books

Loretta Chase

Books

Captives of the Night (1994), Lord of Scoundrels (1994)

Your Scandalous Ways (2008), Dukes Prefer Blondes (2016)


Captives of the Night (1994)

Set in Paris and London in 1828

Leila Beaumont is married to an completely debauched scoundrel. After she realized just how bad he was, she refused him her bed and concentrated on her painting.

Comte d’Esmond (born Ismal) is a covert agent for the British crown–sent to look at Francis Beaumont for rumors of his involvement in blackmail and other sordid events that present a danger to England.

When Francis is found dead, and it looks like murder, Ismal is asked to look into the death.

“…you left immediately after.”

“I felt this would be wisest, in the circumstances,” Ismal said. “All the men at the inquest, except for her respectable solicitor, were either elderly or plain. I was the only one of her admirers there. I wanted the jury to attend to the proceedings—not to speculate whether I was her lover.

There was a good deal of banter between Leila and Ismal, and it was amusing.

“(Y)ou apologize so sweetly that I cannot resist. I forgive you, Madame.”

“You relieve my mind. And I, of course, forgive you.”

“I have not apologized.”

She waved her hand dismissively. “I forgive you for that, too.”

That scene is during a time when Leila has decided to take revenge upon Ismal–by being what he claimed he wanted: a polite and bidable partner in looking into the murder. He was sadly mistaken about what he wanted.

One of my favorite characters appears more than midway through the story–Lady Brentmor.

“This is just the sort of thing where a man’s bound to do harm for all he means to do good. You leave her beaux to me, my lad, and you tend to her business affairs.”

“I beg you will not give Andrew the notion that I’m collecting beaux, Lady Brentmor.”

“I don’t need to give him notions. He gets ’em all by himself.”

But the best part of the book was the mystery–who killed Francis and why. Along with that, the more we learn about Leila’s father and husband, the more sympathy we develop for the men who killed them. (Francis really is awful, but not in a rubbing-ones-hands-together manner, but rather in the manner of a selfish, self-absorbed hedonist who care only about looking after himself.)

It was a fun and enjoyable story.

Publisher: NYLA
Rating: 7.5/10

Lord of Scoundrels (1994) 

Set in France and England in 1828.

The book opens in 1793 with the marriage of the Marquess of Dain to Lucia Usignuolo, a wealthy Florentine aristocrat. The marriage is a disaster, and the result of that union is disdained by his father, and left basically alone after his mother leaves. It is this background that allows you to tolerate Sebastian’s behavior over the course of the book.

Lord Dain did not look up when the shop bell tinkled. He did not care who the new customer might be, and Champtois, purveyor of antiques and artistic curiosities, could not possibly care, because the most important customer in Paris had already entered his shop. Being the most important, Dain expected and received the shopkeeper’s exclusive attention. Champtois not only did not glance toward the door, but gave no sign of seeing, hearing, or thinking anything unrelated to the Marquess of Dain.

Jessica Trent has received a frantic message from Paris that her brother has fallen in with Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dai, and is quickly falling to ruin. So she and her grandmother hurry to Paris to try and remove her brother from Dain’s clutches.

He tugged at his cravat. “Ain’t in difficulties.”

“Oh, then I must be the one. According to your man of business, paying your present debts will leave me with precisely forty-seven pounds, six shillings, threepence for the remainder of the year. Which means I must either move in with aunts and uncles again or work. I spent ten years as unpaid nanny to their brats. I do not intend to spend another ten seconds. That leaves work.”

Dain is a complete scoundrel who cares about nothing except his pleasures. He believes himself to be a monster and so behaves so that society believes the same. That opening prologue, however, made me wonder whether he might, in fact, be salvageable.

Jessica is an utter delight. She is completely unwilling to take Dain’s crap, and continually puts him in his place. She is also the grandchild of a woman who has been quite open with her about men, scoundrels, and what happens between men and women. She also encourages Jessica’s independence and desire to stand up for herself.

“It would be far more profitable to pry Dain loose for yourself,” said her grandmother. “He is very wealthy, his lineage is excellent, he is young, strong, and healthy, and you feel a powerful attraction.”

“He isn’t husband material.”

“What I have described is perfect husband material,” said her grandmother.

All of which makes for delightful dialog between Dain and Jessica.

“Ah, you are familiar with my reputation, are you, Miss Trent?” Dain enquired.

“Oh, yes. You are the wickedest man who ever lived. And you eat small children for breakfast, their nannies tell them, if they are naughty.”

“But you are not in the least alarmed.”

“It is not breakfast time, and I am hardly a small child. Though I can see how, given your lofty vantage point, you might mistake me for one.”

“And she’s almost smiling. Usually they look exceedingly unhappy.”

“Cross, Miss Trent. They look exceedingly ill tempered. I suppose it’s on account of being virgins— of experiencing all the unpleasantness of breeding and birthing and none of the jolly parts.”

“Speaking on behalf of virgins everywhere, my lord,” she said, leaning toward him a bit, “I can tell you there are a host of jolly experiences. One of them is owning a rare work of religious art worth, at the very minimum, five hundred pounds.”

She held up her fan in front of his face, to display the masculine scribbling upon the sticks. “Look carefully,” she said. “Do you see ‘Beelzebub’ written there?”

“I’m not shortsighted,” he said, extracting the fan from her tense fingers. “You needn’t hold it so close. Ah, yes, is this the one?” He pointed to a stick. “Rouvier?”

“Yes,” she said, looking past him. “Here he comes.”

Dain turned. A Frenchman was warily approaching, his countenance pale. Dain fanned himself. The man paused. Smiling, Dain pressed thumb and forefinger to the stick with “Rouvier” written on it. It snapped.

Rouvier went away.

Dain may be a complete ass, but Jessica gives as good as she gets, and her revenge upon him halfway through the book is utterly marvelous.

One single scene makes it clear she is a match for him.

The story is very much a romp, but it’s a fun one, and I really loved the two main characters.

Publisher: HarperCollins
Rating: 8/10


Your Scandalous Ways (2008)

Your-Scandalous-WaysSet in Venice in 1820

Francesca Bonnard is probably the most successful whore in Venice, perhaps even Italy. After a scandalous divorce, she fled to the continent and remade herself in one of the most sought after courtesans in Italy.

“Ah, yes,” he said. “Your position. A divorcée.”

“Divorziata e puttana,” she said tautly. A divorcée and a whore.

He leapt from his chair as though one of Satan’s imps had pricked his arse with a hot fork.

“Good heavens!” he said. “I do beg your pardon. Am I keeping you from your work?”

However, she holds something her ex-husband desperately wants back, and he’s not concerned with how he gets it back.

James Cordier is ready to retire from his life as a spy, thief, and agent, but he’s given one last assignment before he can head back to England–retrieve some letters from Francesca Bonnard that prove her ex-husband to be a traitor.

This wasn’t a bad story–I liked the intrigue quite well. I could have done without all the boinking (but then I always say that), but the intrigue was fun. As was the language, especially the dialog of the non-native speakers.

“(D)ropped on the hours of trouble.”

“Fallen on hard times,” James said.

You must advise me what to say. I do not wish to put in my mouth my feet.”

The dialog was also enjoyable, and I’m a sucker for good dialog.

“The man prostitute,” he prompted, “who costs very much. What is his name in English?”

“Husband,” said Bonnard.

“I speak English well, and practice with her all the time. But to read it hurts my head. The way the English spell: Where is the logic? Nowhere can I find it. They spell like madmen.”

This wasn’t a fabulous story, but it was enjoyable, and I’ll certainly read another.
Rating: 7/10

Published by HarperCollins e-books

Dukes Prefer Blondes (2016)

Set in London in 1822.

Lady Clara Fairfax is this season’s popular beauty. But she’s turned down multiple marriage proposals, never quite sure of what she wants.

Raven Radford is the grandson of a duke, but as his father became a barrister and married a divorcee, he is most definitely not acceptable in polite society. So he also became a barrister and tends to defend poor children.

I got about a quarter of the way through, then put the story down and read things that were more interesting. But I decided to go back and finish it, because it wasn’t horrible, and perhaps I’d just hit a slow part.

This book just wasn’t my cup of tea. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t for me.

I did like Lady Clara, who was the historical equivalent of a tomboy.

Not many years older than her charge, Davis had been hired immediately after one of Clara’s many childhood contretemps, this time at Vauxhall. She protected Clara from fractures, concussions, drowning, and— most important to Mama— Clara’s becoming A Complete Hoyden.

I thought that part was well done, since a girl with nothing but older brothers and an adventurous spirit would have been far more likely to get into trouble and be more than the demure miss society expected, but she wasn’t completely out of time, which was nice.

And I liked Raven Radford, who is a prickly jerk, partially because of how he was treated by his extended family as a child.

“They been teaching me. I can read and write now. And I can do ands.”

“Hands?” Radford said.

“Ands,” Fenwick said more loudly, as if to a deaf person or foreigner. “What’s fourteen and six and six again? Twenty-six. Ands!”

And I thought that the bits about Clara wanting to safe just two children was lovely.

But put it all together as a whole and I was just a little bit bored. Not quite enough mystery perhaps.

So it wasn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t for me.
Rating: 6/10

Publisher: Avon