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*)