothing new but with Julie Anne Long's writing, the story suddenly becomes captivating. Most of the story has a languid pace but as it has to do with the tension between our main couple it was enjoyable, the last twenty percent or so speeds up as the real world intrudes and decisions must be made. Secondary characters stay fairly well to the sidelines with Elise having to shape up some servants and Philippe's friends the Earl and Countess of Ardmay (I Kissed An Earl) popping up occasionally.
Now, on to what you all really want to know, yes, Olivia and Lyon do make an appearance in this book. Philippe was the individual that Lyon saved in London when he saw him being attacked and because of this when Philippe encounters Olivia he pays special attention to her and how she acts with her fiance. In reference to the Pennyroyal series, It Started With a Scandal would actually work as a standalone, except for the last page. Oh readers, the ending scene in this book, it is what we all have been waiting for. The book, story, and characters have merit on their own but if you bought and read this solely to read the ending Lyon scene, I would not judge. Am I reading the next in the series? Try and stop me.