Wednesday 9 July 2014

#CBR6 Book 67: "Vixen in Velvet" by Loretta Chase

Page count. 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Leonie Noirot is the youngest of the three Noirot sisters, and the only one still unmarried and able to spend all her energies on running Maison Noirot, the sisters' successful dressmaking shop in St. James. The eldest sister, Marcelline (from Silk is for Seduction) is currently pregnant and rather indisposed and the middle sister Sophy (from Scandal Wears Satin) is off on an extended wedding trip in Scotland until the scandal surrounding her nuptials dies down. Each sister has their own strengths, in Leonie's case, it's finance. She's a mathematical prodigy, but because she's also the most practical and level-headed of the three sisters, she knows how important it is that the shop keeps bringing in new customers and stays popular among the fashionable ladies.

While out advertising one of the shop's many elegant outfits, Leonie is struck mute by the Botticelli painting of Mars and Venus and then by its owner, the insanely handsome Simon Blair, Marquess of Lisburne. He, is in return very taken with Leonie, and decides that his stay in London might not be as boring as he had previously feared. Lisburne is in London to make sure his cousin, the sensitive Lord Swanton, who currently can't go anywhere without being mobbed by adoring young ladies, doesn't get into trouble. Swanton published a volume of poetry that became unexpectedly best-selling, and he wants to use his new-found celebrity to do some good, speaking at various charity benefits to great acclaim. Lisburne is worried that someone will take advantage of his cousin, so guards him carefully.

Leonie decides that to really show off the skills of the dressmakers at Maison Noirot is to transform Lisburne's cousin, the rude, insecure and extremely gawky Lady Gladys Fairfax, into an elegant and sought after swan. Lisburne would rather Leonie focus on him than on dresses, spread sheets and his cousin Gladys, so Leonie proposes a wager. If she can make Lady Gladys so popular the woman receives a marriage proposal in a mere two weeks, Lisburne has to give her his Botticelli painting. If Leonie fails, which Lisburne is convinced she must, Leonie has to become Lisburne's mistress, and give him two full weeks of her undivided attention.

It's been two years since Scandal Wears Satin came out, and as I found that book one of the most disappointing Loretta Chase had ever written, I was very much hoping that the postponed publication date for this book meant that it would be of a higher quality. While it's not going to join my all time favourite romances, or even the top five of Chase's works, it is a much better book than her last two and a return to form for one of the masters of the romance genre.

Leonie is so focused on her work and making sure her family business is running smoothly. She has clearly never taken the time to relax and enjoy herself, being the pragmatic, sensible and most level-headed of her sisters. So when Lisburne comes along and pretty literally sweeps her off her feet, insisting on distracting her, taking her to the circus, for drives in the park and forcing her to forget about finances and have a little fun on occasion. The Noirots come from a long line of charmers, schemers and scoundrels and are usually far too easily swayed by their emotions. Leonie has up until now never been in love, or met anyone who could even vaguely inspire her to be, but the stunning and dangerously charming Lisburne, who she keeps comparing to a Roman or Greek god, completely discombobulates her.

Lisburne knows that he's ridiculously attractive, so it's a change of pace for him when Leonie acknowledges this, but still goes about her daily life almost forcefully ignoring him. Up until recently, when every woman in the room started swooning around his cousin, Lisburne's clearly never really had to work to woo a woman, and Leonie provides an interesting challenge. He's obviously not looking for any long term commitment, but the more time he spends with Leonie, the more fascinated he is with her.

If you've read any of Loretta Chase's books from before her Dressmaker-series, I'm happy to recommend this as another book of hers that will entertain you and while away a few hours. I was engrossed enough that I stayed up until the early hours of the morning to finish it (thank God for summer vacation!). The secondary romance in the book, involving Lady Gladys is also very enjoyable, if not exactly surprising or ground-breaking. As far as I can tell, the next Loretta Chase book will be about the Noirots' sister-in-law, Lady Clara, and because this was so much fun, I'm now very much looking forward to it.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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