9 Rated Books Book Reviews

A Long Weekend with Loretta Chase: Book Review – Your Scandalous Ways

Title: Your Scandalous Ways

Author: Loretta Chase

Review number: 62

Genre: Historical Romance

Stand Alone/ Series: Stand Alone

Summary: James Cordier is all blue blood and entirely dangerous. He’s a master of disguise, a brilliant thief, a first-class lover—all for King and Country—and, by gad, he’s so weary of it. His last mission is to “acquire” a packet of incriminating letters from one notorious woman. Then he can return to London and meet sweet-natured heiresses—not adventuresses and fallen women.

Francesca Bonnard has weathered heartbreak, scorn, and scandal. She’s independent, happy, and definitely fallen; and she’s learned that “gentlemen” are more trouble than they’re worth. She can also see that her wildly attractive new neighbor is bad news.

But as bad as James is, there are others far worse also searching for Francesca’s letters. And suddenly nothing is simple—especially the nearly incendiary chemistry between the two most jaded, sinful souls in Europe. And just as suddenly, risking everything may be worth the prize.

Why did I read the book: Because it says “Loretta Chase” right there in the cover. I need no other incentive.


To open a new Loretta Chase book is a momentous occasion in the life of this reader.

To me, she is one of them: along with Julia Quinn, Neil Gaiman and more recently, Meljean Brook, they form the group of writers whose books I look forward to, delve into as soon as I get them- and truth be told, I would probably read their groceries lists if they were ever published. It borders on obsession but let’s not go there.

So yes, to open a new Loretta Chase is as close a sensation to going on a date with the guy you have been dreaming about for a long time. I prepare myself, I clear my schedule from any interruptions; I put on nice comfy clothes and sit down with a glass of wine. Because it doesn’t matter what she is writing about or who the couple du jour are, I know I am in for a treat.

And it is purely as a reader that I now write my thoughts on Your Scandalous Ways. As a reviewer I feel the need to talk about what I like and what I don’t like but on this occasion, be warned the dislikes will not be mentioned. They are too few and too unimportant (to me) to be granted room in what will most likely be, an Ode to Loretta Chase rather than a proper review.

Where to, next?

Allora, where to start? Oh yes, with the setting. Loretta Chase has taken me to Paris, Albania, London, Egypt, so I wonder what the next destination is. Ah! Ma che delizia, it is Venice, one of my favourite cities in the world.

La Serenissima.

What a great choice of setting: not only one of the most romantic places in the world but also the appropriate refuge for our heroine Francesca Bonnard. A fallen woman back in England, divorced in a major scandal created by her husband when he discovered she was having an affair – an affair she was having out of spite, in a desperate attempt to get her husband’s attention. A husband whom she loved dearly and who broke her heart with the numerous affairs he had. Her plan backfired and he was disgusted rather than jealous and being a man, he of course, has two weights and two measures: what is fine for a man is a sin for a woman. And the scandal is set; no one comes to her rescue, her friends turn their backs. She is left with nothing, and with her reputation in tatters, what is she to do? Her husband fully expects her to lie and die, but Francesca has other plans. Her ruin is to be complete! She leaves but not before stealing some damning letters written by her husband that proves he is a traitor to the country. It is not the time to use them, for no one will believe her, but she keeps them for the future.

She goes to Paris to learn the arts of love and sex and becomes a highly praised courtesan. And ends up in Venice – a place where divorced woman are not pariahs, where scandals do not follow, and where L’amour (or Il Amore) pursued in any form is not frowned upon. Yes, Venice is the perfect place for Francesca, and where she becomes the greatest courtesan of Italy, perhaps even the Continent : one that only very rich men can afford to keep and whose attractions include a perfect body, a magical laugh, and an incredible wit. And she is happy. And with plenty of beautiful expensive jewellery to show for it. And so is life for Francesca…until she meets James Cordier. But I am way ahead of myself here – for we don’t learn about any of this until later.

Let the Games begin

We don’t get to see the interaction between Francesca and James, right away. The first few chapters are clearly the setting of the stage for the play Loretta Chase wants us to watch. Or should I say, the setting of the board and the introductions of the players for the Game she wants us to follow? I obey, don my mask and sit idly by to watch the match, silently as to not interrupt the concentration of the contenders.

First player is James Cordier, the prologue belongs to him. James is a spy. He too is a whore, but not merely for money or for survival: for King and Country. James does as he is told and now he is told to get some jewels from a known thief, one Marta Fazi. He seduces her, steals the emeralds, and we see how he is sick and tired of the proceedings. He has a cynical and very realistic view of who he is:

“He was a soldier, after all, though the army he belonged to was unacknowledged. Nobody pinned any medals on men like him, or mentioned him in dispatches. And if he got caught, no one would rescue him.”

James is now weary and ready to quit. He is ready to go back to England, to settle down and marry an English rose, perfect and protected from the world. One who can give him peace and quiet and whose eyes will carry all the innocence he does not have in himself.

He only has one last mission to accomplish. He must get the letters Francesca has so that the English government can prosecute Francesca’s ex. His strategy: to go to Venice, get the letters in a matter of days and go to England. Easy peasy, how difficult could that be, right? Furious at such a ridiculous assignment to a man such as he and furious at having to be in decadent Venice, he is so not prepared for what is about to hit him. Hurricane Francesca. The most impossible, infuriating woman he has ever known.

Player number two is of course, our Francesca Bonnard, who we already know, is the famous, or infamous courtesan. Introduction to her shows how settled in her ways she is, how she enjoys life in Venice, with her lovers, her jewelry. She is pretty happy with the way things are and with her life that she has, and I quote, “chosen to become accustomed to”. This is very telling: she chooses who she wants to be with, and they will only be the best. In her introduction we also meet her best friend Giulietta, another courtesan and to watch their interactions is like watching Sex in the City in 19th century Italy. Their conversation upon ogling James, who Francesca first sees disguised as a servant (part of his strategy is to study the target) is a perfect re-enactment of a Samantha-Carrie conversation:

“Why is it the aristocrats never look like that?” said Giuletta.
“Because the aristocrats don’t exercise their muscles with hard work” , Francesca said.
“I would let him exercise his muscles on me” said Giuletta. “To keep them from going soft, you know. “
Francesca’s mind produced an image of naked masculine limbs tangled with hers. Heat swarmed over her skin. “You are the soul of kindness” , she said fanning herself. “Your heart is so charitable, you should have been a nun”
“I should have been a nun”, said Giuletta, “but the habit is so unbecoming. And all the praying is bad for the knees. No, no it would not suit me. I was born to be a slut.”
“As was I”.

Francesca is unique in the world of Romance because she is an unrepentant whore – she is what she is, who she chose to be. Not because she needed to feed a family, or because she was thrust into it by the Villain or for any such underlying feeling of goodness. What drove her was first and foremost the need to laugh at her husband’s face, and her own needs for security.

There will be another meeting with James in disguise (this time as Spaniard Don Carlo) before they get to meet for real: but the third time (the one where James is James) is also a time of peril, where Francesca is endangered and James saves her. It is this gallant gesture that sets Francesca off balance in relation to James from the start: no one has ever stood up to her. No MAN has ever defended her. “WHO is he? WHAT is he”, she asks.

The attack has been engineered by players 3 and 4: Francesca’s ex husband, Lord Elphick, who is sitting in his lair back in England plotting to become a powerful man in England and to whom Francesca has become a problem with the letters that she holds; and Marta Fazi, one of his lovers and the one with orders to get the letters from Francesca.

And so the board is set and the game begins.

Il Amore

So here we have James and Francesca. Two people who are powerful, manipulative, smart. Also, they are very jaded and masters in playing games. James is ready to play his game of deceit, Francesca is to be a means to an end as usual. After the two encounters he has with her in disguise, he stipulates that he must play hard to get so as to draw her attention and use it to gain access to the letters he needs.

Francesca is also ready to play her games of seduction with James, whom she is instantly attracted to. It is a game of lust to start with but of course, the Gods of Romance have decreed that lust is to turn into love.

They are both caught unawares by the feelings that surface along with the lust. It is ever more endearing to read about them because they could not be more distant from what they perceive as perfect. For James, Francesca is as far as it can be from the English rose he dreams about whereas for Francesca, James is a younger son who could never ever afford her.

But how could they fight if every time he sees her he hears the call of the Siren and his inner dialogue keeps repeating “tie me to the mast” and do whatever you want to do.

Ulysses tied to the mast

And how could she not fall in love when he tastes:

“like every sin she’d ever been warned against and committed, every rule she learned and broke.”

Halfway through the book they are still fighting it though, still playing their games…but then we have the One Scene to Change it All.

The Campanile Scene

This is, my opinion the best scene in the book, possibly one of the best scenes I read this year. It has all of the usual brilliantly written loretachasess.

They are at St Mark’s Square inside Café Florian and it’s 3am in the morning. James is there, pretending not to pay attention to Francesca, still bent on his “hard to get” strategy. Francesca is having a good time with her friend Giulietta and with Prince Lurenze – one of Francesca’s pursuers and the guy Giulietta would like to have as her lover. They leave the café and Giulietta seizes the moment to trick Lurenze into pursuing her leaving Francesca and James, who had followed them (ha, so much for hard to get) alone. They have some fantastic banter and he invites her to climb the Campanile tower.

The Campanile Tower

It starts then, with a simple gesture. He takes her hand – her hand. And she remembers how she felt when her husband used to take her hand and how much she loved him. She feels long dormant emotions coming alive in her chest and as they climb they both feel something. They talk about her smell, her scent of jasmine that drives him mad and she tells him that every whore has her own distinctive smell. And they quip about how she is an industrious businesswoman and how she is one day going to write her memoirs. They are still climbing the steps and they still feel like it’s only lust and he asks if he is going to be in her memoirs and she says:

“Probably not”, she said. “ I plan to forget about you by tomorrow”

To which he replies “in that case, I’d better make the most of today” and it is the perfect introduction to a most romantic moment in the lives of two most unromantic people.

They get to the top and Francesca tells him he is infatuated with her. He denies. She asks him to stop talking and drink in the view:

“The sky was showing the first signs of lightening but stars still hung in the heavens. Below, the city was a dark fairyland dotted with faintly twinkling lights. She moved along the balustrade, enchanted, as she gazed at the world below her and beyond. The lagoon twinkled, too, reflecting the fading starlight and the lights of the boats, and perhaps the sun as well, still lurking below the horizon. “This is the way deities see the world,” she said softly. “we’re merely specks to them”.

View from the Campanile Tower, courtesy of Wikipedia

Taken with the moment, with her emotions, she starts to cry. She, who never cries. But she knows, she knows this is more than lust. They exchange some funny lines trying to light up the mood and she tries for one of her dramatic exits where she throws a hand in the air and walks away.

“You’re a man. You don’t know anything. Not a damned thing.”

But James won’t let her escape and starts to sing Figaro’s lines from the Barber of Seville: “women , women, eternal gods/ who can fathom their minds,” to which she replies without hesitation. James feels his heart skip a bit because don’t they have a lot in common? But Francesca says that half the world knows these things, Rossini, Byron – no, he is infatuated, she repeats. No, it’s lust “you stupid female”, he tenderly tells her. And they proceed with their exchange that leads to a much heated sex scene, right there at the belfry of the Campanile of St Mark that culminates with them climaxing at the same time that the bells start to ring and the sun is rising in the horizon. How is that for romantic?

But it’s way too romantic for both of them: and they are scared and James says:

“everything about you is splendid. But I am not infatuated”

And Francesca being a woman, knows what she feels but also knows how to treat a threat to herself and so she retorts:

“If that’s what you want believe, mio caro, I haven’t the heart to disillusion you. Especially not now. It really was quite wonderful, inexpressibly romantic, and dreadfully naughty. A perfect combination – and an experience I shall not soon forget. Grazie tante, amore mio. But it’s long past I said Good-bye.” (…)“Don’t follow me . The sun is up, and you don’t want all of Venice to see you looking like a love-sick puppy” . (…)“It was great fun but it’s done,” she said, never turning her head. She flung her hand in that aggravating gesture of dismissal. “Adio”.

Voila. The beginning of the end for both of them. She leaves, dreading that he will follow yet hoping that he will. He doesn’t but he wants to.

We are almost there.

Oh Francesca, I heart thee. What is it with Loretta Chase and her great heroines? How can she write a jaded, cynical unrepentant whore who is believable whilst at the same time granting her a past and a heart that resurfaces when she least needs? Because after that scene when they meet again and they let the feelings flow, her heart is right there in her eyes. And when she looks at James like that, he can see the woman that she was, and he can see the ghost of the girl still in her. And that dooms him.

“She looked up at him in that way she’d done before, with the ghost full in her exotic green eyes, so that all he saw was a girl, a beautiful girl, gazing at him adoringly.
It was what he’d always wanted – for one girl to look at him so, with all her heart in her eyes – but he’d imagined it so differently.”

She drives him nuts, because even though she is vulnerable in some points, she is still strong and independent and nearly impossible.

He tries to keep his Italian side (did I mention he is half Italian? no? My bad) in control but he just can’t. The more he spends time with Francesca, the more she makes him crazy and he just can’t keep his English coolness, he goes completely Italian at some points, and these moments make for the light and funny scenes in the book.

But the moment that cements it for them and for me, the moment I realize that they are so very right for each other is one small, simple moment that made me believe they were in love and that they were truly, soul mates. It is one after they have dinner at his house:

“after they’d eaten, she lay with head upon some cushions while he lay on his side, leaning on his elbow, the two of them facing each other, in a strange sort of intimacy, like….friends, while they….talked.”

And that is it folks. Unbelievably romantic this book is. Sometimes, it is so obvious and yet one forgets what romance novels should be in their core: just romantic.

Of course, there is still much to happen in the story. James must yet tell her that he has deceived her and she must deal with it a la Francesca and they still need to earn their HEA.

And who is the winner of the game you may ask? What is the score in the end once players number 3 and 4 are out of the game? Well. Elementary my dear friends, it’s a tie.

Verdict: Need I say more?

Rating: 9 damn near perfection.

And with this we hereby declare open our Long Weekend with Loretta Chase event. Come back tomorrow to learn about our favourite Loretta Chase books – we have asked other reviewers and bloggers which is theirs too!

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  • Kristie (J)
    June 19, 2008 at 2:48 am

    What a great review. I confess to not reading the whole thing as I’m reading this one myself and didn’t want to spoil things. But I’ll be back when I’m finished reading it.
    But what I read was great *g*.
    She is one of the best isn’t she? A new release by Loretta Chase is worth opening a bottle of fine wine for! OK – not the actual release – but the purchase of and opening first page of.

  • Marg
    June 19, 2008 at 3:17 am

    I am slowly working my way through LC’s backlist, but I just bumped this one up the queue!

  • Katie(babs)
    June 19, 2008 at 4:55 am

    Loretta Chase is so good at build up. The hero and heroine lead each other on a merry chase and when they catch each other, the payoff is worth it!
    Can’t wait for tomorrow!

  • M.
    June 19, 2008 at 5:29 am

    i’m a third of the way through, and yes, a miracle, it is holding up to my stratospheric expectations!
    so happy.
    and lol on the historical SATC comparison! but i stopped reading your review after that so as to form my own opinion

  • Thea
    June 19, 2008 at 7:38 am

    Ay, Ana, great review. I love the pictures of bella Venezia! I’m glad you enjoyed this one so much 🙂

    Oh and I love the ‘game’ scenario you set up–when I saw you introduce the players, I keep imagining the video game voice “Player 2 has entered the game”, etc.

  • Sarai
    June 19, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    OMG I love your review! Geez I own it and now I want to rush home and eat it up. I just finished The Last Hellion…
    It was good!

  • kmont
    June 19, 2008 at 1:02 pm



    Very nice..no..wonderful, splendid review. I tried to by a Chase book you recommended today, alas the bookstore was for crap and did not have it in stock. Dang girl, now I’ll have to order THAT one as well as THIS one.

  • Ana
    June 19, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    *blushes* Thanks folks!

    Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    Kmont, we will have a give away this Saturday *wink*

  • Carolyn Jean
    June 19, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Oh, how wonderful, you open the wine, open the fine book. Great review, and all the photos and tidbits. What fun! Loretta Chase really does get her characters right. I love the Sex and the City excerpt, and the bit on the tower thing. Ah. Totally have to read this one.

  • Christine
    June 20, 2008 at 4:25 am

    Amazing review, Ana! I’m not usually drawn to read historical romances, but I have a feeling you and Thea will be influencing my next shopping trip by the end of this long weekend!

  • Lori
    June 20, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    I can’t wait to read this one.

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