For this month’s dare we invited Karen Mahoney, writer of YA Urban Fantasy (her first story will be published in a YA anthology, The Eternal Kiss in Autumn 2009) . We love Karen’s livejournal (how could we not? A fellow comic book, Neil Gaiman and Melissa Marr lover!) and we dared her to read a *gasp * Romance Novel. (Actually make it, Teh Ultimate Romance Novel) (*side note: Says Ana*).
So without further ado, we give the floor to Karen!
Title: Lord of Scoundrels
Author: Loretta Chase (*Ana says*: AKA, The Amazing Loretta Chase)
Genre: Historical Romance
Stand Alone/ Series: Stand Alone but the characters appear in another book by the same author called The Last Hellion (*Ana Says*: also very good, as is any book by Loretta Chase. Just saying)
Summary: They call him many names, but Angelic isn’t one of them . . .
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.
She’s too intelligent to fall for the worst man in the world . . .
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!
Why Did We Pick This Book For The Dare: It is one of our favorite romance novels. One of the few Thea really likes and one of Ana’s favorite books of all time. (*Ana says*: it makes my top 5!No, seriously.)
I have no idea how to write this review without going on for endless pages, so I will do my best to keep it as brief as possible. First of all: THANK YOU to Ana and Thea for inviting me to do one of their infamous Guest Dares, and to take on a book completely out of my comfort zone. It seems more appropriate than ever – given my new position as a romance buyer at the Murder One bookstore in London – that I should be tackling historical romance. I haven’t read anything in this particular romantic genre since my teens, and spend much of my time now reading and writing urban fantasy.
I love how LORD OF SCOUNDRELS takes elements of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and makes them refreshing. Admittedly, there were times while Dain and Jess are talking that I couldn’t help picturing them like this:
Or perhaps, this:
But, no. Ms. Chase does a wonderful job of incorporating the classic fairy tale into a new version. Jessica Trent is more than a match for her Beast, Sebastian Ballister, the Marquess of Dain. The first time we are introduced to Dain, it is through the eyes of Withers (Jessica’s brother Bertie’s manservant):
The great brute was an abomination, a disgrace to his country, an idle reprobate with no more conscience than a dung beetle.
Dain, himself, seems to almost revel in his reputation as someone to be despised. When he first speaks to Jessica, he catches a glimpse of his reflection:
His dark face was harsh and hard, the face of Beelzebub himself. In Dain’s case, the book could be judged accurately by the cover, for he was dark and hard inside as well.
Sometimes, I have to admit, I found his self-hatred a little overdone. The amount of times he refers to himself as a monster, I couldn’t help thinking: Okay, Dain, we get the message!
Sweet, was he? He was a gross, disgusting pig of a debauchee, and if she thought she’d get off with merely one repellent peck of his polluted lips, she had another thing coming.
Issues! 😉 But it’s true that Dain was brought up under very difficult circumstances. His mother ran away from his elderly father when he was a small child, and his dark features and (supposedly) unattractive appearance didn’t endear him to his carers. Of course, every time his father looked at him, he was reminded of the woman who deserted him for a much younger man, so I did feel some sympathy for Dain. Chase writes so well that it’s impossible not to.
And yet I didn’t find myself falling in love with him. (Sorry Ana and Thea!) However… I did fall in love with Jessica. (Phew!) She’s a wonderful heroine, and I found myself wishing that LORD OF SCOUNDRELS was more focused on her. Still, we do get a wonderful insight into her independence, incredibly strong will and deep compassion. I loved that she’s a ‘lady’ and yet wants to go into business for herself, despite the objections of her useless brother. And she’s a great shot with a pistol!
I also adore the interplay between Jess and Dain, and this is where Dain truly comes alive for me. They spar throughout the book, and it really does have some of the funniest dialogue I’ve read in any novel:
“I must be besotted,” he said evenly. “I have the imbecilic idea that you’re the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen. Except for your coiffure,” he added, with a disgusted glance at the coils and plumes and pearls. “That is ghastly.”
She scowled. “Your romantic effusions leave me breathless.”
Jess is strong and smart, beautiful and feminine – and she absolutely knows her mind. Despite reaching 27 without having a husband, she is not ‘on the shelf’ and considered a spinster. Men still flock to propose marriage to her, but she just hasn’t yet met her match. Until – of course – now. I do like how the intellectual bond between her and Dain is presented. They reminded me, to some extent, of that other ‘Beauty and the Beast’ couple from classic literature:
Dain even ends up – at one point – with a damaged hand and arm, which made the comparisons between him and Mr. Rochester even more apparent. Not that I found the similarities a negative thing… JANE EYRE is my favourite novel of all time, so I guess there’s hope for me and the romance genre yet!
Despite some reservations regarding Dain, where I just couldn’t bring myself to feel for him as deeply as I know I was ‘supposed’ to, I did enjoy reading LORD OF SCOUNDRELS. I loved the development of the relationship between Jess and her “Lord Beelzebub” – it was so well done and had such sparkling dialogue, that it was impossible not to get carried away with the story. And of course, I was fully engaged with the bright, witty and resourceful character of Jessica Trent.
To borrow The Book Smugglers’ very own ratings system, I would give this a 7 (Very Good) – I did consider only giving it a 6, because I found Dain a bit too self-involved at times, but the sparkling banter lifted the novel beyond these (mostly) minor issues. I look forward to reading more historical romance!
– Karen Mahoney
So, there you have it: Karen’s foray into the Romance Genre.
Thank you Karen for being a good sport – now, go on and pick up a Julia Quinn: you know you want to! (<<< *Ana says*)
AnaNovember 14, 2008 at 2:39 am
Karen, you rock. Thanks for doing this, thanks for reading LoS. I have one question for you. I know you read Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas – how does LoS compare to that? Which one did you prefer? (that’s two questions LoL)
Now for Lord of Scoundrels itself. Even though this is my favorite Romance Novel and one of my favorite books, Dain is not my favorite hero –not even close. I concur that the novel is all about Jess and all about the writing. Having said that, Dain may not be one of the best romance heroes, but to me he is a Very good male character – even with all the self-deprecating moments – for the journey he goes through, from self-loathing to self-acceptance that happens when he is able to accept his son. Of course, none of it would happen without the help of this amazing female protagonist that is Jess.
The witting though, oh the writing. This was the first time I read a romance novel and thought “wow” – this is good writing in itself – regardless of characters, regardless of plot. The dialogue, the inner thoughts, they are so gloriously written, they are so funny and yet so poignant, I was awestruck as I read it. I didn’t want it to finish and I constantly return to it when I want a “ need to read something good right now!” book.
How can someone not enjoy the glove scene? Or the bathroom-dictionary scene? Or their first kiss in the rain when Dain gets all wobbly because he can’t believe Jess is kissing HIM. Or when Jess walks into Dain’s house and he has two whores on his lap (isn’t that shocking for a romance novel??? yes, it is.) and there are no moral issues, no preaching there – and instead of getting all tear-eyed or depressed, Jess only thinks that she wants to kiss those women’s asses! I mean, how great is that – not only turning conventional clichés upside down but also having a great, a terrific heroine kicking ass.
I heart Loretta Chase – she is part of what I call the holy trinity of historical romance novels: Loretta Chase, Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn.
AnaNovember 14, 2008 at 2:40 am
OMG I meant KICK , KICK! those women’s asses not KISS them !! *thud*
Karen MahoneyNovember 14, 2008 at 3:26 am
Okay, well I'd say that DoY would get a slightly higher mark over all, but for different reasons. I preferred the heroine in LoS, and the writing is probably better (only just, though), but! The hero in DoY is the thing that swung it for me. 🙂
Also, much as I loved the banter and all that in LoS – yes, it was awesome on that level! – it wasn't romantic enough for me. Hehe… See? I'm an old romantic at heart… That came across more in DoY by Lisay Kleypas.
Bt it's pretty damn close, between the two. I loved the bathroom-dictionary scene (one of Dain's best inner monologues, actually *g*); I did like the kissing scene (lampost).
It's interesting that both LoS and DoY have a shooting scene… I *did* prefer DoY's though.
But overall – it's very VERY close. DoY might get a 7.5… 🙂 Or perhaps LoS should have 7.5 and DoY an 8.
I just read Elizabeth Hoyt's To Taste Temptation and I quite liked it, though not as much as these two. I'd give it a 6, maybe.
The next historica romance I read will be The Duke & I by Julia Quinn. Aren't you proud of me? Hehe..
Thanks for having me over today!!
Katiebabs a.k.a KBNovember 14, 2008 at 5:55 am
Jess is one of my all time favorite heroines because she doesn’t take any crap from Dain. Plus she shoots his ass!! LMAO
Carolyn JeanNovember 14, 2008 at 7:10 am
Hey Karen, great review. I love the book, but I really enjoyed reading the reasons you didn't, like Dain's self involvement. I can kind of see that, and I thought it was a great observation.
I was mixed on the Duke & I. Good luck with your new book buyer duties!
TracyNovember 14, 2008 at 9:33 am
What a coincidence! I just started Lord of Scoundrels last night and love it so far! I love the quotes you put into the review they just describe him perfectly.
I love, love, love Chase’s writing and will definitely be reading more of her work.
Thanks for the review Karen.
M.November 14, 2008 at 9:38 am
Very interesting to see a fresh take on an iconic book! I agree that Dain was very self-involved for a long time
I think there three good reasons why he was written that way –
1. as a symptom of his emotional neglect/abuse during childhood, and later physical abuse when he went to school and was treated as an outsider
2. growing up more or less on his own, with no siblings, parents, cousins, friends, it’s almost like he was socially disabled
3. he is a wealthy peer. Weren’t they pretty much given the message all their lives that the world revolved around their every whim?
The moment when the book came alive for me was when she shot him – and he liked it!
Katiebabs a.k.a KBNovember 14, 2008 at 9:43 am
I also come to realize that Dain being an ass to Jess and she basically patting him on the head to calm him down was a form of foreplay between the two.
Karen MahoneyNovember 14, 2008 at 9:45 am
katiebabs: Yes, I loved Jess’ no-nonsense attitude! One of my favourite things about the book. 🙂
carolyn jean: Thanks! It’s been fun taking part over here. I *did* grow to like Dain, but I never quite ‘fell in love’. Still, it’s a very good book, and I’ll read more LC for sure. 🙂
tracy: I’ll be interested to see what you think when you’re finished! It’s been fun over here. 🙂
m: Yes, these are all excellent reasons, and I mentioned the terrible upbringing Dain had. I really *did* feel for him where his past was concerned, but… I don’t know what it was, I just couldn’t quite ‘fall in love’ – yanno? I grew fond of him by the end, but always felt a little distanced. But I did enjoy it and will read more LC for sure! 🙂
TheaNovember 14, 2008 at 10:09 am
Karen! Awesome review–but you knew that already 🙂
I have to agree with almost everything you say–I love this book (I do think that Lisa Kleypas edges out Loretta Chase as my favorite romance author…*hides from Ana*), but it was Jess that really did it for me and makes the book irresistible. I mean, she SHOOTS him. Point blank. After weighing the pros and cons of such an action. I LOVE IT. In this book, moreso than DoY, I love that the heroine is the one in control, making the relationship work when Dain is too stupid and self-absorbed to do it himself!
As for Dain, he’s not much of a hero–but I think this is why I love him so much.
In the few romance novels I’ve read, it’s almost always the hero saving the heroine, and being…well, heroic. But in this case, it’s all about Jess. Me likey 🙂
Thanks so much again Karen–I can’t wait to see what you think of other authors in the genre!
little alysNovember 14, 2008 at 11:50 am
Great review, Karen, now I want to read this even more. So very tempted…
Jess sounds awesome and Dain…well, I’ll figure him out when I read it.
LoriNovember 14, 2008 at 2:24 pm
I just loved this book. So much so for the witty dialogue. Nobody writes that kind of biting witty banter like Loretta Chase.
And we all agree that Jess rocks, but I gotta say, I just wanted to wrap my arms around Dain and hold him tight. By the end of the first chapter, I felt so bad for him, I was all about the “poor Dain”.
KarinNovember 14, 2008 at 2:25 pm
The book sounds really interesting and the characters sound fascinating. I’m thinking I need to add it to my list.
Tabitha CNovember 15, 2008 at 6:59 pm
Wow, awesome review. I have read other reviews on LOS but always hesitated to try it. Now I’m regretting that I didn’t read this review before I went to the bookstore today…definitely picking up this book the next time I’m at the bookstore!
And oooh, I’ve only started reading JQ books about two months ago and I’ve glommed nearly 80% of her books, that’s how much I heart her!!