Lord of Scoundrels
Grade : B-

I have read Lord of Scoundrels three times now. The first time in 1999 when I discovered AAR’s Desert Isle Keeper page (back when there was a special page), again in 2004 after it won the #1 slot on that year’s Top 100 Romances poll, and this last month for AAR’s Book Club. From reading to reading to reading my grade has remained the same: a B-.

Sebastian Ballister, Marquess of Dain, had a difficult childhood and matured into a wild young man determined to shame his forbears with his outrageous behavior. But when Jessica Trent, spinster, shows up in Paris determined to pull her brother Bertie from Dain’s social snare for his own good, Dain decides he won’t be bested by a woman. Thus begins a battle of wills famous in the romance genre for its grand and glorious sparks.

First off, Bertie Trent really is a complete idiot, and Jessica is absolutely in the right to want to detach him from Dain’s retinue. Jessica is totally on the mark in all of her actions. She is far-seeing, clear-headed, and even-tempered. This woman could run a multinational corporation and train for the Olympics in her spare time; she is that good.

Dain, on the other hand, is still about ten years old in his emotional development. Unlike Jessica he never sees what is below the surface of a problem and reacts to save face each and every time she throws him a curve ball. He is clever, he is rich, he is very wounded, but he’s not really husband material. Ten-year-olds generally aren’t.

What makes this book enjoyable is the constant give and take between Jessica and Dain. They are wonderful together; their chemistry is so explosive. Chase does an excellent job of conveying how needy – despite outward appearances – Dain is and how well suited Jessica is to meet those needs. I couldn’t help but feel that the great wrong done to Dain in his childhood would be righted in future. And that is heady, I will admit.

What Jessica gets out of the deal is not as clear.

However, despite the reservations I had about the challenges Jessica would have before her, the book worked for me up until about the two-thirds mark. When the book reaches its natural climax, when the main conflict is resolved, it was about a B+/A- for me. Then Chase added a second conflict, and it all went downhill.

Late in the book Chase introduces the character of Dominick, Dain’s illegitimate son whom he has been neglecting for the past decade or so, except for monetary contributions. Dominick is clearly supposed to be a mirror of Dain. He has all the problems Dain once had and is on track to become just as difficult and emotionally stunted. Then Jessica steps into the breach, and the reader gets a great big do-over with the emotional satisfaction of seeing Dominick get a home and assuming Dain will heal through this process (since Dominick is a fill-in for Dain, it's like Dain is getting that home too, which he essentially is since Jessica will fill the mother role that they both need).

The problem I had with this is that Dominick isn't enough of a character in his own right. It's hard for me to judge how well he will adjust without knowing more of his upbringing. Chase very smoothly designed his background to give the reader minimum anxiety (he was left not with his flaky mother but with an older woman and had an uninterrupted childhood up until the point at which the novel begins, so the damage to his emotional development could be minimal). He experiences the same psychological jarring that Dain did with kids picking on him for his appearance - which Chase tells us is exactly like Dain's - and his illegitimacy - much like Dain's half-foreign parentage. But is that the only emotional damage he has? What was his life really like? It could have been great; it could have been horrible. It’s unknown.

So essentially we don't know what kind of a disruption Jessica and Dain are in for in their early years of marriage. We only have the assurance that Jessica can handle it because she's handled boys before. But has she handled children who have experienced real abuse, neglect, or abandonment before?

There is also a suspense plot that stalls out at boring toward book’s end. But this is a minor point.

Ultimately, what brings the grade down to a B- for me is the feeling that Jessica has a lot of very unromantic work in front of her to ease both Dominick and Dain’s transition into emotional maturity. Clearly, many, many AAR readers would disagree with my assessment, but in my humble opinion Lord of Scoundrels simply attempts too much.

Reviewed by Rachel Potter
Grade : B-

Sensuality: Hot

Review Date : October 21, 2009

Publication Date: 1995

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