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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

(Review) Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

Title: Lord of Scoundrels
Author: Loretta Chase
Series: Scoundrels, #3
Published: January 1995 (Avon)
Rating: Staying in Tonight
Format: Physical copy, won from Harley Bear Book Blog
Summary: Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain, is big, bad, and dangerous to know. No respectable woman would have anything to do with the "Bane and 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.

Jessica Trent is a determined young woman, and she's going to drag her imbecile brother off the road to ruin, no matter what it takes. If saving him — and with him, her family and future — means taking on the devil himself, she won't back down. The trouble is, the devil in question is so shockingly irresistible, and the person who needs the most saving is herself!
When I first began thinking of books with Beauty and the Beast themes, Lord of Scoundrels immediately came to mind. One of the most famous in the historical romance world, it is a favorite of many. I originally read it back in 2009, scarcely a few months after I discovered and subsequently devoured the historical romance genre. In fact, it directly followed my binge-reading of the Bridgerton books by Julia Quinn, and that is not an easy act to follow by any means. But Lord of Scoundrels was hailed as magnificent, a classic, a must-read for any historical romance fan, and a book that had converted many a romance-doubter into a romance-lover. So I gave it a shot, and I fell in love.

Now, more than four years later, I needed this book in my life again quite desperately, and this event was the perfect time. I was, however, a little hesitant. Obviously when you first discover a genre, you tend to be less critical of it than after you've had some experience. It's all brand new and exciting, and those little nitpicky things that will bother you later on? You haven't noticed them yet. At least that's how it is for me. I have discovered that sometimes when I re-read a book that was an early favorite, I'll discover that the magic just isn't quite there anymore. And I was scared this would happen with Lord of Scoundrels. Less so than I am with some books, since this one comes so highly lauded. But still.

Shock of all shocks: I needn't have worried.

Loretta Chase still has one of the most charming writing styles I've ever seen. Jessica Trent remains one of my favorite heroines for how strong and awesome she is. I still feel for Dain so freaking much. And the infamous glove scene still gives me a swoon attack powerful enough to make me wish I owned an inhaler. And don't even mention the lamppost scene, lest I keel over in a dead faint.

There are so many things to love about this book. One of the best is the dialogue between Jessica and Dain. It's classic and hilarious and sharp and stunning. Example:
“Jessica, you are a pain in the arse, do you know that? If I were not so immensely fond of you, I should throw you out the window."

She wrapped her arms about his waist and laid her head against his chest. "Not merely 'fond,' but 'immensely fond.' Oh Dain, I do believe I shall swoon."

"Not now," he said crossly. "I haven't time to pick you up.”
What's not to love? Sarcasm is my language, and I snort with laughter every time I read this quote.

Really, though, Lord of Scoundrels has so much to recommend it. A strong heroine. Dual points of view so that you can understand what is going on inside Dain's head (because trust me, you need it). Jaw-dropping moments (or at least one in particular). One of the best grandmothers in the history of literature. Feels galore.

As for why I chose it for this feature? Perhaps the thing that makes this book most infamous: While the heroine is stunningly lovely, the hero is ugly. No, really. He wasn't handsome and then tragically scarred. He was described as unattractive as a child, and he never grew out of it. He's huge with a big nose and a frightening presence. But to Jessica? He's beautiful. Because everyone is beautiful to someone, no matter how the world tries to define you. And Dain breaks my heart into a million pieces because he is so insecure about his appearance, despite his intimidating presence and the devil-may-care attitude he displays. He is has a million walls up, and watching them fall before the (relatively) tiny but powerful Jessica just makes them all the more endearing.

While I don't quite think it is the perfect historical romance - it does have its flaws, though I can't really mention them without spoiling - Lord of Scoundrels remains one of my favorites. I am so glad I decided to conquer my fear and read it again. If you are looking for an excellent historical romance reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast, look no further, because Lord of Scoundrels probably does it better.
In the spring of 1792, Dominick Edward Guy de Ath Ballister, third Marquess of Dain, Earl of Blackmoor, Viscount Launcells, Baron Ballister and Launcells, lost his wife and four children to typhus.

In my dictionary, romance is not maudlin, treacly sentiment. It is a curry, spiced with excitement and humor and a healthy dollop of cynicism.

“I tell you Dain is a splendid catch. I advise you to set your hooks and reel him in.”

Jessica took a long swallow of her cognac. “This is not a trout, Genevieve. This is a great, hungry shark.”

“Then use a harpoon.”

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