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BOOK REVIEW: Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

Friday, December 29, 2017



The Blurb (from Goodreads):


DETERMINED LADY

Tough-minded Jessica Trent's sole intention is to free her nitwit brother from the destructive influence of Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain. She never expects to desire the arrogant, amoral cad. And when Dain's reciprocal passion places them in a scandalously compromising, and public, position, Jessica is left with no choice but to seek satisfaction...

LORD OF SCOUNDRELS

Damn the minx for tempting him, kissing him... and then forcing him to salvage her reputation! Lord Dain can't wait to put the infuriating bluestocking in her place—and in some amorous position, And if that means marriage, so be it!—Though Sebastian is less than certain he can continue to remain aloof... and steel his heart to the sensuous, headstrong lady's considerable charms.


My Thoughts:

Struck down by bronchitis this month and looking for a heart-warming Regency romance to read, my friend Anna Campbell suggested Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase. ‘It’s sometimes called the best Regency romance ever written,’ she told me. Well, that was good enough for me. I ordered it and, as soon as it arrived, sank back into my welter of pillows and began to read.

Now, I would never have bought this book from the back-cover blurb. It begins:
‘Sebastian Baillister, the notorious Marquess of Dain, is big, bad and dangerous to know. No respectable woman would have anything to do with the “Bane and the Blight of the Ballisters” – and he wants nothing to do with respectable women. He’s determined to continue doing what he does best – sin and sin again – and all that’s going swimmingly, thank you … until the day a shop door opens and she walks in …’

The thing is, I really hate alpha males. They are always rude, overbearing, patronising and sexually aggressive. I hate them in real life and I hate them in fiction. I’ve been having trouble reading much romance or young-adult fantasy lately because of the ubiquity of the alpha male. Give me a kind and clever man over these ruddy brutes anytime!

But there I was, trapped in my sickbed, desperate for some light-hearted diversion, and so I opened the book and read the first page. It was a letter from the author, addressed to ‘Dear Reader’, and it said, ‘as many of you know, we authors can be fragile creatures. Pale and wan, we toil in our garrets, talking to people who don’t exist. Our tender egos hoard the snippets of praise that come our way from time to time, saving them to get us through a Really Bad Writing Day …’

I laughed out loud. Pale and wan I was indeed, and much prone to talking to people who don’t exist. And, yes indeedy, a snippet of praise is sometimes all that gets us through.

And so I read the book. And I laughed out loud quite a few more times, and once or twice towards the end I had a lump in my throat too.

I don’t need to paraphrase the plot for you. Big bad beast of a hero meets clever unconventional heroine and, despite himself, falls in love.

It is all done with a deft, light hand, however, and a great deal of humour. And, most interestingly, it made me understand why so many women love a romance with a big, bad beast of a hero. The thing is, Loretta Chase shows us the hurt and pain behind this seemingly hard and confident man, and then she shows us how he is saved by the steadfast love of a good woman. Now the feminist in me has always both scorned and feared this particular cultural myth – how many women have found themselves trapped in abusive relationships because they hope the man can change?

Yet I do believe that people can grow and change, and that love has transformative power. I think it is important for us to believe in the possibility of love to change the world.

Because so much of the story dwelt on Sebastian’s back story, and the unkindness and lovelessness that made him the man he was, you can’t help cheering Jessica on and admiring her for never giving up till she has finally cracked his hard outer shell.

If you are someone who steers clear of romances because you cannot bear the breathless banality of the language, then you may need to skip some scenes (for example: “She never had to think, only let herself be swept endlessly round the ballroom while her body tingled with the consciousness of him and only him: the broad shoulder under her hand … the massive, muscular frame inches from her own … the tantalizing scent of smoke and cologne and Male …’ And yes, ‘Male’ was capitalised in the text.)

However, if you can forgive Loretta Chase those passages of purple prose, you will be rewarded with a love story full of heart, humour and that essential touch of poignancy that can make the romance genre such a rewarding read. Particularly when you are sick.

You might also enjoy my reviews of Charity Girl and Sylvester, by the Queen of Regency Romances, Georgette Heyer.

Please leave a comment - what are your favourite Regency Romances?

Comments
sarah commented on 29-Dec-2017 11:32 AM
I enjoy Julia Quinn and Mary Balogh when I'm in need of some cheerful, romantic reading. Some of the elements annoy me, for example the men are often concerned with their occupation and place of belonging in the world, whereas the women only want a home and love. But other than that they are heartwarming and good fun.
Kate Forsyth commented on 31-Dec-2017 06:58 AM
Thank you for the suggestions! I've read a few by Julia Quinn but haven't yet tried Mary Balogh - I shall now.

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