Desert Isle Keeper
Lord of Scoundrels
An AAR Top 100 Romance
review originally published on May 15, 1997
Lord of Scoundrels held the #1 spot in our Top 100 polls in 2013, 2010, 2007, 2004, and 2000. It was #7 in our first poll, in 1998. We’re about to do a new one…
One of the greatest thrills about reading, for me, is to begin a new book and within the first few pages realize that it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I get a shiver and I breathe a sigh of contentment and just fall into state of near total euphoria. This book will reside on my bedside table for months or longer, so I’ll have it near to reread a favorite bit of dialogue, a particularly wonderful scene or simply experience the same heartfelt emotion it evokes in me one more time. I cherish these books. I live for these books. Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase is one of these books.
Miss Jessica Trent arrives in Paris to rescue her dim-witted brother, Bertie, from a ruinous association with a group of rogues known for their hard and fast life of debauchery. The leader of this group is Sebastian, Marquess of Dain.
Sebastian relishes his role as the lecherous Lord of Scoundrels. Upon his birth, Dain’s horrified father deemed his son an “abomination.” Cursed and scorned as a child with a “grossly overlarge nose” and “ill-proportioned limbs” inherited from his Italian mother’s side of the family, Dain had always been the outcast because of his big body and swarthy visage. To compensate for this lack of esteem and love in his life, Dain resolves never to care for another person and to live only for his own dissolute pleasure.
When Jessica meets the cause of her brother’s potential downfall, she is instantly smitten. She is inexplicably drawn to the big, dark, hulking brute and she doesn’t know what to do about it. Dain is equally attracted to Jessica which is unacceptable to him since she is a well-bred lady, single by her own choosing and a bluestocking. These qualities are missing from the courtesans inhabiting Dain’s world.
Their relationship is further complicated by a rare and valuable Russian icon which Jessica spots at an antique shop during her first encounter with Sebastian. Dain is outraged that the impudent Miss Trent has possession of something he covets, so he sets out of buy it from her. Jessica, sensing she has an opportunity to remove her brother from Dain’s wicked influence, offers to give the icon to him if he will agree to send her brother back home. Dain will not be manipulated by any woman. He refuses to negotiate. Jessica will not sell the icon. They come to a dangerously explosive impasse.
The icon is forgotten though, when Jessica and Dain are caught in a scandalously compromising position during a formal ball. Dain, thinking he’s been deliberately entrapped, abandons her and walks away. In the eyes of society, Jessica is ruined. A coldly resolute Jessica decides to have her revenge and does what any self-respecting woman would do; she hires a lawyer to obtain a financial settlement! Dain, realizing that such an action would make him a laughingstock and concluding that there is no other way to save his pride and Jessica’s reputation, offers marriage. They return to England and marry.
After the wedding and a tense honeymoon trip to Dain’s ancestral home in Devon, Jessica realizes that Dain’s troubled childhood makes him distrustful of her ardent attentions and Dain is wary of letting his guard down and showing how much he truly cares for his wife. Their relationship is strained further when a former mistress arrives on the scene with Dain’s illegitimate son. Jessica again takes the initiative and forces Dain to accept responsibility for the boy and come to terms with his painful childhood. In doing so, Dain finally accepts Jessica’s love for him and this allows him to express his own love and need for her.
I had grown accustomed to reading about gorgeous virgin heroines who were brought to their sexual and emotional awakening by strong, equally gorgeous heroes. So from the first page of Lord of Scoundrels we are treated to a grand story with wonderfully realized characters who break the standard romance novel stereotype.
I was thoroughly enchanted by Jessica’s refreshing and realistic acceptance of her attraction to Dain and her intuitive knowledge of the “male mentality.” Her character alone would have earned praise from me (Jessica is no simpering Miss!) but to have an equally strong hero is a real bonus. Dain is not your above-average, dashing, gorgeous gentlemen. He’s big, he’s brutal, he’s befuddled by the one woman he’s ever wanted or needed, Jessica.
The dialogue is dazzling. The main characters’ introductory dialogue would be worth the price of this book but it only gets better. The story had me engrossed from the first page to the last and I appreciated Chase’s wit and pace which was quick and smart throughout. The verbal humor in this book puts every other author’s use of it in the shade. The secondary characters were mere wisps, but artfully drawn and necessary to move the story along.
Lord of Scoundrels succeeds on all levels. Ms. Chase has taken a conventional plot and given it new depth and breadth. This novel will appeal to readers who delight in strong and intelligent characters and to readers who want to know what makes a character tick. Most impressive of all, Lord of Scoundrels is a wickedly witty and luscious love story. All hail Loretta Chase! This book is a cherished keeper.