Scandal Wears Satin
Can a beautiful, conniving, brilliant French dressmaker find true love with a gorgeous, straight-forward, not so bright English Earl? In Ms. Chase’s latest, Scandal Wears Satin, the second in her Dressmakers series, the answer is a resounding and yet unbelievable yes. The novel, written with Ms. Chase’s usual verve and humor, tells the story of Sophy Noirot and Harry, the Earl of Longmore. It’s a steamy, exceedingly enjoyable read. It reads like a fairy tale written for grown-ups: Whimsical, unpredictable, and fantastical. In the proverbial real world, there’s no way these two lovers would find their happy ending, but in this giddy novel they do. Readers willing to suspend disbelief will enjoy this book tremendously; those who like their fiction grounded in gritty reality will not.
The two were introduced in the first novel in the series, Silk for Seduction. In that book, Harry’s best friend, the Duke of Clevedon, marries Sophy’s sister, Marcelline, rather than Harry’s younger sister Clara. Their wedding causes all sorts of trouble for the Noirot sisters and their dress shop, Maison Noirot. For starters, Clara’s mother now loathes the Noirots with a snooty passion. Furthermore, the ton, shocked by a modiste stealing one of their own, shuns Maison Noirot. The shop is on the verge of collapse and Sophy and her younger sister Leonie, unwilling to live off their brother-in-law’s largesse, are terrified. They have one — and only one — customer from the upper echelons of society: Lady Clara, Harry’s sister. Clara, quite content to not be married to Clevedon, has become friends with the Noirot sisters and, despite her mother’s ire, continues to frequent their shop.
When Clara is very publically compromised by the worthless — in more ways than one — Lord Adderly and is forced to become engaged to the cad, Harry is ready to kill the man. Sophy, however, persuades him to calm down. She assures him, despite having no idea how she will accomplish this, that she and her sisters will “un-ruin” Clara and save her from marriage to the mendacious Lord Adderly. But when Clara’s mother insists the wedding will take place in a matter of weeks, Clara runs away, and it is up to Harry, accompanied by Sophy, to fetch her back.
Sophy is a wonderful heroine. She’s smart and capable — she never stops thinking, analyzing each and every situation and character she encounters. She’s an actress of extraordinary talents — she continually dons new personas and outfits, and with each change, she becomes whoever she needs to be at that moment. It’s great fun to watch Sophy bamboozle pretty much everyone and even greater fun to watch her unable to do the same to Harry. Harry may not be as smart as Sophy but he views the world very clearly, and no matter what scheme Sophy is running, Harry always sees the Sophy behind the act. This ability of Harry’s makes him — along with his overt sensuality — irresistible to Sophie.
Harry is not quite as entrancing as Sophy. He’s an earl, and until he took up chasing after first Sophy and then his sister, he does little of importance. He is, I suppose, representative of many titled men of his time, but his lack of life goals makes him seem somehow lesser than driven Sophy. That said, he’s the right guy for her. She is so tightly wound that Harry, with his easy-going, devil may care attitude is just what she needs to help her relax and enjoy life. The two are lovely together — as usual Ms. Chase has done a marvelous job with the sexual tension between the pair. The book starts with both lovers lusting madly for one another. As they journey after Clara, they move from lust to something scarily close to love; both journeys are well-written and fun to follow.
I took great pleasure in this book. The romance is engaging, the sex scenes are wonderfully steamy and compliment the emotional relationship between the lovers. The plot is intriguing — it proves to be quite a challenge to “un-ruin” Clara — and the secondary characters add depth and wit to the tale. Scandal Wears Satin tells a great story, full of heat, humor, and heart. It is, however, very much a story. In this book, as in the first in the series, Silk is for Seduction, the happy ending the lovers find can only exist in fiction. In the real world of 1830’s England, much of what transpires in this novel could never happen. That’s fine with me. Ms. Chase’s historical romances aren’t celebrated for their period authenticity. They are loved because they are well-told, deeply romantic, sensual, witty love stories. Scandal Wears Satin is all of those things and I suspect will delight the vast majority of romance readers.