Dear Ms. Chase:
The very nature of this series presents a problem or at the very least requires a huge suspension of disbelief of the reader. The first book, Silk is for Seduction, portrays the romance between a dressmaker and a Duke in England. The second book pairs another dressmaker with an Earl. Needless to say, this is akin to lightning striking the same spot twice in one storm.
Yet, I’m willing to move beyond that incredulous platform because your work, for me, has been so stellar. Your work remains the bedrock of my romance reading list. It is with much regret I write that this book disappointed me. It’s not that it is poorly written because I don’t think a Chase book could ever be poorly written however, it relies on gimmicks and implausibilities, and a cast of thousands at times to tell its tale and for the most part, I spent the time in the book shaking my head in disappointment.
Sophia Noirot is the middle sister of the three dressmaking Noirot sisters. Her eldest sister married a wealthy duke yet their shop is in peril because the scandal of a shopkeeper marrying a Duke was driving away customers.
Harry Fairfax, Earl of Longmore, heir to the title of Marquess of Warford, was/is the Duke of Clevedon’s best friend. A strain was placed on their friendship when the Duke of Clevedon jilted Harry’s sister to marry the eldest Noirot sister. One would think that conflict was sufficient to power the pages of the story.
Clara, the jilted sister, is emotionally weak and succumbs to the flirtations of an unscrupulous man and is subsequently ruined by him publicly. Rather than marry this man (as he had planned), Clara runs off. Harry pursues her and Sophy convinces him that Clara will need a woman to confide in.
Complicating this is the survival of the Noirot sisters’ shop. They refuse to take money from the Duke to save it but are battling a dressmaking nemesis who appears to be stealing their designs.
The story is told in three acts. The first act takes place in London and sets the stage for the second act which is the road romance. Harry and Sophy engage in predictable bickering that is thinly disguised as foreplay. Clara is more enterprising than either Harry or Sophy had imagined and they are led on a fairly merry chase.
It is in the second act where I think the story falters the most. Harry is presented as a meathead with more brawn than brains and unfortunately he does little redeem that perception.
“Trickery is your department, Miss Noirot,” he said. “Mine is knocking people about. But I’m flattered that you imagine I’m clever enough to trick you.”
He’s towed along by Sophy as the two pursue Clara. Sophy, a purported master of disguise, puts on one costume after the other. Yet at some points, I felt like her sexuality was subdued to make her appear the ingenue, someone more acceptable to readers but that innocence felt false. Creating a background for Sophy that included learning “how to survive on the streets” but also trying to connect her bloodlines to some family more respectable was an inauthentic attempt to provide plausibility for the ultimate connection between Harry and Sophy. When they refuse to accept money from the Duke to update their salon to make it competitive, the effort to present the sisters as principled was laughable in light of how the Noirot sisters are willing to do most anything to advance their careers, including convincing the jilted former fiancé of the Duke to be dressed by them.
The last act was to convince the readers of the plausibility of their pairing, save Clara from a dreadful marriage, and salvaging the family dressmaking business. By that time, I had gotten frustrated with all the conveniences and contrivances of Act II. What saves the book is the, as always, the remarkable prose and the dry wit and the witty dialogue. I did wonder about the over abundance of ellipses in the writing though.
- Then nothing made sense anymore . . . and everything did, finally.
- She was aware of the size and heat of his phallus . . . inside her.
- When he began to move inside her, she moved instinctively, catching his rhythm in the same way she’d learned his way of kissing . . . as though somehow she’d always known and had simply been waiting for the signal to begin.
- He was not sure any woman who wasn’t a near relative had ever uttered his Chris tian name. She even made it sound . . . French.
- Such a back this was: straight and silky smooth . . . and at its base the beautiful curve and rise of her perfect bottom.
50 Shades of Madame Cartland? C