Friday, July 01, 2011

A Perfect 10: SILK IS FOR SEDUCTION by Loretta Chase

A Perfect 10
The Dressmakers
Avon Books
ISBN: 978-0-06-163268-6
July 2011
Historical Romance

London and Paris, 1835

Marcelline Noirot—a widow with a small daughter—and her younger sisters, Sophia and Leonie, descend from a disreputable French count on the paternal side. Their mother was from an unacceptable offshoot of a good family. The two parents were charming swindlers who got by on their wits in England and on the continent. When they died, they left their girls little but their looks and talents. After learning the dressmaking trade from a French cousin, Marcelline and her little family moved to London and established Maison Noirot.

With the help of her sisters, whose respective flairs for business and drama fit in perfectly with her own artistry and fashion sense, Marcelline is determined to build Maison Noirot into the premier fashion house. All they need now is to snare a customer so prominent all others will follow. The day’s gossip sheet provides an answer…

The Duke of Clevedon lost his parents and his sister in the space of one year when he was a youth. He grew up as the ward of the Marquess of Warford. Warford’s son Harry, Earl of Longmore, became his best friend, and it was accepted that Clevedon and Warford’s daughter, Lady Clara, would some day marry. As young men, Clevedon and Longmore went to Europe for an extended stay. Longmore came back a year ago, but recently made a quick trip to Paris to convince Clevedon it’s time he came home to do his duty. London is all agog at the expected return of the dashing duke before the king’s birthday celebration.

Marcelline wastes no time in getting to Paris with the firm intention of attracting Clevedon and enticing him to send his soon-to-be betrothed to Maison Noirot. Like her ancestors, Marcelline has an arsenal of wit and wiles. Unlike them, however, she is honest and…mostly…forthright. Dressed to make the most of her looks and grace, Marcelline has no trouble gaining attention at the Paris opera, and in no time at all Clevedon takes the bait. At first, he thinks he knows just where this charmer belongs in the social hierarchy, but the more he sees of her the more puzzled he becomes. He’s not even sure whether she is French or English.

When the action moves on to London, it would seem to be a good place for me to take a break. I had planned to just start on SILK IS FOR SEDUCTION before getting on with the rest of the day, but…oops, I kept right on reading until the last page. The play and banter between Marcelline and Clevedon were just too much fun. In fact, the whole of SILK IS FOR SEDUCTION, the story and the characters, were just too entrancing to leave.

I say above that SILK IS FOR SEDUCTION is fun, but it’s much more than that. There are serious sides to the story. The main one, of course, is the attraction between Marcelline and Clevedon in the face of the difference in their social stations and his obligation to Lady Clara and her family. Ms. Chase could have taken the easy way out by making Lady Clara spoiled and nasty, but Clara is a likable young lady and there is real affection involved.

The writing is seamless, the characters varied and real; the dialogue is fascinating, and the passions and doubts are moving. Add in some suspense concerning a rival modiste and speculation about what’s in store for Marcelline’s two sisters (and a couple of others), and you have a book with everything. In short: a Perfect 10.

Jane Bowers

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