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Lord of Scoundrels

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Lord of Scoundrels (1994) Loretta Chase

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

Categories: 8/10, British, Historical, Romance, Sexual Content     Comments (0)    



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