Tag Archives: Loretta Chase

The Dressmakers Series: Silk Is for Seduction by Loretta Chase

I signed up for a quarter Cannonball (13 books) with my online community, but I’ve completed it and I’m working on my half Cannonball (speaking of cannonballs, my behind is one), and, not wanting to let the 79 works I’ve read in this genre since February go to waste, I now return to Loretta Chase, who, while not my favourite romance novelist, is extremely reliable and entertaining. I’ve chosen Silk Is for Seduction because it’s about romance and fashion, specifically 1830s clothing which is particularly ridiculous. Look at what the fashionable wore under their clothing, and keep in mind that a shift, drawers, and more petticoats would be added, and that those things on her shoulders would be like wearing down pillows –

Once fully dressed, she might look like this:

Isn’t the thumbnail hideous? I dare you to click on it.

Have you stopped laughing yet?

Now, you would not know it to look at me, but I really like fashion, past and present. My interest in period clothing has led to the purchase of coffee table books, museum visits, and hours of trawling the internet for drawings, extant clothing, recreations (huge subculture), and I have a lovely memory of cooing through drawers of lace samples at the Victoria and Albert museum with the Dowager Julien. These efforts have resulted in a reasonably decent overview of 19th century dress styles by decade. My favourite era is the 1870s, famous for its bustles. Can you blame me? I mean, Sweet Fancy Moses, I nigh on swoon when I look at this kind of dress –

How could I not? It is all that is beautiful and good. So beautiful and good, that when it came to my wedding dress, I unconsciously chose this kind of style even though I hadn’t started learning about specific eras yet. To wit –

I know, I know the overskirt is too long! It mocks me in the photos. That is not a bustle, by the way, it is the aforementioned cannonball. These days, it’s an entire armory.

Loretta Chase’s Dressmakers Series features the three Noirot sisters who work as modistes. In contemporary language they would be couturiers, but since Frederick Worth hasn’t quite blazed his trail yet that term is not used. Marcelline, the oldest and the designer, is featured in the first book, Silk Is for Seduction; Sophy, the saleswoman, is featured in book two, Scandal Wears Satin; and Leonie, the money manager, will be the heroine of the third book, as yet unnamed, but let’s go with Velvet Is for Viscounts. They are “in trade”, but come from a shady upper class background. Their work requires them to rub shoulders and cultivate relationships with the aristocracy and wealthy gentry. They seek a young, beautiful aristocrat to dress and enhance their reputation and set their sights on Lady Clara Longmore who is the almost fiancée of the Duke of Clevedon. (His first name is given as Gervase, but in keeping with the era, he is referred to as anything other than “Clevedon” only once). Marcelline approaches His Grace in hopes of winning his lady’s patronage for her shop. From there, it all goes as one would expect from the genre. Poor Lady Clara, there are two books published so far and she gets a fuzzy lollipop in both. I hope Chase takes proper care of her in the next book.

The women’s clothing is an important element in historical romance novels. The men’s clothingalways skirts around any effeteness that would be consistent with the era and is plain and elegant. With main characters who are dressmakers, Chase spends a great deal more time than usual describing and talking about clothing. She either did a lot of research or is very good at making up words. Of particular enjoyment in both Marcelline and Sophy’s books is the acknowledgement of the extremely complicated nature of a woman’s toilette. Some romance authors simply ignore these details and with a quick pull of a few buttons the heroine is fully disrobed. Julia Quinn, who writes charming, funny, and mostly chaste novels, often has the heroine wearing ONLY the dress and it annoys me every time the hero unfastens a row of buttons and BOOM! she’s naked. I wear more cannonball management layers than that and it’s 2012. Any 19th century man trying to get to the good stuff would have to get through gloves, the dress, layers of petticoats, maybe crinolines, corset, drawers, shift, shoes, garters and hose, and possibly the “sleeve plumpers” seen above, plus any outerwear, bonnet or head covering, not to mention a potential Gordian knot of a coiffure (H/T Courtney Milan). These layers could have hooks, pins, myriad buttons, and/or lacings. It was like penetrating an Eastern Bloc bureaucracy to get all the way to the woman herself. Loretta Chase includes all these details and plays them for laughs and practicality. As fashion purveyors, the Noirot sisters’ clothing is especially complicated. Marcelline actually stops Clevedon from trying to undress her at one point because they simply don’t have time. Still, these are romance novels, so the men are very experienced and at some point the heroine can’t help but notice how adept he is with her assorted fastenings and adjustments.

Loretta Chase is one of the big names in romance for good reason. Lovely banter. Good at the smolder. Her Lord of Scoundrels is considered a classic of the genre and I’ve been working my way through her collection as my favourite writer, Lisa Kleypas, has moved on to writing exclusively hardcover contemporary romance. (It’s more profitable.) I will read “Velvet Is for Viscounts” when it comes out and until then I have books I return to again and again to re-read the “good bits” which sometimes means exactly what you think it does, and also really does not mean that at all.

Other reviews can be found on my list of books by author or The (Shameful) Tally 2014 which includes recommendations and author commentary.

Thank you Malin for recommending this book.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

I am including this review for one reason only. Look at him:

I know it’s discomfiting, but do it for me. Note the manly open shirt, the manly sheen on his chest, the manly Coty cologne advertisement feathered hair and sideburns. The insolence. The seduction. The riding crop. The smolder. It’s not the book I’m reviewing, but Lord of Scoundrels is by the same author, and its cover is boring and staid. How could it not be in comparison to this wheel of Gouda? Not that Lord Perfect isn’t completely acceptable, it’s just that Lord of Scoundrels is a classic. It has a much deserved Amazon rating of 4 1/2 stars after 284 reviews. If I am embracing the historial romance genre, this book needs to be included as one of the ultimate romance novels: larger than life characters, operatic kisses in the rain, a battle of wills and, most of all, fun. It is thisclosetocamp, probablycloser, and the result is a delicious wet kiss of a book.

Our hero, full name Sebastian Ballister, Marquess of Dain, is 6’6″, black hair, black eyes, big nose, all man. Wealthy, arrogant, and clever, he meets his match in Jessica Trent, a pert, patient (she’ll need it), self-possessed spinster who has come to Paris to retrieve her gormless brother from the demi-monde Dain inhabits. He takes one look at Jessica and wants to lick her from head to toe. She takes one look at Dain and wants to rip all his clothes off. LET THE GAMES BEGIN! It’s beauty and the beast meets reformed rakes make the best husbands meets tortured hero, with a side of moustache twirling by minor characters trying to ruin everyone’s day. From Paris, the book moves to Dain’s ancestral home with machinations about a Russian icon and an illegitimate child, and an intense romance long on passion and blessedly short on maudlin.

Loretta Chase is, above all, an engaging and confident romance writer. She sets the scene deftly and excels at creating entertaining characters. If you like a touch of intrigue with your romance, she’s your gal. There will be chases, treasures and grand adventures. If you’re like me, you will revel in it despite the B story that does go on a bit. I find myself glossing over those parts hoping I don’t miss any major plot points. Truth be told, I can never tell if the subplot issue is with me (Why aren’t they kissing or bantering? When will they get back to the kissing and bantering? I DEMAND KISSING AND BANTERING!) or with the stories themselves, and I really don’t care.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.