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REVIEW: Don’t Tempt Me by Loretta Chase

Dear Ms. Chase:

After I read last year’s book, Your Scandalous Ways, I knew my expectations were going to be set incredibly high for anything that came after.   And thankfully, Don’t Tempt Me is not a book in the same vein, but instead hearkens back to the Carsington series, especially Miss Wonderful and Mr. Impossible.   A hero who has suffered a great loss and who copes by putting on a distracting outward display and a heroine who lives on the margins of polite society’s rules and whose innocence does not equate to naïveté. And while Don’t Tempt Me possessed a number of charms of its own, somewhere between my high expectations and the echoes of other books, I was not as tempted to love it as I hoped I would be.

From the beginning, little Zoe Octavia Lexham, aka "The Bolter," was a pain in Lucien de Gray’s young neck.   Although when Lucien came under the guardianship of Lord Lexham, following a tragic series of illnesses and accidents claiming both his parents and older brother, Zoe was also a "bright, bright spot in his life."   He was the only one she seemed to listen to, and she was the only one who could make him laugh.   The "catastrophe-waiting-to-happen" was fated to leave Lucien as well, though, stolen from a Cairo market at the age of twelve while everyone assumed that she did as she always had: run away.   Regardless, it was one more blow to the young Duke of Marchmont, and it sealed his wary insouciance about, well, everything, it seemed.   So when Marchmont shows up at Lord Lexham’s to run off the latest young woman posing as Zoe, he is almost maliciously gleeful at the idea of doing so.   Yet all it takes is one look at the young woman in question for him to be caught with "a feeling of being set on fire, then thrown into a deep pool of water," so turned upside down he is at the improbable return of that "dreadful girl" and "bright, bright spot," Zoe the Bolter.

Zoe, besides being extraordinarily beautiful and curvaceous, is also a vexing and irresistible combination of innocence and experience, wisdom and rebelliousness.   Having spent the past twelve years in a harem, the prized concubine of a young – and impotent – son of a Pasha, she is physically home but psychologically between cultures. She has no compunction about publicly discussing men’s "instruments of pleasure" or her sexual training, yet she understands that the only way to finish her breakfast is to ignore the pointless arguing at the table between her sisters.   She understands what it is to be a slave but cannot abide confinement.

In some ways, Zoe’s return is another wound to Marchmont, although one he cannot identify or process.   But the deliberate callousness he has cultivated over the years is no match for the lively beauty and intelligence of Zoe the Woman, because simply being in the same room with her is enough to blow open the doors to the "mental cupboard" in which Marchmont has held every painfully pleasant and unpleasant memory and emotion.   And for all the energy Zoe spent running away as a child, for all of the pressure that tempts her to do the same once grown and back home in England, she and Marchmont have an almost electrical energy running between them that holds both of them in place.

The strength of the current is evident even in Marchmont’s reserve, in the casual misogyny he aims at Zoe’s sisters, for example, the "Matrons of Doom," the "Four Harridans of the Apocalypse," two of whom "looked ready to drop brats any minute now – twins or ponies, judging by their circumference."   They got to grow up safe and happy in Lexham’s home while Zoe was far, far away, and their very presence seems an affront to Marchmont.   We also see the strength of the attraction in the assiduousness with which Marchmont takes the task of guiding Zoe back into English society and the happiness she feels at pleasing him.   We see it in the way Marchmont must tame his own "instrument of delight" in Zoe’s completely outlandish company, and in the way she cannot help but express her delight at his most casual touch.   And, of course, we see it in the way Zoe’s unrestrained honesty and her emotional independence bring more than Marchmont’s membrum virile to life.   The strong connection also serves to focus the novel rather tightly and effectively on Zoe and Marchmont’s relationship.

The plot of Don’t Tempt Me is not complicated.   The book is divided into two distinct parts, the first chronicling Zoe’s re-entrance into society and culminating with the Queen’s blessing, and the second playing out the consequences of a more personal culmination between Zoe and Marchmont.   In this, the book is quite cleverly constructed, because all of the various challenges around making Zoe society-ready – finding her proper clothes, polishing her curtsy, trying to keep her from talking freely about her skills in the "arts of pleasing a man" – keep Zoe and Marchmont in close proximity where they can argue with and lust for each other, often at the same time, and where the sharp-as-ever comedic elements of the writing can be showcased:

Thwack. "Get off!"

Something was hitting his back.

Thwack. "Now! Do you hear me?" Thwack. "Get off her this instant!" Thwack. "Get off!"

Bloody hell.   Not the idiot maid.   Not now.   Where in the blazes had she come from?
He closed his eyes, took a long breath, and summoned his mind back into his skull.
He would kill the maid and throw her corpse into the Serpentine.

. . . "Have you taken leave of your senses?" Priscilla cried.   "Good God, Marchmont, what is wrong with you?   Rutting with my sister in Hyde Park! Like dogs! What will people say?"

. . . Zoe raised herself up on her elbows and glared at her sister.   "I am going to kill you," she said.   "Are you a crazy woman, to interrupt at such a time?   I do not care how pregnant you are.   There is no excuse -"

"Excuse?" Priscilla cried.   "You cannot – cannot -"   She waved the umbrella.   "You cannot do what you were doing.   You cannot do that -here-’in Hyde Park!"

. . . “The exceedingly round lady is right," Marchmont said.   "We ought not to do this in Hyde Park."

"But what is she doing in Hyde Park, I want to know," Zoe said.   "She should not even be awake at this hour."

At a superficial level, Zoe and Marchmont are a study in opposites, and we all know what happens with opposites in Romance.   But at a deeper level, they are similar in character.   Like Marchmont, Zoe is extremely aware of what is going on around her, always calculating how others will respond.   Both excel at playing a role when necessary, Marchmont as the seemingly careless man who is above everyone and everything, and Zoe as the former harem slave who blanches at English standards of propriety.   And these clearly are roles.   For all Marchmont’s apparent disconnect from other people’s emotions, he is extremely "possessive" when it comes to Zoe, literally chasing her down in Hyde Park after watching her race horses with, of all people, his mistress.   He pretty much loses his mind at one point when she refuses to stand back at the scene of a carriage accident, endangering herself to save a young boy.   And despite Zoe’s apparent rashness, the harem taught her how to manage around truly irrational people, whose whims can decide whether you keep your head on any particular day, a skill she needed when she made her brave and risky escape.

However, or perhaps because of the similarities between these two who have been lost from and to family, their physical attraction is the only easy aspect of their relationship.   And yet the realities of that attraction, and the sexual freedom Zoe possesses despite her virginity (more on that in a bit), make it imperative that she and Marchmont marry before either is truly ready.   So when Zoe discovers that there have been some very bad consequences to Marchmont’s disconnect from some of his more mundane ducal responsibilities, a secondary tension arises in the story around Marchmont’s autocratic habits and his possessiveness toward Zoe, as well as Zoe’s anxieties about being confined by the whim of another man she fears can never truly love and honor her.

Not surprisingly, the aspects of Don’t Tempt Me with which I resonated the most were those related to the theme of confinement.   Zoe’s confinements are obvious: she was held captive in the harem as the "wife" of the Pasha’s son and then in polite English society. While the dangers to her physical self were much greater in the harem, the rules of English society could be confining, too, even to a married woman in the upper classes:

"You cannot keep me in the house," she said.

"I can and will.   Don’t be childish, Zoe.   This is for your own good."

"Childish?" she said. Childish?   I risked my life to be free.   You don’t know what they would have done to me if they had caught me.   I risked my life for this."   She waved her hand at the window, where the shadowy figures hurried along the pavement, and riders and carriages passed in the busy street.   "I risked everything to be in a world where women can go out of their houses to shop and visit with their friends, where they can even talk to and dance with other men. For twelve years I dreamed of this world, and it came to be my idea of heaven: a place where I could move freely among other people, where I could go to the theater and the ballet and the opera.   For twelve years I was an amusing pet in a cage. For twelve years they let me out only for the entertainment of watching me try to run away. . . "

Marchmont is not without understanding for Zoe’s plight, but he is trapped in his own prison, one built from loss and grief and loneliness:

"You’re all I have left, Zoe," he said.   "They’re all gone – everyone I ever loved.   Gone forever.   You, too, I thought.   But you weren’t.   You came back from the dead – and if I lose you.   I don’t know what I’ll do."

For me, the tension and struggle between these two stubborn people who need each other so much, who are twin stars, if you will, is the real strength of the novel.   While Marchmont might want Zoe all to himself, can he overcome his own fears and allow her to be an equal and independent partner to him?   Can he be faithful to her?   Can Zoe find the freedom she seeks in English life, even as the wife of a duke?

One question I did not ask while reading was whether Zoe could overcome the trauma of her captivity, because in so many ways she already seemed to have made that transition. In fact, throughout the book it seemed that the novel’s structure worked to hide the tragedy of Zoe’s harem prison in much the same way that Marchmont’s "mental cupboard" hid the darker aspects of his character.   It was an effect that I would expect if, for example, the novels of Dickens were re-written by Wilde.   Which might actually have worked for me if the harem was not used so extensively in comparison to Zoe’s life back in England.

It’s not as if the comparison is one of stereotypical savagery opposed to civilization, and I was certainly thankful for that. But consider Zoe’s description of her capture:

All the past rushed at her in an icy wave of panic – the moment they’d taken her away in the bazaar . . . the voices speaking a language she couldn’t understand . . . the darkness   . . . the men touching her . . . she, screaming for her father, until they gagged her . . . the drink they’d forced down her throat that brought strange dreams but never complete oblivion . . . the slaves stripping off her clothes -

Her story of escape is equally harrowing, as are the glimpses she gives into harem life – the political instabilities, the hostilities among the women, the daily dangers and unpredictable whims that could spell the difference between keeping your jewelry and losing your head, and where one is merely "a pet in a cage."   That Zoe is so well-adjusted, far more adjusted emotionally than Marchmont, was hard for me to accept, especially paired with her master’s impotence and her resultant virginity, which for me created this Disney-like fantasy around Zoe.   In contrast, Marchmont’s character seemed more subtly rendered, his emotional struggle more authentically expressed.   I couldn’t help but feel that Zoe was yet another example of how the love of a good woman can save the heart of an emotionally damaged man, even though the woman here should have been damaged, too.

Regarding Zoe’s sexuality, I was not per se disappointed in her virginity (even if it strained the bounds of believability); in fact, I found the impotent son of the Pasha a clever (if unbelievable) way of conforming Zoe to the traditional historical Romance standard.   Nor did I find Zoe to be a fully traditional heroine; that she was so sexually aware and bold while being technically virginal was a very interesting combination.   She was neither the clueless and reckless virgin nor the clueless and prudish virgin, and I found that a very nice twist in her character.   I also liked that we see how Zoe adjusted to her life in the Harem, that she did as anyone who spent twelve years somewhere would do: adapted.   But again, all of this was offered without the complexity of the circumstances as they were introduced to us, which made it all so obviously a device and the machinations of the text more visible.   The ugliness of Zoe’s capture and enslavement were useful in explaining her need for freedom or her sexual openness, but beyond that, their harrowing effects seemed firmly in the past.

As I mentioned in the beginning of my review, Don’t Tempt Me reminded me quite a bit the Carsington books, especially the first three, although I found the disconnect between the humor and the darkness here to be even more pronounced than in, say, Miss Wonderful or Not Quite A Lady (another book that I felt took a very serious thing and soft-pedaled its seriousness).   It wasn’t as if Don’t Tempt Me was a mere re-tread, because themes and even plot devices get repeated among books all the time.   It was more that on top of the difficulties in tone I had, there seemed to be too many familiar moves in this book, too many things I recognized from other books to make Don’t Tempt Me an unqualified winner for me.   Entertaining, yes, but in the way of a well-traveled road.   The view may still be lovely, but sometimes one wishes for a surprise or two along the way to keep it fresh. B-

~Janet

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

63 Comments

  1. Keishon
    Jun 30, 2009 @ 13:09:49

    Surprisingly, this is not a Fictionwise. I didn’t care for her last one, alas. I am willing to try her one more time, if it shows up at Fictionwise and I remember.

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  2. vanessa jaye
    Jun 30, 2009 @ 13:17:06

    The kid just finished 2 yrs of college and is entering University September, so book buying funds are in short supply around here… but I’ll be buying this one on my way home today. I’m in the market for a fun/entertaining romance read.

    Love the excerpts used; thanks for a great review.

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  3. GrowlyCub
    Jun 30, 2009 @ 13:20:45

    I thought the last one was, while entertaining to read, completely forgettable as soon as I closed the covers. I was hoping to like this one better. We will see.

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  4. Moth
    Jun 30, 2009 @ 15:50:54

    Not Quite A Lady (another book that I felt took a very serious thing and soft-pedaled its seriousness)

    Just curious: but which serious thing did you feel was soft-pedaled? The revolt?

    I’m surprised so many people seem not to have liked Your Scandalous Ways. I unreservedly love, love, love that book. It’s my favorite Chase after Mr. Impossible (I seriously doubt any hero will ever be able to topple Rupert as my Favorite).

    I’ve been eagerly waiting for this one, but the virgin widow thing puts me off a bit. I’ve also noticed a weird pattern where I’ll like two Chases in a row and then really hate the third one: Loved Lord of Scoundrels. Liked The Last Hellion. Disliked Miss Wonderful. Loved Mr. Impossible. Liked Lord Perfect. Hated Not Quite a Lady. Loved Your Scandalous Ways.

    I hope I like this one… I’ll report back once I’ve managed to get my hands on a copy.

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  5. Chrissy
    Jun 30, 2009 @ 17:55:28

    I have never been able to stomach her books.

    Honestly? The exerpts above have my gag reflex working and they’re examples people LIKED???

    Proof positive that everyone is different.

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  6. Jennie
    Jun 30, 2009 @ 18:27:33

    I’ve never been Chase’s biggest fan – and I mean that literally, I liked Lord of Scoundrels but didn’t quite get why it was OMG the best book ever! I’ve liked most of the books of hers that I’ve read but have rarely gone as gaga as the general romance reading populace did. Your Scandalous Ways was probably an exception; I may have given that one an A (in any case, I liked it quite a lot).

    I’m definitely interested in Don’t Tempt Me even if the whole harem virgin thing annoys me before I’ve even started the book. The excerpts remind me that Chase really can write, and the h/h both sound like interesting characters.

    I have a strong feeling, though, that I will have the same issues with the glossing-over of the heroine’s trauma. This really resonated with me:

    I couldn't help but feel that Zoe was yet another example of how the love of a good woman can save the heart of an emotionally damaged man, even though the woman here should have been damaged, too.

    That’s the sort of thing that makes me a little nuts in romances: when excessive focus is given to the hero’s trauma and the heroine’s is ignored. It’s not that I have to have a tortured heroine; it’s more that I bristle at even the suggestion that a woman needs to just get over her issues and keep a smile on her face, whereas a man gets to wallow endlessly until he is brought to his senses by The Love of a Good Woman. That’s sexist claptrap and number 17 on my list of “Why Am I Supposed to Find This Romantic, Exactly?” romance tropes.

    But I’ll try not to get my bile up too much for a book I have even read yet; if I had to guess, like I said I will be bothered by this too but enjoy the book anyway.

    Thanks for the great review, Janet!

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  7. joanne
    Jun 30, 2009 @ 19:16:08

    *sigh* I AM the weakest link.

    I was going to give this book a pass because of the — geeze, still a virgin?— abducted to a harem plot, but the review and accompanying quoted dialogue has changed my mind. It strikes me as the type of humor I enjoy in a romance story. I’m also on a roll with finding some new great romance books this month so I’m in the right frame of mind to give it a try.

    Great review, thanks!

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  8. Kaetrin
    Jun 30, 2009 @ 20:03:14

    I expect I will really enjoy this book and I’m looking forward to reading it. I thought “Your Scandalous Ways” was okay but I didn’t think it was an A – closer to a C+ or B- for me I think. I much preferred the Carsington series. I didn’t really “bond” with the characters in YSW, but from the review above, I don’t think that will be a problem with this book. I do love a tortured hero.

    Like you, no doubt, I will question how she gets over her captivity so quickly and will wish that was better explored but I’m still expecting this one will be a winner for me.

    Thanks for the review.

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  9. Pearl
    Jun 30, 2009 @ 22:29:48

    Even the good reviews of this book haven’t inspired me to buy it. It sounds so typical. I mean, a tortured hero who wallows away in his own pathetic misery instead of doing something useful and the feisty innocent whose love saves him? Been there, done that.

    I think I’ll get it used if I do get it.

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  10. Anita Chax
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 00:45:12

    ooh great review, janet!

    @ Chrissy and Kaetrin… my response to Chase has swung madly both ways. I loved Your Scandalous Ways and Lord of Scoundrels (they’re among my all-time faves) but haven’t been able to finish a couple of other books of hers. I’ve even forgotten their names. I suppose it is one of the carsingtons. Just out of curiosity, which writer/book is at the head of your list of favourites?

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  11. BethanyA
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 07:13:46

    For me, Your Scandalous Ways bombed before it began because of the courtesan heroine. I stay far away from those heroines, and only gave this one a chance because it was a Loretta Chase. Same thing with widow books. Maybe because I’m unmarried and 25, I don’t know, I just can never relate.

    I also thought Venice, while fresh and interesting, was too confusing of a setting. I think they were suppose to be doing it in a bell tower with guards at one point and I was never there. Because of the reviews, I bought YSW, but I’m afraid Don’t Tempt Me will be a library loan.

    Lastly, LoS doesn’t hit you until the second read. You can’t pick it up and say, “I’m about to read the best book ever written.” You’ll be disappointed, like I was. You have to be sneaky about it and pick it up when you are bored. Then it hits you like a coconut.

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  12. Viv
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 08:12:04

    This was a well-done review and hit the points that concerned me, even if I did enjoy this book much more than Janet (disclaimer: I haven’t liked Chase’s last too books much. Read them, thought they were ok, forgot them.)

    The difference between Marchmont’s trauma and Zoe’s is that he’s lost everyone he’s loved and she’s been lost to those who’ve loved her. Despite her trauma, she has hope that she can get back to her love ones (not that they’ll rescue her, because that puts them in danger, but that she can rescue herself), and it makes her persevere. They still exist for her. In contrast, Marchmont’s lost his hope because the dead/lost can’t come back (or so he thinks). I thought that was a nice juxtaposition.

    I would have more issues with the lack of exploration of Zoe’s trauma if she were less self-aware. It’s not so much that she’s told to ignore the trauma, it’s that she’s so self-possessed – she learned incredible patience, to wait for her moments. With the timing of the book, with her just escaped and then the relationship, I think when she started to feel safe/settled, she’d share more, and you do see that open up towards the end of the story (as a result, the reader does tend to only get very surface glimpses of the harem life and what it was like, so I could see that being an issue for some). Ultimately, I decided if sometimes a hero can be incredibly tough despite horrible experiences, why not a heroine? (There was a recent real-life example of a kidnapped teenager rescued after years of abuse who stuns me with his poise.)

    In the end what makes it work for me is I can’t see them with another character. For him, only her return could restore his faith, so it’s less of a “good woman saves traumatized hero” for me. And through him, she’s able to regain the life that she envisioned for herself and used as a goal to escape.

    I guess I should also mention I found them adorable. That made me forgive a lot!

    Looking forward to seeing what Peregrine and Olivia are up to next.

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  13. maered
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 10:25:12

    Oh, here we go again with the all Easterners or foreigners are evil. They covet innocent, white girls and will do anything in their evil power to get them. And then abuse them. *rolls eyes* Sorry but I can do without reading this.

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  14. MB
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 12:13:56

    As to why many readers didn’t like the last? My opinion: I didn’t like “Your Scandalous Ways” first, because I find courtesans (women selling their bodies and services for money or favors) to be distinctly unromantic. Second, it was a charming book, while reading, but there was no depth to it. For me, it was like eating cotton candy. Lots of sparkling repartee but the characters themselves were forgettable. And the plot and villain were just silly. I have no desire to re-read it, so that makes it a C+ book for me.

    On the other hand, many of Loretta Chase’s books are superb and ‘keepers’, and “Lord of Scoundrels” is a masterpiece for me because of the humor and wit and the push and pull between the equally strong characters. Jessica and Dain are imbedded in my memory like Georgette Heyer’s characters. I re-read it a lot.

    This book sounds great, (thanks Janet for the review!), and I am looking forward to reading it. I may actually go out and buy it because my local library’s funding has been cut so drastically that their purchase of the new books has been radically curtailed. :-( …Since Chase has a pretty good track record for me, in spite of YSW’s, I think I’m going to buy it ‘sight unread’ which I rarely do.

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  15. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 12:48:24

    As to why many readers didn't like the last? My opinion: I didn't like “Your Scandalous Ways” first, because I find courtesans (women selling their bodies and services for money or favors) to be distinctly unromantic.

    Maybe it’s because I have a serious thing for second chance plots, but I really adore books with a well-done courtesan heroine. Seeing a woman who's had to make that profound a choice find her HEA is far more satisfying to me than reading about yet another virgin widow or feisty ingénue . . .

    Historically speaking, a woman who found herself in desperate straights didn't really have all that many options. It's not like today where she could go back to school, get welfare, start her own business, etc. “Mistress” was a very viable and lucrative option (sometimes it may have been just about the only option). If you read the accounts of some of the more famous courtesans, how they ended up “in the trade” was usually one horror story of victimization after another: rapes, abductions, failed elopements, abandonment by their husbands. I have a lot of respect for the ones who picked themselves up and found a way to survive (certainly more than the ones who threw themselves into the Thames or let themselves be turned into the family drudge).

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  16. BethanyA
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 13:36:18

    Maybe it's because I have a serious thing for second chance plots

    I must be in the minority big time. I dropped Liz Carlyle–whom I’ve loved since my days interning at Pocket–because she did a second chance plot with an Italian heroine in her One Little Sin trilogy. I think I passed on the latest Anne Gracie because the heroine had a kid.

    Again, I chalk it up to my age and inexperience. I love a good first-time romance, I guess, because that’s what I want myself!

    I did some honest soul searching and here’s a list I made of plots/characterizations I like. I wonder if this would represent the 20s demographic or maybe I’m an oddity. (I’m probably an oddity.)

    Bad:
    mistresses
    courtesans
    heroine with kids (exception:Anita Mills’ The Duke’s Double)
    foreign heroine
    second-chance love

    Good:

    best friend’s brother
    childhood friends reuinited
    makeover plot
    hero with kids (acceptable, not preferable)

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  17. GrowlyCub
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 13:51:13

    The fact that the heroine of ‘Your Scandalous Ways’ was a courtesan didn’t bother me one bit. Some of my absolute favorites deal with the theme of reluctant prostitution (Balogh’s ‘The Secret Pearl’ and ‘A Precious Jewel’, Campbell’s ‘Tempt the Devil’).

    I just thought the story and characters were totally forgettable. I really liked the analogy of cotton candy. Fun while it lasts, but then it’s gone.

    I find that fact pretty baffling because LoS is such a deep story with so many layers and besides ‘The Mad Earl’s Bride’ I have not seen Chase recapture that magic and I really wish she would! And TMEB really suffered from being a novella. I’ve re-read it recently and again felt it should have been a full-length novel.

    I’ve read a couple of the Carsington books and thought they were no more than okay. ‘The Last Hellion’ repels me because it feels like slapstick taken to the extreme and the characters read more like cartoon caricatures of themselves than ‘real’ people.

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  18. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 14:00:58

    I did some honest soul searching and here's a list I made of plots/characterizations I like. I wonder if this would represent the 20s demographic or maybe I'm an oddity. (I'm probably an oddity.)

    Bad:
    mistresses
    courtesans
    heroine with kids (exception: Anita Mills' The Duke's Double)
    foreign heroine
    second-chance love

    Good:
    best friend's brother
    childhood friends reunited
    makeover plot
    hero with kids (acceptable, not preferable)

    ROFLOL! For me you could pretty much reverse the lists and be almost spot on (with the exception of the kids thing, I'll mostly leave that under “bad”). I’m not sure it’s an age thing (as I felt the same way in my not too long ago 20s). It’s simply a preference. Nothing wrong with that. We all come to the books with our own back-story that informs and shapes our responses. For example, I loved Chase’s courtesan book, but I’ll likely skip this one because the whole harem virgin (I'm innocent, but I know a lot, let me show you) thing sets my teeth on edge.

    Clearly I’ll advise you not to read my books (unless you up and decide you like experienced heroines and second chance stories *wink*).

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  19. GrowlyCub
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 14:06:36

    @BethanyA:

    I don’t think it’s an age thing. I’ve always loves Second Chance at Love stories. Paula Detmer Riggs’ whole oeuvre is about that theme pretty much and she’s one of my all time favorite authors. I’m in my late 30s now and babies and kids are no more fun now than they were in my 20s and teens (I’m childless by choice, so that may not be typical). That last will make people who have read PDR laugh out loud because she wrote SIMs and her books are full of babies. I didn’t claim to be making sense, he he or to be consistent. :)

    I’d agree on all your goods and move mistresses/courtesans and SCAL into that column, too.

    ETA: I need to read more carefully. I would definitely move ‘makeover’ to the Bad column.

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  20. Moth
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 14:18:48

    Maybe because I'm unmarried and 25, I don't know, I just can never relate.

    I wonder if this would represent the 20s demographic or maybe I'm an oddity. (I'm probably an oddity.)

    @BethanyA
    I’m unmarried and in my 20s too, and I have no difficulty relating to heroines that have different lifestyles, are older/younger, less experianced/more than I am. I don’t really worry about that. (The only heroines I can’t relate to are doormats/TSTL). The things you mention as “bads” do not factor in for me if they’re done well.

    I won’t say you’re an oddity, but I will say as a fellow 20 something that I love a lot of the stuff you term “bad”. So you’re probably not the rule either.

    Different strokes, different folks. :)

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  21. Janine
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 14:40:12

    Different strokes, different folks. :)

    Absolutely. Though there may be an age factor as well, because I remember that up until age 22 or so, I too preferred virginal heroines and didn’t care for it when the hero or heroine had kids from a previous relationship. I think the thought that that child’s other parent would always be a factor in the hero or heroine’s life got in the way of the fantasy I was looking for at that time.

    These preferences changed in a big way for me though after my first serious relationship ended! I started loving second chance at love stories and enjoy experienced heroines very much. I love a little cynicism in a character — it makes their happy ending that much more satisfying.

    As an aside, am I the only one who loved Carsington book #4 (Not Quite a Lady)? I enjoyed the whole series but that one is probably my favorite. I like it far better than Lord of Scoundrels (which I also enjoyed, but to a lesser degree).

    In fact, I find the books Chase has written since she took that long hiatus from the romance genre much more engaging than what I’ve read of her older books.

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  22. Moth
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 14:49:38

    As an aside, am I the only one who loved Carsington book #4 (Not Quite a Lady)?

    I couldn’t get through that one myself. I find I don’t like Chase as much when the angst level is so high. And secret babies are one of my pet peeves. And Darius (?) the hero irritated me.

    Of course, all the Carsington brothers are thrown into the shade by Rupert in my opinion. :D

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  23. BethanyA
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 14:58:57

    Ohh…I forgot to mention settings in my good/bad column. I read the post just underneath this review and it made me think a lot about what I said about YSW’s Venice setting. I said that Venice is confusing and I know Venice! I lived in Italy for a summer. Connie Brockway’s Egyptian As You Desire is in my top five. I love Mr. Impossible. I suppose an exotic locale, to catch my fancy, needs to be integral to the plot to work. For me, Venice seemed wasted in YSW.

    For historicals:

    Good
    Canada (Anne of Green Gables, c’mon!)
    American frontier (Jude Deveraux, Laverle Spencer)
    Colonial America
    19th and turn-of-the-century America
    Egypt
    Britain (Medieval, Georgian, Regency, Victorian, early 20th)
    Sweet-ass islands like Capri
    Places with antiquities

    Meh
    India
    Scotland
    Ireland

    Bad
    France (only as a setting for historical romance)
    New Orleans
    Africa
    Turkey
    Caribbean

    Ms. Hughes, I’ll go find them all in 10 years, I promise! You will get a nice surprise in your royalties check!

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  24. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 15:26:26

    @BethanyA: You’re cracking me up.

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  25. MB
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 16:33:34

    I think maybe I need to clarify my post in #14 above. Kalen, I wasn’t trying to insult courtesans or strong women.

    My numbering was due to the order that my thoughts arrived. But #2 for me is actually the most important reason. “Your Scandalous Ways” was not a re-read for me for the reasons I listed.

    Strong women who overcome hardships, whether courtesans or not, are usually interesting characters. For instance, I found Balogh’s books to be stronger/more memorable and have re-read them.

    YSW just didn’t work for me.

    And, again, I love many other of her books!

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  26. Pearl
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 16:55:18

    As a twenty something, I can say that BethanyA’s list does NOT represent what I or my twenty something friends want in a romance. We love ‘foreign heroines’ and we love many other things on her ‘bad’ list and would like to see more of them in romances. There is nothing wrong with some uniqueness in romance to me and that probably goes for all ages.

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  27. Brenna
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 18:36:52

    I would have more issues with the lack of exploration of Zoe's trauma if she were less self-aware. It's not so much that she's told to ignore the trauma, it's that she's so self-possessed – she learned incredible patience, to wait for her moments.

    Agree. She’s had 10 years to live in the harem and that’s a long time. You either let it break you, end up whining, pathetic and a bag of nerves or you learn to cope and triumph over it. So she chose the latter and at the same time learned to have patience, one of the things she lacked. And judging from what she has been described in the past, she is one spunky determined girl. It would have been nicer if it had been explored a bit but I can take it as it is.

    I found the first half of the book simply delightful. The other half, after they were married, just okay. Too much expectations I guess, expecting another LoS, Knaves Wager or Lord Perfect. I would give this book a B+.

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  28. Moth
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 23:04:04

    As a twenty something, I can say that BethanyA's list does NOT represent what I or my twenty something friends want in a romance. We love ‘foreign heroines' and we love many other things on her ‘bad' list and would like to see more of them in romances. There is nothing wrong with some uniqueness in romance to me and that probably goes for all ages.

    Amen. Sing it, sister!

    ;)

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  29. Robin
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 23:35:04

    @Moth: SPOILER for Not Quite A Lady to follow:

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    It was the way her son showed up, again, completely self-possessed and psychologically untraumatized, allowing everything to wrap up oh so easily.

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  30. Robin
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 23:43:49

    @maered: Actually, the person who was really the initial bad guy in the book was the Lexham’s maid, who took a bribe to allow the girl to be stolen and sold, and I think she was English.

    Regarding Chase’s use of Middle Eastern characters, though, if anything, I think she’s harder on the Europeans, more willing to show them as harsh and unlikeable. IMO she shows a real affection for her Middle Eastern characters, if not a great deal of dimension (although truly, not many of her secondary characters are endowed with a lot of dimension, IMO). I found, frankly, Chase’s portrayal of Zoe’s very English sisters to be much more problematic, and I had a difficult time, at points, distinguishing Marchmont’s misogyny from a general caricaturing of the women as obnoxious, hysterical ninnies and shrews.

    It may be, in fact, that one of the reasons Chase softened Zoe’s life in the harem was to avoid being hammered for demonizing or Orientalizing her M.E. characters, although that created a different form of stereotyping, IMO.

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  31. Robin
    Jul 01, 2009 @ 23:53:35

    @Viv: When I was writing the review, I was thinking a lot about the issue of loss as it impacted Zoe and Marchmont, and I agree with you about the way Zoe and Marchmont fit together because of the complementary nature of their losses.

    But I also felt that being in captivity would have much more of an impact on her than Chase allows. I have spent a great deal of time studying captivity, though, so I brought that to the text and could never shake it totally, especially in concert with the virginity, the sexualization, the widowhood, etc. It became so clearly a device for me that as much as I liked Zoe, as much as I enjoyed reading her, I didn’t believe in her, and that was a disappointment for me.

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  32. Robin
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 00:05:54

    As for the discussion regarding heroine types and relationship situations, I remember a discussion on AAR regarding the virgin heroine, and Sabrina Jeffries, I think, suggested that many readers prefer a virgin heroine if they (the readers) have had disappointing first time sexual experiences that they can experience differently through the perfection of the heroine’s first time. It’s not my thing, but I think it cuts across the generational divide that some might suggest in regard to the virgin/spinster/courtesan type heroine.

    Also a note about the virgin widow aspect of the story. In one sense I was extremely impressed that Chase could create such a charming heroine who embodied so many of the elements that in other books have set my teeth on edge. And I think in large part that had to do with the fact that I felt not a hint of the virtue = virgin equation that has accompanied too many virgin heroines and virgin widow heroines in the genre for my taste. Without that moralizing, it didn’t bother me that Zoe technically conformed to some of the most traditional genre conventions. Honestly, what frustrated me more was the borrowing (well, what I saw as borrowing) from the Carsington books. There’s a subplot in DTM that is only minimally adapted from Miss Wonderful, for example. Still, when you look at the general quality of Chase books, even a disappointment is a better than average read.

    BTW, I have not yet been able to make it through Lord of Scoundrels. Maybe it takes more than two attempts? Someday, perhaps . . .

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  33. Brenna
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 01:48:04

    Honestly, what frustrated me more was the borrowing (well, what I saw as borrowing) from the Carsington books. There's a subplot in DTM that is only minimally adapted from Miss Wonderful, for example.

    Robin, until you pointed it out, I have been puzzling about what you meant. I take it you are referring to the Caleb Finch incident. It does have some similarities. Maybe that’s the reason why I felt that part of the book was not as good as the first half.

    Regarding Chase's use of Middle Eastern characters, though, if anything, I think she's harder on the Europeans, more willing to show them as harsh and unlikeable.

    At an interview at Book Smugglers, Chase did say that she “thought about how English Society would react to a Harem Girl, and immediately saw the comic potential.”

    About her being a virgin, yes she is a virgin in that her hymen is intact. Aside from that, she is not a virgin in other ways and there’s nothing really coy about her and her attitude towards sex. I found that quite refreshing.

    Honestly? The exerpts above have my gag reflex working and they're examples people LIKED???

    LOL, Chrissy, you must dislike Chase’s writing so much to have your gag reflex working overtime even if it is just an excerpt. I wonder why. I too am curious about what type of books/writer you like.

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  34. Viv
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 08:12:09

    Robin, I agree with you to a large extent regarding the lack obvious trauma to Zoe.
    Given the short-time frame of the story, I was able to accept the portrayal. With the character being so goal-driven, with Zoe’s focus on escape, and then freedom (interpreted by her as England, and then acceptance in Society) for me she’s still in survival mode. I expect that she could have/develop PSTD, in which case that would appear later. In contrast, Marchmont has had years of safety in which to fixate on his trauma.

    I didn’t have the same problems with the second half, but maybe it’s because the reviews warned me and Miss Wonderful is a distant memory to me! I seem to be alone in ranking Lord Perfect as my favorite Carsington. That can also explain why I like Don’t Tempt Me and Marchmont so much. At heart, damaged stoics.

    I have the same problem with LoS that others have expressed with DTM – I loved the first half, but my interest wained in the second half as I didn’t welcome the demon spawn. It was a logical outcome of Dain’s behavior, but it pulled me out of the story.

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  35. Robin
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 10:25:42

    @Viv: So are you telling me that you didn’t see Zoe as an older version of Olivia from Lord Perfect — once her mother’s admonitions had come to pass and she got herself into real trouble? ;)

    @Brenna: The interesting thing about the comment from Chase is how — for me, at least — the book didn’t really have a lot of folks reacting to Zoe’s return, at least not first hand. And when the royals do, it’s quite touching. Now I did want to quote Marchmont’s Aunt Sophronia, because she definitely embodied the “comic potential” of society’s reactions to a girl returning from the harem (I loved it when she called Zoe “the snake charmer,” especially for the double entendre). But I could only fit so much in the review, lol.

    Anyway, I think it’s really tough to balance comedy with tragedy in a way that allows for the legitimacy of both. Chase missed for me in DTM and NQAL, perhaps because the tragedy parts were not, you know, all that funny in and of themselves.

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  36. Janine
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 10:54:38

    @Moth: SPOILER for Not Quite A Lady to follow:

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    .
    .
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    ..
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    It was the way her son showed up, again, completely self-possessed and psychologically untraumatized, allowing everything to wrap up oh so easily.

    I didn’t feel that Pip was untraumatized, just that he was keeping his traumas inside at the moment because he was so new to this set of parents. It takes some kids a while to open up.

    Friends of mine adopted a seven year old boy. Before the adoption, there were several months in which they were his foster parents. It wasn’t until after the adoption was finalized that he started to show signs of what he had been through in the years he’d lived in an institution for children in his situation (abused and then abandoned by his biological parents, and raised in an institution for at least a couple of years). He also didn’t misbehave during the time leading up to the adoption. He was afraid my friends wouldn’t adopt him if he did.

    I felt that Pip in Not Quite a Lady was also afraid to believe his situation would last. He kept saying he didn’t really believe Charlotte was his mother, but that he wouldn’t try to dissuade her. It was only toward the end of the book that he opened up a bit and asked her why she’d given him away. So I felt that as time went on, he would open up more about his more difficult experiences.

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  37. Moth
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 11:15:59

    @Robin

    BTW, I have not yet been able to make it through Lord of Scoundrels. Maybe it takes more than two attempts? Someday, perhaps . . .

    See, I really, really love the first half of Lord of Scoundrels. Did you make it to the part where
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    minor spoiler
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    Jess shoots him? I LOVE that part! The red dress? Perfect!

    But LoS really loses momentum, I feel, once they get married. It’s like Jess becomes a different person. I also had a problem with Dain because I think Chase went a little overboard with all the “beaky nose” references. I ended up unwillingly picturing a buffer, slightly hunkier Severus Snape (from Harry Potter). And that just didn’t work for me.

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  38. Viv
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 11:18:39

    @Viv: So are you telling me that you didn't see Zoe as an older version of Olivia from Lord Perfect -’ once her mother's admonitions had come to pass and she got herself into real trouble? ;)

    LOL, Robin. I suspect that if Olivia were to be sold to that harem, she’d somehow connive the Pasha into thinking he needed to marry her instead of wedding her to his sickly son, convince the Pasha before said wedding that he really didn’t want her, and in fact, should send her back with apologies and two chests full of jewels, which he would then do, gratefully. The End. ;-)

    What did cross my mind was the timing of doing two childhood connected pairs back to back. But since I love that kind of story done right, I don’t mind.

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  39. Randi
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 11:19:27

    This is the first Chase book that I wasn’t totally satisfied with after reading. I thought it was fine, but usually I read a Chase and I’m “OMG, that was SO AWESOME! I can’t wait to read it again!” This one, not. I just shrugged my shoulders and thought, “huh”. I think there were a few things that just didn’t do it for me:

    OOOOOOOOOOO-SPOILER ALERTS!!!

    1: the minute it became clear that Zoe was a virgin-I rolled my eyes. Did Chase do an interesting play on that trope: sure. But still…I wasn’t buying it.

    2. Marchmont was just so physically beatiful in every way. He’s witty. He’s smart. He’s strong. He’s a duke. Everybody likes him. Everybody wants to be him. Boring. While I understood his “my whole family left me” angst, it wasn’t very original angst.

    3. I never really got a solid picture of Zoe in my head. She seemed very amorphous to me, the whole time. Which was very distracting. She seemed very “adult” in her understanding of human nature and sexuality, yet, her conversation came off as being very “child-like”. This juxtaposition could be a language barrier problem (Arabic vs English), but Zoe didn’t really talk all that much. And since she didn’t speak a lot, rather we are told more than shown, that language barrier shouldn’t have been an issue. And actually, now that I wrote that sentance, maybe that’s my underlying issue with Zoe-we’re TOLD rather than SHOWN.

    So-that’s my 2 cents. Liked it. Didn’t love it.

    @Growleycub: I totally agree with you about TMEB. I loved it, loved it, loved it. How much more awesome it would be as a full lenth novel!?

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  40. GrowlyCub
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 11:27:52

    I think the problem with Chase is for me that she’s trying to serve two masters. Serious tragic angst stuff and comedy and it just cannot be done as far as I’m concerned. Or maybe she managed to once in LoS and then never found that balance again. But then the ‘funny’ events in LoS don’t feel like they were supposed to be funny, whereas in a number of the later books (‘The Last Hellion’, God, how I *hate* that book, and the couple of Carsingtons I read) the ‘funny’ felt forced, ‘caricarturistic’ and inappropriate to me. Like she went, ‘hmmm, this is very angsty, better throw in some comic relief’.

    It doesn’t help that I don’t do ‘funny’ and avoid it like the plague, which doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy laughing out loud, but ‘funny’ only works in very limited circumstances for me.

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  41. Janine
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 11:37:22

    Anyway, I think it's really tough to balance comedy with tragedy in a way that allows for the legitimacy of both. Chase missed for me in DTM and NQAL, perhaps because the tragedy parts were not, you know, all that funny in and of themselves.

    I agree that it’s difficult to balance humor and tragedy. I felt somewhat that way about Miss Wonderful (which I did love anyhow) — Alistair’s PTSD felt a bit lighter and more glossed over than was perfectly realistic. And I remember that a friend of mine said that she felt that the societal ramifications of James’s marriage to a courtesan were glossed over in Your Scandalous Ways, where social acceptance was won pretty easily in the end, just in time for the book to wrap up. I think the trickiness in balancing of light and dark is a factor in many of Chase’s books.

    I wonder if I might like this book better than you did, since I loved Not Quite a Lady. I think I actually felt that the tragedy was given a lot of weight in NQAL — Charlotte’s sorrow was very close to the surface. I cried a lot while reading that book, and it’s the only Chase that has had that effect on me. It also sounds like Viv’s interpretation of the reasons why Zoe’s trauma didn’t fully present itself is similar to my own interpretation of why Pip’s trauma didn’t fully present itself. Chase’s books do take place over a very short time frame, and there are also the constraints of wordcount that authors face. If an author hints that the trauma may show itself in the future, it can sometimes be enough for me.

    I feel this issue of the imperfect balance of serious subject matter and humor has come up in Lord of Scoundrels, Miss Wonderful, Not Quite a Lady, and Your Scandalous Ways, and yet I enjoyed those books a whole lot (I would give LOS a B/B+, MW a B+/A-, NQAL an A- and YSW a B+/A-).

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  42. Moth
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 13:20:28

    @Janine

    And I remember that a friend of mine said that she felt that the societal ramifications of James's marriage to a courtesan were glossed over in Your Scandalous Ways, where social acceptance was won pretty easily in the end, just in time for the book to wrap up.

    This was my one big problem with YSW. The super mega happy ending felt really tacked on and unnecessary. Why couldn’t they just hang out and be happy in Venice? Did we really need the titles and the land and all that?

    I think a lot of romances have this problem: where it’s not enough to have the protags happy and healthy and together at the end. The author needs to solve EVERY problem they might possibly EVER have and set them up to crazy levels of prosperity and social influence. Even if the characters were fine with their outcast state or whatever for the whole rest of the book, they can’t STAY that way. Society has to accept them.

    This is probably akin to the magical healing properties of a hero’s sperm that cures infertility.

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  43. Janine
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 13:47:09

    I think a lot of romances have this problem: where it's not enough to have the protags happy and healthy and together at the end. The author needs to solve EVERY problem they might possibly EVER have and set them up to crazy levels of prosperity and social influence. Even if the characters were fine with their outcast state or whatever for the whole rest of the book, they can't STAY that way. Society has to accept them.

    I agree with you; it’s a problem for me as well. But on the other hand there are reactions like Jayne’s to NQAL in her review:

    Even if Charlotte and Darius don't give a rat's ass about public opinion, hate Society, have no wish to do the “ton” things, think of children. They will be raised as gentlemen and honorable misses and will need to be schooled, trained and live in this world. Think of future connections and marriages.

    And SB Sarah said something similar in her review of Anna Campbell’s Claiming the Courtesan:

    I can't see a happy ending, and there's really no way to achieve one unless they leave the country and pursue anonymity in every regard. Otherwise, the both of them are too infamous and too likely to be subjected to total ostracization for there to be a hint of permanent happiness for them, let alone their offspring.

    I’m not sure if I’m like most readers in this regard, but personally I just don’t care if the hero and heroine’s offspring are happy. It’s enough for me that the hero and heroine are happy. For all we know, they may not even have children (or in the case of NQAL, more children).

    This is probably akin to the magical healing properties of a hero's sperm that cures infertility.

    Don’t get me started on that! It’s one of my least favorite tropes in the genre.

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  44. FD
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 14:07:28

    I have to be able to envision a probable HEA for a romance to really work for me. I’m finding more and more, (maybe it’s a byproduct of MY increasing age and cynicism?) the the short time frames of a lot of romances are hindering this. I can see that I’ll likely have issues with this one due to the time frame and things left out.

    Re the children being an issue with Your Scandalous Ways There’s only so much authorly hand-waving I can accept, and the whole point of a Regency is that it’s a Regency. Play within the rules, or don’t play at all. These things are do-able, but I’d like to see them done realistically, please.
    On that line, one of my favourite old Masquerade Historicals is by Paula Marshall – An Unexpected Passion which is a ‘faction’ and deals with the Devonshire House set. Jiminy cricket – the things they got up to! And yet, they played within the ‘rules’ for their time. I’d like to see more authors take on some of the truly remarkable set-ups that really happened.

    This is probably akin to the magical healing properties of a hero's sperm that cures infertility.

    *cough*Robyn Carr?*cough*

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  45. GrowlyCub
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 14:29:32

    @FD:

    I love the story of ‘An Unexpected Passion’ because it’s a true HEA after a very inauspicious start. It really happened! I thought the Marshall book had some writing issues, but I’m just tickled pink to think that there really are forever after historical HEAs.

    I read it in 93 when I lived in Stirling, Scotland and I saw a picture of Harryo when I visited one of the palaces on the Scottish coast, but I had forgotten both title and author. The Smart Bitches found it for me about a year ago and one very kind lady sent me a copy of it from the UK.

    I’ve since read some of the letters Harryo and Granville wrote and it’s clear from them that they were very happy together and if anybody knows differently, please don’t tell me! :)

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  46. GrowlyCub
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 15:41:43

    Testing. One two three…

    ETA: Weird, my last comment in reply to FD is ‘awaiting moderation’. That’s different! BAD GrowlyCub… I guess :)

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  47. Janine
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 15:51:48

    I liberated your comment from the spam filter, Growly.

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  48. GrowlyCub
    Jul 02, 2009 @ 16:07:06

    Thanks, Janine. Have you guys changed the software?

    It used to be the spam filter meant a post just didn’t show up. This time I could see my comment and it had the ‘awaiting moderation’ comment on it. Naturally, my insecure poor little self went ‘oh, noes, what’d I *do*, I’m moderated!??’ wail… smile

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  49. Janine
    Jul 03, 2009 @ 13:13:08

    We still use WordPress, but we’ve upgraded to newer versions at least a couple of times.

    Don’t be afraid to speak up if your comments await moderation in the future. That goes for all posters here. Hopefully one of us Ja(y)nes will see the post and fish the comment out.

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  50. Moth
    Jul 07, 2009 @ 10:04:51

    Damn. I had a comment all typed up and the computer ate it… Argh.

    Ok. Redo.

    Finally bought this (a rarity for me) last Friday and I read it all in one sitting. I really enjoyed the book, even though it’s not as good as Mr. Impossible or YSW. I loved the humor in this.

    The heroine reminded me a bit of Leonie from These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer at times. Her temper. Her innocent spirit contrasted with her worldliness. And These Old Shades is one of my favorite books ever, so this comparison definitely worked in Zoe’s favor for me!

    I thought the thing with Harrison at the end was unnecessary, though. It felt tacked on. For me, the book could really have ended with their marriage.

    p.s. I loved the mention of Zoe dancing with 3 of Lord Hargate’s 5 sons. I hope for her sake Rupert was one of them, just because I think everyone must love Rupert. :)

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  51. GrowlyCub
    Jul 07, 2009 @ 10:31:39

    @Moth:

    Interesting point of view. I think I disagree. I don’t think their marriage would have made a satisfying ending to the book. While I agree that in general these suspense subplots are superfluous I felt in this case, Zoe’s being threatened was an important bit to help Lucien realize how important she was to him and also to allow Zoe to realize how deeply into himself Lucien had retreated and why.

    The only thing that felt off to me was that he said ‘everybody he loved’ had got killed, because I would have thought he didn’t just feel grateful to Lexham, but also loved him.

    I liked this one *much* better than YSW.

    ETA: I’d give it a B+ at least and I agree with whomever said that Zoe’s PTSD will show up later after their life settles down a bit and the adrenaline wears off. After all book from start to finish covered, what, 8 weeks?

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  52. Moth
    Jul 07, 2009 @ 14:16:43

    @Growlycub
    Feel free to disagree, but for me the Harrison thing was just not integrated seamlessly into the book. I felt like the emotional arc was satisfactorily resolved by the time they married. Probably a little more polish would have been needed if that HAD been the end of the book, but on the whole I thought they were where they needed to be. And then the Harrison thing came along, and it felt like a totally unnecessary “suspense” plot in a book where the rest of the conflict had come from their relationship.

    And…
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    p
    o
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    r
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    …maybe I’m just a bloodthirsty biotch, but I really think Harrison should have been hanged. The man was unhinged. Transportation just wouldn’t have been enough to make me feel safe at night. At the very least he probably offed the poor housekeeper as soon as they got on the ship.

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  53. vanessa jaye
    Jul 08, 2009 @ 07:26:23

    I just finished this book last night, and I loved it! Definitely a keeper, but that’s not to say it was a perfect read.

    I loved the humour, and bantering between Zoe and Lucian. I felt that Lucian was flawed enough that his ‘perfection’ didn’t seem ridiculous. Zoe, in retrospect, seems a bit contrary a character–that is some parts of her (re how she was written) didn’t quite jive with other parts, but I still found her engaging and loved her determination and practicality. As for secondary characters on Zoe’s side, only her father felt ‘real’ to me. All the sisters melded into one and the brothers were pretty non-existent.

    I also agree with everyone else that the story was pretty much over once they married.

    I didn’t think too much about Zoe remaining a virgin in the harem, it worked given her previous husband’s dysfunction. But….I couldn’t help remembering all those Beatrice Small books I read in the past and wondered why some of those infamouse carved ivory dildoes weren’t put to use to rid Zoe of her pesky hymen and “stretch” her (maybe with the aid of a jar of Catherin Coulter’s ‘creme’. lol.)

    In the end those, I just really loved Zoe and Lucian, loved their interactions and believe in their HEA.

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  54. votermom
    Jul 09, 2009 @ 15:36:42

    I just read this and enjoyed it very much.
    I like Zoe’s character a lot. I think how Zoe behaves is consistent with abuse survivors (I think being a prisoner in a harem from age 12 is similar to being in the power of a very controlling parent or spouse). As someone said upthread, she is still in survival mode. She learned to bend, not to make waves, to ingratiate herself to the one in power, as well as to grab hold of what power she can.

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  55. joanne
    Jul 10, 2009 @ 06:46:03

    @Robin
    I still wasn’t sure this widowed-virgin thing was going to work for me but I wanted to tell you that the story itself did indeed work for me and thank you for the review that made the book interesting enough to buy.

    It was a sweet and humerous historical romance and the perfect way to end a crappola work week. I love it when a hero and heroine ‘get’ each other and save each other from a dull future. I love it when I like a hero and heroine and indeed these two characters where very likeable.

    Happy Friday!

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  56. Sarah Frantz
    Jul 11, 2009 @ 09:00:22

    Just finished this book. Inhaled it in 36 hours and it’s the first m/f non-BDSM romance I’ve read in probably more than a year. Loved it. Unreservedly. Yes, it had issues and the two halves of the book seem a little disconnected at times. But I’m a sucker for a book about a hero and the theme of this one is about the reclamation of the hero to love, to life, and to his duties, and it was just perfect. For me. :)

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  57. Short Review: Don’t Tempt Me by Loretta Chase « Tour’s Books Blog
    Jul 17, 2009 @ 10:14:04

    [...] Author did a superb summary of the thin plot of Don’t Tempt Me that can be read here.  Zoe and Lucien were interesting characters, but shallow compared with the bulk of Chase’s [...]

  58. Jayne
    Sep 19, 2009 @ 09:22:43

    After a long delay in trying this book (the whole “virgin from a harem” thing put me off), I just closed it halfway through and have my doubts I’ll ever do more than skim the end at some future time. Bored, bored, bored

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  59. Janine
    Sep 19, 2009 @ 09:40:45

    Just finished this book. Inhaled it in 36 hours and it's the first m/f non-BDSM romance I've read in probably more than a year. Loved it. Unreservedly. Yes, it had issues and the two halves of the book seem a little disconnected at times. But I'm a sucker for a book about a hero and the theme of this one is about the reclamation of the hero to love, to life, and to his duties, and it was just perfect. For me. :)

    I felt a lot like Joan/Sarah did (except for the part about not reading m/f non-BDSM — that’s mostly what I read). This was not a perfect book but I thought it was hilarious, and that Lucien’s arc was wonderful. The last two sentences of Sarah’s post sum it up for me too.

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  60. Janine
    Sep 19, 2009 @ 09:49:34

    Just to add — if the humor had been less funny, I might be more persuaded about Robin’s points. But since for me it’s the funniest of al the Chase books I’ve read, it’s hard for me to view the choices Chase made — even when they made Zoe’s character less than fully realistic — as flaws.

    Anyway, I think it's really tough to balance comedy with tragedy in a way that allows for the legitimacy of both. Chase missed for me in DTM and NQAL, perhaps because the tragedy parts were not, you know, all that funny in and of themselves.

    It is interesting but now that I’ve read DTM, it is up there with NQAL vying for the title of my favorite Chase. I agree that it is tough to balance comedy with tragedy, but I actually notice that problem more in some of Chase’s lighter books. I think the main reason I found DTM so hilarious was that the humor was all about the tragedy, and that made it more cathartic, a release from Lucien’s pain.

    ReplyReply

  61. Jayne
    Sep 19, 2009 @ 17:33:22

    I did think the Lucien’s initial thoughts about the Lexham sisters were funny. But again, even this got overdone. Did anyone else find it odd that Zoe seemed to be the only Lexham sibling who had this daredevil personality? Up to the point I stopped reading, little mention was made of her brothers but there was no throwaway line such as “like her brothers, Zoe wouldn’t refuse a dare” Or “marriage had settled her sisters but they had been known to [do some outrageous thing] in their youth.” In fact the only reference to her siblings was something about how Lucien was the only one brave enough to go after Zoe on the high pitched roof she had climbed as a child.

    I know that it’s not unheard of for one sibling to differ so much from the others but really, no mention of a similar personality in any of the others?

    I did like to find out that, unlike people in England initially thought, Zoe hadn’t bolted in Cairo. Good to know she had that much common sense.

    ReplyReply

  62. Janine
    Sep 20, 2009 @ 11:06:48

    Yeah, it’s never mentioned and it’s left to the reader to infer that Zoe’s personality is different from that her siblings.

    I did like though that toward the end we saw glimpses of another side to Zoe’s sisters and they were shown to have a bit more dimension than Lucien’s thoughts about them had revealed.

    ReplyReply

  63. Jane Austen Reviews » Blog Archive » Don’t Tempt Me – Loretta Chase
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 05:01:22

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