Thursday, June 9, 2016

REVIEW | Lord Of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Publication Year: 1995
Genre: Romance, Historical (Regency Era)
Series: Scoundrels
Awards: Rita Award for Best Short Historical (1996) + several other smaller awards
Format: eBook 
Narrator: NA

SYNOPSIS:  As with many a hero of a Regency Romance, Sebastian Ballister, the Marquess of Dain is a notorious rogue, debauching and drinking his way through a dissolute existence in Paris.  He has pulled into his sphere the hapless and slightly stupid brother of the very respectable Jessica Trent and when she comes to rescue him from Dain's clutches, sparks fly.  The only problem is that Jessica is not dumb enough to get involved with the amoral cad and Sebastian makes it a rule never to consort with respectable ladies.  However, as this is a romance novel, circumstances thrust them together and soon they are on their way to Dain's huge ancestral estate as husband and wife though the journey is far from smooth.  Their positions at the beginning of the book can be summed up by the following two passages:
DAIN: Which wasn’t to say that Dain would never wed. But that would be only to heap more shame, shock, and disgust upon his family, both the few living—a handful of distant cousins—and the legion dead. The bride, beyond doubt, would be the mistress, widow, or daughter of a notorious traitor or murderer. She would also be a famous whore. The ideal would be a half-Irish mulatto Jewess brothel keeper whose last lover had been hanged for sodomizing and strangling the Duke of Kent’s only legitimate offspring, the nine-year-old Alexandrina Victoria. A Marchioness of Dain who was a gently bred virgin of respectable—if eccentric—family was out of the question.
“I don’t want a husband.”
“Jessica, no woman does who can regard men objectively. And you have always been magnificently objective. But we do not live in a utopia."
Relatively speaking, I'm new to an appreciation of the romance genre but even I can recognize that the above synopsis would probably work for at least 50% of the Regency Romances out there.  However, don't you dare let that turn you off to this absolutely brilliant and original romance.  It's fantastic and may have surpassed the incredible Sarah MacLean's books as my favorite historical romance. I learned after reading that it's actually considered to be a classic of the genre and I wish it had been brought to my attention earlier.  As it is, this is my first Loretta Chase and I just kind of happened upon it.  So glad I did!

So what makes the book so fabulous?  You may have heard me say before that I REALLY don't like the Alpha Male romance hero.  Also, while I enjoy a broody hero, an out and out asshole makes me want to throw a book across the room.  Oh, it can be done well, usually by toning down the Alpha-hole qualities and at least providing the hero with a modicum of respect for women.  But this is NOT what Loretta Chase does with Sebastian Ballister.  He is in fact the biggest A-hole I've encountered in a romance novel.  He has numerous nicknames in the book all relating him to Satan (my favorite being Beelzebub) and he really does earn them.  And yet....And yet....I loved him.  I rooted for him.  I wanted him to be happy and get everything he wanted.  Loretta Chase should give classes (heck maybe she does) on how to properly write an Alpha Male hero that isn't hateful.  

How does she do it?  Well, that's the other thing that I think is brilliant about this book and it's something I have not run into before - the book is about the hero not the heroine.  The book starts with a prologue in Dain's childhood and throughout the book the time spent in his head is a good bit more revealing and interesting than the time spent in Jessica's head.  The important thing about this is that it reveals the why of Dain's deplorable behavior in a way that makes actual real sense.  It gives him substance and makes him, if not 100% sympathetic, at least understandable.  Jessica by contrast is incredibly emotionally intelligent and mature and incredibly likeable which allows the story to focus on the redemption and rescue of Sebastian.  It works really well.

And lest all this redemption and rescuing make it sound like this is an excessively angsty book, I need to report that it is also hilarious and frequently delightful.  The banter between Jessica and Dain is some of the best I've ever encountered.  And for me truly humorous banter is an absolute necessity.  
“I scarcely noticed Weyhill,” she said. “You were telling one of the most moronic anecdotes I’d ever heard.” 
"Had it been less moronic, the joke would have gone over your head,” he said. “You laughed hard enough.”
“I didn’t want to hurt your feelings,” she said. “I thought you were trying to impress me by displaying the uppermost limits of your intellect.”
And actually Jessica sums up the philosophy of this romance pretty well:
“In my dictionary, romance is not maudlin, treacly sentiment,” she said. “It is a curry, spiced with excitement and humor and a healthy dollop of cynicism.” 
FINAL VERDICT:  One of the best Regency Romances I've read. 4 out of 5 Stars.  

OTHER OPINIONS ARE AVAILABLE: Book Smugglers | Gossamer Obsessions*

* So Gossamer Obsessions always suggests possible casting and for this she suggests Morena Baccarin for Jessica and Richard Armitage for Dain and Holy Shnikeys that's brilliant.  Also?  Anime June (the blogger behind Gossamer Obsessions) is my very most favorite romance reviewer - her reviews are brilliant and hilarious.  

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