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(Brothers Sinister #0.5)

Genre: Victorian Historical Romance

Official Blurb 

She will not give up…

Three months ago, governess Serena Barton was let go from her position. Unable to find new work, she’s demanding compensation from the man who got her sacked: a petty, selfish, swinish duke. But it’s not the duke she fears. It’s his merciless man of business—the man known as the Wolf of Clermont. The formidable former pugilist has a black reputation for handling all the duke’s dirty business, and when the duke turns her case over to him, she doesn’t stand a chance. But she can’t stop trying—not with her entire future at stake.

He cannot give in…

Hugo Marshall is a man of ruthless ambition—a characteristic that has served him well, elevating the coal miner’s son to the right hand man of a duke. When his employer orders him to get rid of the pestering governess by fair means or foul, it’s just another day at the office. Unfortunately, fair means don’t work on Serena, and as he comes to know her, he discovers that he can’t bear to use foul ones. But everything he has worked for depends upon seeing her gone. He’ll have to choose between the life that he needs, and the woman he is coming to love…

★✩★✩★✩★✩★

I admit that I am totally in awe of Courtney Milan’s books. Whether she is writing full length novels or novellas, her stories are original, her characters are unique and her writing is emotive, evocative and sensual. 

THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR, the prequel to the Brothers Sinister series, is a tender, romantic and passionate love story.

Hugo is such a wonderful hero. On the surface he is all ruthlessness and ambition but I saw the chinks in his armour when he treats Serena with such kindness. I love the scene where he takes her some towels, hot tea, sandwiches and an umbrella. It reveals the honourable man lurking just beneath that tough surface and Serena brings out the best in him.

I adore Serena… the way she refuses to be a passive victim and her determination to seek justice for what happened to her. She also has to cope with her agoraphobic sister, Freddy, and the often fraught relationship between them adds another interesting layer to the story.

The romance…the battle of wills, the witty banter, the flirtatious messages, the innovative, tender, sexy ‘pins’ scene, the heart-warming ending… is charming, believable and beautifully realised.

I cheered when Hugo finally told the Duke of Clermont some home truths and successfully turned the tables on him.

I would have preferred the Epilogue to have focused on Serena and Hugo and their HEA but the glimpse of the future heroes of the Brothers Sinister series certainly made me want to read their stories.

THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR has once again confirmed why Courtney Milan is on my auto-buy list. A definite keeper!

REVIEW RATING: 5/5 stars

SENSUALITY RATING : HOT

Read July/August 2013

Brothers Sinister series to date (click on cover for more details):

The Governess Affair (Brothers Sinister, #0.5) The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister, #1) A Kiss For Midwinter (Brothers Sinister, #1.5) The Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister, #2) The Countess Conspiracy (Brothers Sinister, #3)– Dec. 2013
The Mistress Rebellion (Brothers Sinister, #4)– 2014

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*Book 2 of the SCHOOL OF GALLANTRY series*


Setting: London, England, 1830

Official Blurb

DESPERATE TIMES…

It’s been months since Lady Charlotte Chartwell’s philandering husband met his untimely end at the hands of an angry mistress. But as miserable as he made Charlotte in life, his death proves to be an even harsher blow. For not a farthing of his fortune or estate have passed on to her, and as a ruined widow, she is destitute, penniless and utterly without hope.

LEAD TO DESPERATE PLEASURES…

Then, as Charlotte is considering the worst, a man steps into her carriage. His intentions are quite indecent at first, but the more he learns about her, the more an unfamiliar—and undesirable—emotion creeps over him. Could it be compassion? Never! For this is Alexander Baxendale, third Earl of Hawksford. He is known throughout the ton as the Lord of Pleasure, dedicated to passion, ruthless in his pursuit of sensual gratification. Yet never in all his exploits has he met a woman who could intrigue him as Charlotte does. Can this mysterious beauty make him hang up his title and see to her pleasure alone?

★✩★✩★✩★✩★

WHAT A SINFULLY DELECTABLE TREAT!  LORD OF PLEASURE WAS JUST THE PERFECT TONIC FOR A COLD, WET MARCH DAY!

It’s original, funny, touching and sensual, with a delightful array of quirky, larger-than-life characters who stole my heart.

How I imagine Alex…

A woman could learn to fall in love with a man who not only saw to his family but also offered a struggling woman assistance without making it feel as such.

I know I fell for Alexander (Alex). I love his charm, his wit, his honesty and his protectiveness towards his family and Charlotte. The fact that he is drop-dead gorgeous and just oozes sex appeal, doesn’t hurt either!

How I imagine Charlotte …

Strong-willed. Intelligent. Tough. Yet still made of enough fine porcelain to make her fragile.

I like Charlotte. She’s strong and independent but with a core of vulnerability which makes her all the more endearing. She’s completely alone in the world, after her scoundrel of a husband dies under scandalous circumstances, leaving her penniless. She’s realist enough to believe that her dream of finding the sort of genuine love her parents had shared and a family of her own will never be more than a dream now.

Whilst I love the simmering sexual tension and steamy love scenes between Alex and Charlotte, I also look for moments of deep emotional connection between them. It makes their feelings for each other seem real. There’s one particular scene where they really open up to each other and the emotional connection is so strong.

“You came.” He said it as if she had bestowed him with the greatest of gifts.

♥♥♥♥

Seeing the compassion and tenderness in his eyes made her feel as if a new beginning was possible. And it was a wonderful, warm feeling, to say the least.

There are so many uproariously funny scenes in this book that I’m hard-pressed to pick my favourite. But I do love the scene where Charlotte interviews Alex for entry into the School of Gallantry with its racy, quick witted exchanges and tantalizing sexual tension simmering just beneath the surface. Here’s a snippet from one of their exchanges…

“Do you sheath yourself during your escapades, My Lord? Or is there a chance you could be unclean?”
Alexander genuinely laughed in response. “A man of my experience would never engage in any escapade without sheathing himself. I always come prepared. Rest assured, love, I am clean. Very clean.”
He stood and gestured toward the buttons on his trousers, trying to remain serious, though he felt anything but. “Does the school require proof?”

Of course, there’s much more to this scene but I won’t spoil the fun!

I love the secondary characters; Alex’s outrageous family, otherwise known as the ‘Hawksford Misfits’, his friend Lord Caldwell, with the mysterious ‘secret’ and, my favourite, Madame de Maintenon.

How I imagine Madame de Maintenon…

Ah, what can I say about the notorious Madame de Maintenon… she’s sexually liberated, delights in flaunting the stuffy rules of society at every turn and, ah yes, such a colourful life she’s led!

“…I once had the honor—and I do mean that—of pleasuring his father.” She eyed her. “And his mother. Though I ask that you keep that to yourself and not tell Maybelle or anyone else.” She winked mischievously and lowered her voice. “I was supposed to be in retirement, but the money was simply too good.”

I’ll let Alex have the final word….

Then she, he, and all of his sisters—and, yes, even his blasted mother—would all live excessively and happily ever after. The way a Hawksford damn well should.

Just as it should be!

If you want a richly entertaining slice of escapism, then LORD OF PLEASURE is just perfect!

VERDICT:  FANTASTIC! LOVED IT!

MY RATING:  5/5 Stars

SENSUALITY RATING: HOT

Read March 2013

The School of Gallantry series (click the book covers for more details) :

Mistress of Pleasure (School of Gallantry #1) Lord of Pleasure (School of Gallantry #2) Lady of Pleasure (School of Gallantry #3) Night of Pleasure (School of Gallantry, #4)

 

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Heiress in Love (Ministry of Marriage, #1)

MINISTRY OF MARRIAGE #1

Official Blurb

When the Ministry of Marriage arranges a match, all that matters is power, wealth and prestige. In the business of marriage, there is no room for love. But even the most prudent plans can go awry…

Jane, Lady Roxdale, has endured one marriage of convenience decreed by the Ministry of Marriage. While she deeply regrets her late husband’s death, she is relieved to be free at last. But when a dissolute rake threatens everything Jane holds dear, she must contemplate marrying a second time…

Disgraced libertine Constantine Black inherits his cousin Roxdale’s land and title—while Roxdale’s prim widow is left all the wealth. Constantine is not a marrying man, but wedding Jane is the only way to save the estate from ruin. Jane resists the smoldering heat between them, desperate not to fall in love with an unrepentant rake. But for the first time ever, Constantine wants more than seduction. He wants all of her—body, heart, and soul…

★✩★✩★✩★✩★

“Clever, lush and lovely – an amazing debut!” – Suzanne Enoch

“One of the most compelling heroes I’ve read in years.” – Anna Campbell

 
With such praises from two of the most respected authors of the genre, HEIRESS IN LOVE certainly piqued my interest. It’s my first book by Christina Brooke and, although there were some flaws, overall I really enjoyed it.

WHAT I LOVED

I love very character-driven romances and this book really scores in that respect. Constantine and Jane and their growing relationship are always the central focus of the story. Constantine has such depth to his character. His reputation suggests he’s a complete scoundrel with no thought in his head save the next faro bank, the next wench, the next bottle of wine. But, behind this mask, he hides bitter memories. Memories of how, as a young man of twenty, he found himself betrayed and forced to make a choice that would alter the course of his life. The scandal that ensued left him shunned by decent society and even disowned by his own family. Only his younger brother, George, stood by him over the years. He has never been able to forget the pain of knowing his father believed him capable of the dishonourable act of which he was accused.

I enjoyed watching him emerge from his self-imposed prison to reveal the man he truly was; honourable, hard-working, warm-hearted, caring and courageous. I love the way he takes Jane’s son, Luke under his wing when he sees how much the boy needs a man’s influence in his life. This is one of my favourite scenes because it shows the warm and caring side of Constantine that he rarely reveals to the outside world.

Constantine looked like a sultan or a pasha lying there on the carpet, completely at his ease. Exotic treasures lay scattered around him like the spoils of war or offerings from foreign princes eager to win his favor. In the midst of all this paraphernalia, he and Luke seemed to be engaged in some sort of game.

At first, I didn’t warm to the prudish and opinionated Jane.  Like Constantine, her life hasn’t been easy. After her frightening experiences as a little girl and the years spent in a loveless, arranged marriage with an unfaithful husband, it is easy to appreciate why she finds it difficult to trust people. Constantine is everything she despises in a man and her attitude of icy disdain is understandable. A very different Jane emerges when she’s with those she loves and trusts, her son, Luke and her cousins, Rosamund and Cecily. I enjoyed watching her gradually shed that protective shell and liked the warm, loving and passionate woman she became.

From the moment Jane and Constantine meet, it’s obvious that these two flawed people are perfect together. I liked the way their romance develops slowly, making their growing trust and love for each other seem natural and believable.  Ms Brooke’s love scenes are full of emotion and passion and I liked that Jane doesn’t overcome her fears of intimacy and self-doubt as a woman too soon. In each love scene, she steps that little bit closer to embracing her passionate nature in full but each time the spectre of past hurt and humiliation pulls her back. I’m glad she finds the courage to bury the past and make the move to finally consummate their relationship. I loved the way Constantine understands all her self-doubts and is so determined to show her just how beautiful and desirable she is. The scene involving the cheval mirror is definitely one of my favourites!

She swayed, and he steadied her, his hands closing over her breasts. “Watch us, Jane,” he whispered into her ear. “Look how beautiful you are.”

We are introduced to some of Jane’s cousins in this book; the beautiful and kind-hearted Rosamund, the outspoken Cecily and the solid and reliable Earl of Beckenham (aka Becks). Of course, we are also introduced to the major players in the Ministry of Marriage; the Duke of Montford, its founder, Lady Arden and Oliver deVere. Montford really intrigued me because he appears cold and ruthless on the outside but it’s obvious he cares for his six wards more than he will admit. I’m also speculating about his relationship with Lady Arden. Is there more going on with them than meets the eye? Then there’s Adam Trent, Jane’s devious neighbour. He obviously has designs on Jane and claims to know more scandalous secrets about Constantine.

WHAT BUGGED ME

I did have some issues with this book which prevented it from being a 4 star read.

I really wanted to know more about Jane’s earlier years spent in the sordid boarding house before Montford rescued her. They were obviously very traumatic but Ms Brooke glosses over this period in her life.

The final argument between Jane and Constantine seemed very contrived. Jane’s belief in the lies that the devious Adam Trent tells her about Constantine seemed totally out of character. She knows that Constantine to be a man of honour and integrity and trusts him. Above all, she loves him! Why would she believe a man of questionable character who has been hell bent on discrediting Constantine in her eyes? I can understand Constantine’s reaction because he sees Jane’s willingness to believe the worst of him as history repeating itself. At least, Jane has to step up and do the grovelling which was a refreshing change from the usual scenario of the hero grovelling!

Overall,  HEIRESS IN LOVE is an enjoyable read and I will certainly be looking out for the other books in this series.

 Rating: ★★★½

Note

 I did find a scarcity of background information about the Ministry of Marriage in the book but I have included a link to Ms Brooke’s website where she has a dedicated Ministry of Marriage page.

http://www.christina-brooke.com/the-ministry-of-marriage/

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THE KEYHOLE SERIES BOOK 1

With a failed marriage behind her, Jill Marten was looking to start a new chapter in her life. She had no idea that running into her old friend, Jessie, would unlock a whole new world. When she accepts Jessie’s invitation to a party, in order to “try something completely different,” it awakens a need to discover her place in a new community. Jessie, also known as sunni, is a submissive slave who is in a loving relationship with her Master, Sir Rune. When Rune and sunni ask Jill to be a part of their family, Jill begins her journey into submission, bondage, and polyamory, even as she questions everything that she has been taught about love and relationships. She begins to face her own desires and fears as she struggles with feelings of jealousy, inadequacy, and self-worth. Once she opens the door to a life she never imagined, a peek through the keyhole is no longer enough, and she must learn what it means to become sage.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I was given the opportunity to read Kasi Alexander’s Becoming sage, her first book in The Keyhole series, I had no idea what to expect because this was my first venture into the world of BDSM and polyamory. What I discovered was an engrossing book I just couldn’t put down!

I was struck by how real the characters felt and all the time I had to keep reminding myself that these were only fictional people. Knowing that the author actually lives this alternative lifestyle, I’m sure there must be some autobiographical aspects to the book, which give it such realism. Everything is seen through Jill’s eyes and I think this helped me to really connect with her and experience everything with her on her journey to find ‘her place in the world’.

What I found really interesting was the complexity of the relationship between Sir (Rutger), sunni (Jessie) and sage (Jill), particularly as it combined both polyamory and BDSM. I accepted the idea that some people may be more suited to a polyamorous relationship rather than the traditional two-person monogamous one. But having been in a happy ‘vanilla’ relationship for nearly forty years, I had a hard job accepting the power exchange aspect. However, seeing things as Jill saw them, I could certainly understand its appeal for certain people.

I was beginning to see what attracted Jessie to the idea of belonging to someone like him (Sir). It was kind of like being a child again and having a big, strong daddy whose lap you could crawl on to, but I didn’t feel like I was giving up any part of being an adult, either. Jessie had said that being a slave didn’t entail giving up responsibility for yourself; it just meant that you could feel completely comfortable in knowing what things you were responsible for and what you could expect in return.

I also learned how important trust, commitment and honest communication were, when sunni’s jealousy threatens their whole relationship.

I admit to feeling uncomfortable when I read some of the BDSM related scenes but I did appreciate the honesty with which they were written and the way in which, through her characters, Ms Alexander explains the significance of different types of play and the nature of the pleasure derived. In the wax play scene, Sir explains to sage what he is doing is not intended to cause sunni pain but intense sensual stimulation. It was a fascinating insight into a very different world!

If you are new to the BDSM romantic genre as I was, then this is an excellent introduction and a book I can highly recommend. I would like to thank Ms Alexander for allowing me to take a peek through the keyhole and I look forward to reading further books in the series.

VERDICT:  An intensely emotional and enlightening experience

RATING: ★★★★★

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SCANDALOUS WOMEN OF THE TON SERIES BOOK 3

A wicked duke’s bed is no place for a lady…

Lady Merryn Fenner is on a mission to ruin the Duke of Farne. A beautiful bluestocking with a penchant for justice, Merryn has waited twelve years to satisfy her revenge against Garrick Farne. Her family name had been tarnished at his hands, her life destroyed.

For twelve years Garrick, Duke of Farne has kept the secret of what really happened on the night that he killed his best friend, Stephen Fenner, in a duel. Now Stephen’s sister is intent on discovering the truth and putting at risk all those secrets Garrick has protected.

When a disaster traps Merryn and Garrick together, white-hot desire stirs between the two sworn enemies. Merryn’s reputation is utterly compromised and she is forced to do the one thing she cannot bear; accept the scandalous marriage proposal of the man she has vowed to ruin.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In Garrick and Merryn, Ms Cornick has created two very memorable and complex characters.

Garrick is everything a hero should be – handsome, enigmatic, powerfully built, witty and sexy. However, he has one major flaw – there are rumours that, ten years ago, he killed his best friend under suspicious circumstances!

It’s clear from the start honour and duty mean everything to Garrick and the tragic events of his past have been significant in shaping the man he’s become. His strong sense of honor prevails even when it’s at odds with his own personal happiness. However much he wants to tell Merryn the truth surrounding her brother’s death, he’s can’t break the oath he took ten years ago. Should Merryn learn the truth, ‘she would be horribly disillusioned, all her memories tarnished and her life in ruins again’. My heart went out to Garrick as there’s no easy solution to his dilemma.

On discovering his father had purchased the Fenner Estates, following the death of the Earl of Fenner, he feels honour bound to return them to Merryn and her sisters. Not to salve his conscience as Merryn believes but because he’s revolted by his father’s profiteering from those past tragic events. Being a duke and looking after the estate is a ‘monstrous duty’ but one which he takes seriously. His late father’s terrible reputation – ‘the eighteenth Duke had beaten his servants and kicked his dogs, and vice versa.’ – doesn’t make the task any easier. He’s desperate to prove he’s not like his father.

No way could I believe a man with such high principles could be a cold-blooded killer. So I was delighted when the truth was finally revealed and my faith in him rewarded.

I’ve always had a soft spot for unconventional heroines and so I adore Merryn. She’s a very principled person who ‘believes in justice and fighting for what is right….‘ despite her very blinkered obsession with bringing Garrick to justice. Idolizing her brother, she shut her eyes to his true character. She also harbours a guilty secret that has coloured her view of past events. Although her failure to see that Tom Bradshaw is using her for his own nefarious ends shows a certain naïveté, this flaw makes her more human. I couldn’t help but sympathise with her feelings of guilt at desiring the man who murdered her brother.

I enjoyed seeing Merryn mature over the course of the book. She regards her sisters, Joanna and Tess, as frivolous and only interested in clothes and balls. Gradually, she sees just how much they care for her and how much she loves them. She also comes to realise that her life may have been exciting but it has been devoid of love.

Ms Cornick does an excellent job of building and sustaining the sizzling passion between Garrick and Merryn and the love scenes are very sensual.

I really warmed to Merryn’s sisters, Joanna and Tess, who revealed hidden sides to their characters in their support of Merryn when she’s facing ruin.

Ms Cornick seems to combine witty banter, exciting action, intensely passionate scenes and wonderfully descriptive narrative so perfectly. I loved Garrick’s description of his butler, Pointer,  ‘fluttering around in the dark hall like a monstrous moth‘ and I could literally smell the beer fumes in the scene where Garrick and Merryn are caught up in the London Beer Flood.

VERDICT: The wonderful combination of star-crossed lovers, hidden secrets, life-threatening danger and delightful touches of humour make it an unforgettable read.

 RATING :  ★★★★★

 

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SCANDALOUS WOMEN OF THE TON SERIES BOOK 1

Official Blurb:

Lady Joanna Ware has no desire to wed again but that doesn’t stop the flurry of suitors knocking on her door. Desperate to thwart another proposal, Joanna brazenly kisses Arctic explorer Alex, Lord Grant. Unable to deny the blazing attraction that flares, Joanna knows she’s just set the gossip mill turning.

After suffering countless infidelities during her marriage, she’s accustomed to scandal. But nothing prepares her for the shocking news that her deceased husband has bequeathed his illegitimate child to her and his friend Alex. As rumors run rampant in the ton, Joanna and Alex travel to the Arctic to claim the orphan. Battling blizzards, dangerous wildlife and a treacherous plot, Alex must protect Joanna, but not before he wickedly seduces her …

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ms. Cornick has created an intense and emotional story exploring the complex relationship between Joanna and Alex. She brilliantly conveys the initial hostility between them with her scathing repartee. This is Joanna’s response to Alex’s criticism of her way of life:

“You know nothing of my way of life, Lord Grant, other than what is based on David’s lies and your own arrogant assumptions!” Her tone dripped disdain. “If it comes to that, you are the one who rackets about the world like a poorly aimed cannonball. You may provide materially for your family but you have no interest in engaging with them in any emotional sense”.

I understand Alex’s reluctance to accept that David Ware was not the honourable man he thought him to be. They had a close friendship based on their mutual love of exploring. Then there’s the fact that David had saved his life. There would be no reason for Alex to disbelieve the rumours he heard about Joanna. I like the way in which Alex’s preconceptions about Joanna are slowly stripped away as he discovers that she is vulnerable, caring and brave.

He is slow to admit his deep feelings for Joanna because the death of his first wife, Amelia, has left him reluctant to enter into any deep relationship. His guilt over Amelia’s death drives him to constantly accept dangerous assignments. It is almost as though he has a death wish.

I like Joanna and feel great sympathy for her. The lifestyle she leads, although lacking any apparent substance, was originally her way of coping with the trauma of her disastrous marriage. I admire her strength in leaving David and making a life for herself. Her initial dislike of Alex is understandable given her previous experiences with her husband but, gradually, she appreciates that Alex is nothing like David. He doesn’t court fame and popularity as her husband had and, although he is physically strong, she knows that Alex would never use that strength to hurt anyone.

Even during the quarrels between Joanna and Alex, Ms Cornick’s superb writing style allows you to sense the sexual tension simmering just beneath the surface. I love the scene where Joanna intends to seduce Alex into marrying her, but can’t go through with it. Alex turns the tables on her, saying that he won’t marry her unless she seduces him. The love scene which follows is sizzling! Here’s a little teaser:

‘He picked her up and tossed her on the bed. It was so sudden and shocking that she lay there, winded for a moment. He was kneeling above her and he looked huge and powerful and shockingly masculine and she felt her heart race with a mixture of apprehension and fascination and the most wicked, wicked delight.’

Lottie Cummings, Joanna’s closest friend, is an interesting character. On the surface, she is frivolous, immoral and selfish, but I believe that underneath this façade, she is lonely and unfulfilled. I’m looking forward to reading the second book in this series One Wicked Sin which is Lottie’s story. Quite how Ms Cornick is going to transform Lottie in to a true heroine I’m not quite sure, but I look forward to finding out!

What a nasty piece of work David Ware was. He’s lucky that he is already dead; otherwise I would like to have seen him strung up by a certain part of his anatomy!

Ms Cornick vividly conveys the stark beauty of the Arctic Circle and the dangers lurking there.

There are lovely touches of humour as well:

“It is hoped that you can navigate your way better across the frozen wastes than you can around a woman’s body, or you may end in Spain rather than Spitsbergen.”

“I fear I would need to know you a great deal more intimately before I strip off in your ballroom or indeed any other room.”

“I came here to seduce you”, Joanna said in a rush.
“Excuse me, my lord,” Frazer said into the silence that followed. “I do not believe I should be present at a moment like this.”

VERDICT: A WINNING BLEND OF PASSIONATE LOVE STORY AND INTREPID ADVENTURE

RATING: ★★★★★

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THE DRESSMAKERS SERIES BOOK 2

From the Journals of Sophia Noirot: “A dress is a weapon. It must dazzle his eye, raise his temperature . . . and empty his purse.”

A blue-eyed innocent on the outside and a shark on the inside, dressmaker Sophy Noirot could sell sand to Bedouins. Selling Maison Noirot’s beautiful designs to aristocratic ladies is a little harder, especially since a recent family scandal has made an enemy of one of society’s fashion leaders. Turning scandal to the shop’s advantage requires every iota of Sophy’s skills, leaving her little patience for a big, reckless rake like the Earl of Longmore. The gorgeous lummox can’t keep more than one idea in his head at a time, and his idea is taking off all of Sophy’s clothes.

But when Longmore’s sister, Noirot’s wealthiest, favorite customer, runs away, Sophy can’t let him bumble after her on his own. In hot pursuit with the one man who tempts her beyond reason, she finds desire has never slipped on so smoothly . . .

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I’m a huge Loretta Chase fan. Her books are always a delicious combination of sexy heroes, strong but feminine heroines, fun plots and rib-tickling humour. I loved Silk is for Seduction, the first book in her Dressmakers series, and so I had high expectations of the second book, Scandal Wears Satin.

There’s one thing certain, if you’re feeling miserable when you start reading this book, you’re sure to have a big grin on your face by the time you get to the end. It is everything I have come to expect from Ms Chase – funny, sharp, witty, imaginative, entertaining and romantic. Maybe the plot is far-fetched but it is pure entertainment from start to finish.

In most romances it is usually the hero who takes centre stage but, in Scandal Wears Satin, Sophy is definitely the star of the show in my opinion. She’s such a vibrant character – clever, vivacious, independent,determined and self-possessed. But, occasionally, she has moments of insecurity and uncertainty and I love that vulnerable side of her. It makes her even more lovable.

When it comes to saving the Maison Noirot from disaster, I adore how she uses her amazing arsenal of talents – considerable guile, irresistible charm, remarkable literary talents and brilliant disguises – to maximum effect. I found this little scene between Clevedon and Longmore in which they discuss Sophy’s literary talents so amusing.

”Hers is an exceptionally keen eye for detail,” Clevedon said.
“And an exceptionally busy pen,” Longmore said. “It’s easy to recognise her work in the ‘Spectacle’. Streams of words about ribbons and bows and lace and pleats here and gathers there. No thread goes unmentioned.”
“She notices gestures and looks as well,” Clevedon said. “She listens. No one’s stories are like hers.”
“No question about that,” Longmore said. “She’s never met an adjective or adverb she didn’t like.”

Sophy tries to stay level-headed and not let her attraction for Longmore get in the way of what needs to be done to save the Maison Noirot. But it doesn’t stop her indulging in fantasies about him from time to time. After all, she’s a member of the Noirot family, a breed keenly tuned to animal excitement – and not possessing much in the way of moral principles.

There’s something about Longmore that I just find so endearing and I think it’s because he’s totally honest about himself. Yes, he’s arrogant, reckless and loves nothing more than a good brawl but, somehow, he manages to put all these would be black marks to good use during the course of the story. He has a great sense of humour which is a big plus in my book. He never professes to be an intellectual giant but he is far more intelligent than he gives himself credit for. I love the scene where Longmore and a disguised Sophy go to Mrs Downes’s shop to gauge the competition and Longmore handles himself so brilliantly.

Sophy was too experienced in deceit to show her feelings. She didn’t gawk at him, except in her thoughts. He’d said he was confused, and she’d had a moment’s alarm, that subterfuge was beyond his intellectual capabilities.
But whether by accident or not, he’d created a beautiful opening, and she knew how to play along.

When they find Clara, Longmore doesn’t judge her but understands that she needs help. He also considers how worried his parents must be and sends a message to let them know she is safe. I totally agree with Sophy’s sentiments.

”She’s lucky to have you for a brother, and your parents are lucky to have you as a son.”

If I didn’t already adore Longmore, then these few words would definitely have won my heart.

” We might have made one of those…you know…little squirmy pink things that howl.”

The chemistry between these two is absolutely delicious and their witty banter, a pure delight. I also love Longmore’s internal monologues such as this one.

His mind went hazy then, images of muslin and lace underwear strewed themselves about his brain, and somewhere in that dishevelment was a blue-eyed angelic devil, mostly unclothed. He waved a hand, waving the images away. Now wasn’t the time. He was only beginning his siege, and he knew – he could always tell – he faced a very trick fortress. All sorts of hidden passages and diversions and booby traps.

The clothing is definitely a major player in this book. Ms Chase describes everything in gorgeous detail, the outrageous hats and the wondrous confections of gowns.

Scandal Wears Silk made me think of that delightful 1934 screwball road –trip romantic comedy, It Happened One Night, with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert.

VERDICT : SUPERB, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

RATING : ★★★★★

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