Title: Lord of Scoundrels
Author: Loretta Chase
Publisher: Avon (1995)
Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase is set in early 19th Century England (with sojourns to Paris) and follows the indefatigable Jessica Trent as she tries to figure out the incorrigible Lord Dain. Jessica Trent, a genteel, unmarried young lady, goes to Paris to fetch her dim-witted brother before he entirely squanders the small family fortune. While in Paris she encounters Lord Dain, notorious (and rich!) shunner of society and first-class debaucher. Through a series of delightful and sexually charged events, she and Dain marry before they even know if they like each other. We can rest easy in this as it's a romance so we already know their fate but, also, while Chase doesn’t knock the reader over the head, it’s still pretty clear that these two can only be meant for each other because probably no one else could stand to live with them for long. They have very strong personalities.
This book is a lot of fun to read. The dialogue is great and the unexpected responses will make you laugh out loud. Even halfway through the book when I thought I had Jessica figured out she would pop out with something that left me surprised and laughing. Dain is wonderfully delicious but I’m not overly fond of the Bad Boy Because of Bad Past hero so that aspect of his character did nothing for me. I can’t fault Chase for that, though, it’s merely disinclination on my part but she wrote it well so it was easy to get over. What I would have liked more of was Dain’s oft-described but little seen Character of Bad Repute. It may be that the reader of romance knows that the hero is never truly evil so I couldn't accept his bad character or it may have been that Jessica was so flippant about it that that was what impressed me most or perhaps my modern sensibilities aren't fine-tuned enough to historical social scandals... In any case, I like to see a bit more of the bad in the Bad Boy rather than just be told about him. Then again, maybe this is something I'll never see in romance. If the hero was truly, deep-down-inside bad then he probably wouldn't be the hero, would he?
Characterization was almost universally well-done. My point of contention was with lack of motive outside of the main characters. I felt that only two of the supporting characters were actually assigned motive. However, others of the supporting cast were a bit empty for me, entertaining but empty. I actually became really aggravated with the dim-witted brother character. That poor sop took so much crap. I realize he was a dim-wit but after a while I was like, let up, Chase, and give this guy a chance or quit putting him in scenes. It was becoming painful to watch him in action. Luckily he does completely drop out of the story right around the time you really don’t want to see any more of him.
My teensy complaints aside, I give this book a hearty recommendation. It's funny with snappy dialogue and a thoughtful plot. Jessica and Dain are loads of fun to watch interact! The pacing is excellent making it a definite page-turner. I actually think this is Chase's best book but maybe someone out there thinks she's got one that's even better. If so, please, do share!
rating: 4 of 5 stars