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Lord of Scoundrels

by Loretta Chase

Amazon Kindle Edition

Rating: * * * * *

Kindle Note: As of today, July 13, this book is only 99 cents for Kindle.

In Brief: Jessica Trent arrives in Paris to save her bumbling brother, Bertie, by extricating him from the devilish grasp of Sebastian, Lord Dain. What she didn’t expect was the immediate animal attraction to the cursed man — beyond a rake, he’s irredeemable. Or is he?

I thought: To put it succinctly, I loved this book. It may have a few flaws, but it’s exactly right for my taste; I’ll try to explain why.

As you may have ascertained by now, I am nearly always more interested in the characters than in the plot per se. This is particularly true for romance novels, where the plot resolution is known before one even begins to read. Boy meets girl, they fall in lust or love, there are some obstacles, love grows, they realize they are Meant to Be, et voila! Happy ending! Thus, the character development is of utmost importance.

And so, here, we begin with Sebastian (who is nearly never called by his Christian name), Lord Dain. Without the prologue, he’d be pretty much intolerable: Arrogant, dissolute, hurtful and almost completely walled off from emotion. Good thing, then, that the book begins with some insight into why he is as he is… and also that he isn’t utterly, bull-headedly stupid about it. He knows he’s broken and, although he doesn’t want to change, there’s at least a realistic possibility.

Our heroine, Jessica, is intelligent, witty, and totally capable. She’s confident in herself and has plenty of experience in dealing with boys and men; no shrinking violet, this. She has enough self-esteem not to plunge into despair over every stupid thing Dain does, but enough humanity to experience some doubt. She understands that he is rather like a wounded animal, and works within those parameters without becoming a doormat and losing herself.

The side characters are an absolute riot. Genevieve, Jessica’s grandmother, is grounded and helpful — a welcome change from relatives who seem to be there only to lead the hero or heroine astray. Jessica’s brother, Bertie, is a hopeless case, but hilariously so. I can’t help but wonder if he’s modeled, at least a tiny bit, on Bertie Wooster. Dain’s school friends are almost an afterthought, though they do help to drive the plot, and provide some insight on occasion.

The writing style provides plenty of narrative explanation of what the hero and heroine are thinking, which breaks the cardinal rule of show, don’t tell — but it works. This reads as a hilarious romp, and even though (having read many books about writing books, and having a few in progress myself) it shouldn’t work, it does.

At one point, there is the typical “if they’d only talk to each other, this entire thing could be resolved” separation, and I groaned a bit, thinking this would drive the plot for the remainder of the book… and then it doesn’t. They do talk, and instead of the lack-of-communication device (which often feels a bit like a cop out), Jess and Dain progress and deal with other, more realistic issues. Dain doesn’t want to let anyone in, and instead of going into paroxysms, Jess realizes this and behaves accordingly. He misunderstands her intentions, but she maintains a rock-solid understanding of his, and so there’s none of the mutual misunderstanding that crops up so frequently in romance novels. I think I made this point above, but I’ll make it again: It’s so refreshing to read (another, after having read some of Candice Hern’s books) a story where straight stubbornness and deliberate failure to understand isn’t the main conflict. Having read many, many Regency romances, there was a sort of meta-delight at the introduction of a typical plot device which was then turned on its head.

Annoyances? Well, the same, almost verbatim descriptions are used often, sometimes within a few pages of one another, but I’m willing to overlook that in light of the sheer joy of reading this book. (Yes, we understand that Dain is diabolical. Really.) There are blessedly few typos in the Kindle edition, which are more than made up for by the general wittiness of the dialogue.

The smuttiness level doesn’t quite go to 11 — this isn’t Stephanie Laurens — but it’s definitely quite descriptive. The relationship between Jess and Dain may begin with lust, but it ends in believable love.

Definitely a keeper.

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