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REVIEW: Vixen in Velvet by Loretta Chase

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Dear Ms. Chase:

When I received the ARC to Vixen in Velvet, I was enormously not cool about it. I nearly choked when I saw the file in my inbox. I immediately downloaded it, flipped through the first few pages, which I’d already read on your website, and reached the new material. Evil glee filled my heart, I promise you. You are an auto-buy author for me. I have read fourteen of your novels before this one. The Carsington Brothers series is one of my favorite romance series. Peregrine and Olivia of Lord Perfect (and subsequently, Last Night’s Scandal) are the best children in any romance ever. If anyone says otherwise, I’ll kick them in the shin.

So if we’re done with curtseying and all the niceties, I’d like to move right into the thick of it: I didn’t like this book.

I tried to like it, because in parts, it was charming and full of witty lines and a few characters who were at turns hilarious and endearing. However, I was distracted by the superior secondary characters, who were more dynamic than both the leads, about whom the entire book was devoted. If this had been the Lady Gladys and Lord Swanton chronicles, I would have probably adored it. Instead, I had to suffer two-dimensional Lisburne, otherwise known repeatedly as the Roman god, and his annoying fixation on Leonie.

He wagers with her that she cannot turn his ugly duckling cousin, Lady Gladys, into a swan. His prize is two weeks of her time. He kisses her, making it clear the two weeks would involve lots of that. Essentially, to be his mistress for two weeks, though he claims he just wants to spend time with her and be her top priority instead of her business. And worst of all, he assumes she’s not a virgin, though she’s said she’s not experienced, and it’s a simple matter to ask, “How not experienced?” I’m never impressed with the old ‘she can’t possibly be a virgin’ device.

I don’t understand why Leonie would agree to this bet. Even if she thinks she’s going to win, would she seriously wager her own virginity on a silly bet? I’m all for historical romances that embrace female sexuality and present a heroine unafraid of her body and longings—in fact, it’s one thing I love about your novels—but that doesn’t mean I respect a heroine willing to wager her body on a bet, whether she’s a virgin or not.

Another contention is the utter lack of chemistry I felt between Leonie and Lisburne for half the book. Your characters’ chemistry usually burns through the pages. This time, I didn’t even do a cheating search to see where in the book the first sex scene would be (I find searching for “thrust” to be most useful) so I could readily anticipate the scene. I just didn’t care. They kissed for the first time, and my reaction was, “…?” I saw the words, most luscious and delectable words, but I didn’t feel them.

Maybe I’m overly critical of Lisburne, who is a Roman god, did you know? I did, because you mentioned it sixteen times. I counted. I don’t find anything to value about Lisburne besides his love for his family. And even then, he has no sense of how hurtful he is to Lady Gladys. He’s constructed a whole bet around his conviction that she will fail to attract suitors even with the right guidance and clothes. He’s downright rude about her incompetence to attract anyone. How can I fall in love with a man who is essentially bullying his cousin, a charming lady who is insecure? Whose side should I be on, do you think?

Shall I overlook all this because he beat up some bullies who were picking on his other cousin, Lord Swanton, twenty years ago? Because his eyes get teary at a workshop for indigent females? I’m trying to think of one more thing he’s done that’s at all likable and drawing a blank.

Well, once he made Leonie a sandwich after she had a bad day, and that was very nice, but that’s about all. She reacted to the sandwich-making as though God himself had come down from the heavens and made her a sandwich, and she [spoiler]immediately fell in love and surrendered her virginity.[/spoiler] My primary reaction: it must have been a very good sandwich. But besides making me hungry and lamenting my lack of bread, cheese, etc. in my kitchen, I wasn’t much affected.

Lady Gladys is a lovely character, very different from Leonie. She has almost no confidence, except in the utter conviction that she’s a failure in the marriage market. She is intelligent, and she reacts to her failure with anger and biting comments. Leonie sees the vulnerability, praises her good qualities, and works the proverbial magic to which we’re accustomed in an ugly duckling subplot.

I loved, flat-out loved, Lord Swanton. He was London’s favorite new poet, and his rise to popularity was fast. The only problem: his poems were sentimental tripe. Even he didn’t think much of them. He laughed off reviews that roasted him and at times, agreed with them. He was also excessively emotional and sentimental, choking up at the slightest prompting.

Swanton blinked hard, but that trick rarely worked for him. Emotion won, nine times out of ten, and this wasn’t the tenth time. His Adam’s apple went up and down and his eyes filled.

One of the subplots was a conspiracy with the bullies who used to torment Swanton. This didn’t interest me in the slightest. There’s no reason given for these bullies to hate Swanton his entire life, after puberty ended and people theoretically grew up, so they were cardboard to me.

Nothing stood out for me besides the characters Lady Gladys and Lord Swanton. It’s hard for anything to stand out when you keep over-using narrative to declare things are so, rather than showing me the story and letting me draw my own conclusions. For instance, to insist how witty Leonie was as she captivated the audience, when the words provided nothing specific and tangible to help me believe that claim:

Not that Swanton could hold a candle to Leonie Noirot’s performance, in Lisburne’s opinion—and no doubt the opinions of all the other gentlemen in the audience. Following the devastating curtsey and smile, she had launched into her short, shockingly effective appeal, telling the audience at the outset that she knew they hadn’t come to hear her but Lord Swanton. Yet her five-minute speech had her listeners laughing and weeping by turns. Lisburne had even seen that cynic Crawford brush a tear from his eye.

I’m supposed to take your word on it, that the speech was hilarious and moving? Show me something hilarious and moving. Without specifics, it’s just cutting corners and robbing me of emotional payoff. I felt like the majority of the book’s interesting parts were either merely implied or happened off-stage and summarized later, and how can I emotionally connect to something that I don’t experience myself?

Lisburne’s valet was mentioned multiple times to great effect, and I would have loved to meet him, but in the few scenes he actually appeared, he said nothing and was described passively. That devalues everything awesome claimed about him when he’s not there, because he doesn’t deliver the goods himself. And a whole romantic subplot with secondary characters took place off-stage, when it would have been so satisfying to see them interact in any way at all before the epilogue.

I couldn’t understand why anyone loved each other, why they would fight for each other. No matter how much I tried, even as the book continued and I found myself not disliking the hero as much as previously (but not outright liking him), I couldn’t grasp the connection between hero and heroine. “He’s a beautiful Roman god and I love him; he made me a sandwich” is not the answer. Everything was superficial and predictable. Nothing dug deeply, and therefore, nothing reached me.

Best regards,
Suzanne

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Suzanne

Suzanne loves historical romance most of all, but also enjoys smutty paranormal romances, contemporaries, young adult, and epic fantasy. She worked four years in a bookstore, where she was in charge of organizing and maintaining the romance section. She keeps immaculate yearly spreadsheets of every book she's read, the number of re-reads per book, and her personal rating. Doesn't everyone?

16 Comments

  1. cleo
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 09:13:29

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been so disappointed in this series and this sounds like more of the same. I still love Loretta Chase, but I think I’ll wait for the next one (or re-read Miss Wonderful).

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  2. mel burns
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 10:43:12

    I really liked Vixen in Velvet. The only thing that bothered me was Lisbourne’s back story. Why were he and Swanton so devastated by the father’s death that they had to leave England and then lived in Europe for six years? I also wish Leonie’s sisters had made more of an appearance than they did, but all in all I liked Simon and Leonie……I could see falling in love with a man who made me a sandwich.

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  3. Ducky
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 10:46:24

    I just bought this book yesterday because – hello new Loretta Chase – but reading this review I now feel awful and afraid to read it. (I had read the sample chapter and had liked that.

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  4. Janine
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 11:39:32

    Welcome to DA, Suzanne.

    I couldn’t understand why anyone loved each other, why they would fight for each other. No matter how much I tried, even as the book continued and I found myself not disliking the hero as much as previously (but not outright liking him), I couldn’t grasp the connection between hero and heroine.

    I felt similarly about Scandal in Satin, so I’m not sure I’ll read this book.

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  5. LeeF
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 11:46:17

    Well, I won this book in an AAR give away. Haven’t received it yet but look forward to comparing my reading experience to your review.

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  6. Rose
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 11:58:55

    I don’t know why I never thought of searching for thrust as a useful shortcut.

    @mel burns:
    I would require something more impressive than a mere sandwich, and it would probably involve a lot of chocolate.

    @cleo: I love backlist Loretta Chase, but her more recent work has been very uneven for me. The last one I really liked was Your Scandalous Ways.

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  7. Kati
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 12:50:18

    Welcome to DA, Suzanne! Great review. I’m one of those weirdo readers who Chase doesn’t work for, but I always read the reviews of her books in the hopes that one will tempt me. I love your voice, and look forward to reading more reviews from you!

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  8. Sunita
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 13:02:01

    Great review, Suzanne, thanks! I love a number of Chase’s older books but they stopped working for me toward the end of the Carsington series and I’ve avoided them since. Sadly, it looks as if I’ll continue doing that.

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  9. Maite
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 16:23:02

    Thanks Suzanne! I had been ambivalent about getting this one. Feared this would happen.
    I had that “meh” feeling to “Silk is for Seduction”. I liked “Scandal Wears Satin”, but then I realized my favorite thing was the hero, and that was because he reminded of Rupert Carsington. If I want Rupert, I’ll go reread (again) Mr. Impossible, which has him and Daphne and Noxious and hieroglyphics discussion and …
    And I haven’t had that excitement in a Chase book since Last Night’s Scandal. Hope the next series will hook me back in.
    Or, if this one ever shows up in the Daily Deals, I might get it if for no other reason than Lady Gladys and Lord Swanton’s story. Loretta Chase on a bad day is still better then a lot of other writers.

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  10. Suzanne
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 17:19:39

    Thank you, everyone! I’m having fun for sure. :) Looking forward to many in future.

    @Maite:
    I love Mr. Impossible! It’s one of my all-time favorite romances ever, for exactly the reasons you listed. And yes, you’re right. Loretta Chase on a bad day is still someone I’d read.

    Maybe I wouldn’t have been so harsh if she weren’t an author whom I’ve seen produce wonderful stories. There were so many good aspects of this novel, but without a strong connection with the main couple, the rest becomes insignificant.

    @mel burns:
    I totally wondered the same thing about Lisburne’s father and why they moved to Europe. It seemed like such an unexplored backstory, and it brought impact to why he disliked Gladys. But she would have been an awkward teen at the time of his father’s death, and whatever she said shouldn’t be held against her, I think. Except that was never fully explained either. Frustrating.

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  11. Cory
    Jun 26, 2014 @ 04:30:04

    I have taken a sort of a sabbatical from reading romance books for quite awhile and accidentally read that a Loretta Chase book is out today. So I looked for reviews and yours was the first one that I read. After reading the review, I thought that my sabbatical will have to continue since the other dressmaker’s books in series were just okay with me. Then I read AAR’s review. The review seemed to encapsulate what I always liked about LC’s books, though I have to say that the last one that I truly raved about was Lord Perfect. So I went to her website and read the excerpt. Absolutely loved it. It reminded me of Lord Perfect, Rathbourne and Bathsheba plus two awesome secondary characters. So it became a question of should I give the new one a try or not? However, of all of her books that I read, the one that I really didn’t like was Mr. Impossible, which the reviewer really liked. I know that I am in the minority but I just didn’t like it. So, I think I really need to give this book a try and judge for myself.

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  12. Suzanne
    Jun 26, 2014 @ 07:01:49

    I’d say, if in doubt, buy it and see for yourself. I still had a good time in parts. It was just disappointing to me as a whole.

    Lord Perfect was my second favorite Loretta Chase, by the way. ;)

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  13. Holly
    Jun 26, 2014 @ 10:18:54

    I really liked this book, and I haven’t been able to finish the last two. Though I didn’t like Lisburne’s side of the bet, Leonie was attracted to him from the get go and if anything the concern was more for missing work time than the other. The other reason that part of the storyline was ok for me was because [spoiler] they were intimate before the bet ended, she didn’t sleep with him because she had to. [/spoiler] I agree that the backstory with his father was underdeveloped.
    I found the story to be enjoyable and enjoyed their banter, and Gladys and Swanton were great. I hope Clara’s story is up next.

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  14. etv13
    Jun 27, 2014 @ 20:54:21

    Add me to the people who really liked this one. I liked the way she used the Botticelli. I liked Leonie and Lisburne, and to me they seemed pretty vivid. I liked the way the sex scenes were written, lush without being purple.

    As to Lady Gladys, it’s actually Lisburne who has the insight that she is really a kind and intelligent woman who has an awful father and lacks self-confidence. He comes to it a little late, but independently of Leonie and Swanton. And he’s by no means the only character who found Gladys unpleasant to be around before she got her makeover. In the previous book, Longmore and even Lady Clara were pretty negative about her. I think we have to take it that objectively, she was unpleasant to be around. And Lisburne and Leonie didn’t talk about the bet in front of her, so it hardly qualifies as bullying.

    I hadn’t really liked the two previous books in this series, but this one inspired me to go back and reread the previous one, and I enjoyed it much better the second time around. I’ll probably reread the first one too.

    I must say, though, the clothes sound really unappealing. Down-filled sleeve puffs in the summer — ugh.

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  15. Ann
    Jun 29, 2014 @ 11:17:05

    I just finished Vixen in Velvet. Unlike Suzanne, I had no problem with the chemistry between Liscombe and Leonie. I thought the introductory scene at the British Institution in front of the Botticelli was an effective and plausible start to the romance. It was clear that Liscombe was powerfully drawn to Leonie and that the attraction was mutual. Once I started reading, I didn’t stop until I finished the book. The book described in the review was really not the Vixen in Velvet (horrid title) I read.

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  16. Susan Proctor
    Jun 29, 2014 @ 20:22:30

    I read this review a few days ago before reading the book and thought it was pretty harsh. Now having read the book, I wanted to come back and see what other comments have been made. Thanks you etv13! You summed up my view of this book well and hit some very important points. The Botticelli is a big dam deal in this book and anyone that does not mention it in their review, well that’s hard to understand. The reviewer states “I don’t understand why Leonie would agree to this bet. Even if she thinks she’s going to win, would she seriously wager her own virginity on a silly bet?” Seemed to me that Leonie was never much interested in holding on to her virginity, in any case, and she’s planning to win (hello!) the Botticelli!

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