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REVIEW: Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase

Dear Ms. Chase,

Huzzah! I’m definitely on a roll with you. Last year there was [insert Lady title] and this year it’s “Your Scandalous Ways.” Tired of Regency set books? Tired of English gentleman spies? Well, I would have said so before reading this book. After finishing it…nah, not so much. And a real courtesan heroine? Well, the uncontrived ones are rare as hens teeth and thus I savored this book even more.

I like how the opening scene lets us know what we’re going to get. Some suspense, some humor, some violence, some sex, some ‘oh, the things I do for England.” James Cordier is a spy hero but a vastly cynical and jaded one. I enjoy how he pokes fun at himself and has a realistic grasp on how his superiors view him. He’s useful, he’s intelligent, but he’s ultimately expendable if he gets caught. So…he doesn’t get caught. He does what they want and hopes that soon, he’ll be finished with it all and can return home. I love the sly dig he takes at Regency book conventions when he goes on about what he hopes to go home to: dancing with white dressed virgins at Almacks, riding his pedigreed horses, sitting in his men’s clubs and making silly bets about people on the street. You know, the safe boring things that aristocratic men do in 1820.

Francesca Bonnard would also enjoy the chance to experience the things she loved in her previous life but after the world – or rather the world of the ton – turned on her following her husband’s petition for divorce, she knows it’s impossible. Friends cut her, her father – her only living relative – fled from a swindle he instigated and she was alone in the world. Taking the epitaph her once loved husband screamed at her – whore – she decided if that’s what the world thought her, then that’s what she’d be.

And she’s a damn good one, thank you very much. The most expensive courtesan in Venice, if not all of Italy or Europe. Men vie to claim her favors and drape her with exquisite jewelry. But best of all, she enjoys rubbing her success in her husband’s face via the weekly letters she sends him. He thought she’d fall on her face or die in a gutter but instead she rose like a phoenix. I like that Francesca doesn’t fall into the ‘woe is me’ category. Life slapped her upside the head but she’s come up smelling rosy – or jasminy – and doesn’t regret becoming a courtesan. She’s in control, doesn’t have to chafe under the whims of any men and revels in the freedoms allowed to her. I also like that Francesca’s the real deal and that you don’t pull any punches or resort to the half measures we so often see in romance novels.

This might make me sound shallow but I cheered when Francesca questioned why she should help James and the men trying to prove that her former husband is a traitor. Brava Francesca. What had they, or anyone in England, done for her when she needed help or anyone to stand by her? Sometimes I just get sick of selfless, martyr heroines who can easily put aside the slings and arrows that have been shot at them. So there. Oh, and I loved where she’d hidden the letters!

I think the thing I enjoy the most in the book is that Francesca and James are so well matched. If one wins this encounter then the other will come up trumps the next time. Or the game will be a draw. She drives him crazy, makes him loose control and has him reminding himself not to think with his little head. While James makes Francesca sit up and take notice of him as a person and not just as a silly man she can easily manipulate.

I suppose the fact that it’s been five years and her anger has cooled to some degree, coupled with the fact that she’s finally got the ultimate revenge on her husband accounts for why Francesca capitulates so easily into a second marriage. James has proved the White Knight she was always looking for. I hate to say but I think the happy Care Bear feel of the epilogue where all is forgiven with a few letters and a shiny new title doesn’t fit with the rest of the book. But still, the bulk of the story is wonderful, the characters, even the secondary ones, are compelling and I think you’ve got another winner on your hands. A-

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market at the end of May from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

14 Comments

  1. rebyj
    Jun 03, 2008 @ 17:11:09

    The cover alone is worth buying the book for. That is GORGEOUS!
    Thanks for the review,it’s on my “to buy” list.

  2. Janine
    Jun 03, 2008 @ 18:43:01

    Last year there was [insert Lady title] and this year it's “Your Scandalous Ways.”

    I think you’re thinking of Not Quite a Lady.

    My grade was very close to yours, Jayne. For me Your Scandalous Ways was on the cusp between a B+ and an A-. I loved that Francesca was an unrepentant courtesan and that James, in his role of spy, was just as much of a whore as she was. And that they both knew this, and recognized their commonalities. I loved the Venice setting, the sexiness of the book, and most of James and Francesca’s courtship. I didn’t even mind the epilogue.

    What didn’t work so well for me was how slow the book was to get off the ground. When James kept meeting Francesca in his disguises she wasn’t looking at him as romantic material so I got impatient for the relationship to start during that portion of the book. I also felt that it was unlikely that Francesca would not see through the disguises, and it made her seem a little less intelligent than she ultimately proved to be.

    In addition, it took me a while to warm to James, because initially he seemed to judge Francesca for her profession, and given that his profession wasn’t all that different, it seemed a tad hypocritical. Eventually the painful circumstances of his past were revealed and at that point I understood him and came to like him very much. But I wish that we’d been given more information on his past and sooner.

    The other thing that disappointed me was the revelation about Francesca’s protective older lover Magny. I don’t want to give it away, since it’s a spoiler, but I was a bit disappointed by it. There were also places (especially later in the book) where the humor seemed a bit broad and obvious.

    All in all though, it’s a very good book. I forgot to mentoin earlier that I liked Giulietta and the prince, too, and that the tower scene was one of my favorites. Lovely, charming story.

  3. handyhunter
    Jun 03, 2008 @ 19:12:20

    Speaking of reader hang ups. . . I wanted to like this book more than I did. I mean, I did like most of it (especially going against certain romance genre conventions), but it never quite pinged for me the way I was expecting to, mostly because I really, really dislike the idea of two people in a romantic relationship competing against each other to “win” the other person. It just doesn’t work for me. “You were not a ship to be hijacked.” — that’s what I keep going back to: the realization that it’s not a war or competition, and mutual surrender is the key (Bujold, A Civil Campaign). Even after Francesca and James exchanged ILYs, I still didn’t have much sense of closeness between them; maybe if there’d been more of their relationship after all the games, I would have liked it more.

  4. cecilia
    Jun 03, 2008 @ 20:04:06

    I also really enjoyed it, but wanted to like it more. Everyone above has made observations that have had me nodding – it does take a long time for the relationship to start truly developing, and it doesn’t seem all that developed even after the ILYs, and the ending is a little too tidy.

    All that said, I did enjoy it, but I wish I’d liked as much as Lord of Scoundrels. Is that unfair of me?

  5. Amy
    Jun 03, 2008 @ 21:38:07

    The cover alone is worth buying the book for. That is GORGEOUS!
    Thanks for the review,it's on my “to buy” list.

    I really enjoyed this book as well. That said, the cover art — actually the inside cover art of the male — really bugged me after reading the story. I had this vision of an Italian looking male with black curls as the hair was mentioned several times in the book. Where are the black curls? We get ash brown waves instead — a totally different man.

  6. Lorelie
    Jun 03, 2008 @ 22:00:57

    Speaking of reader hang ups, version 2.0. . .
    I loved this book. Lurved it. (Though I think I might skip the epilogue when I reread. Felt kind of pointless and non-matching, as has been said in many places.) Cordier was delish and Francesca was great. And Chase evokes the flavor of Venice beautifully. I’m telling ya I didn’t have quite such naughty ideas at the Campanile but I now wish I had.

    But every time someone ended up in the canal? I cringed. Among other things, the canals were the Venetian sewer system! Just ick.

  7. Kathryn S
    Jun 03, 2008 @ 22:44:48

    I loved this book. One of those ones that makes me want to be a better writer.

  8. Lizzy
    Jun 04, 2008 @ 10:30:30

    I feel I must issue a disclaimer before I begin: The worst Chase is still better than a lot of the schlock that’s out there. That said, I liked, but didn’t love, this book. BLAH! I feel like some kind of hideous word traitor now.

    Eh, might be sliiight spoilers below … ?

    Part of my problem was with the characterization of Francesca. I guess it’s part of the problem with having heroines who are sexual libertines: To be hot little numbers you really burn to read about, they must be believable in their role as sexual dynamos — yet not be too-too slutty because that’s widely regarded as a reader turn-off. (An unfair double standard, I feel: It really doesn’t turn me off to have a slightly trampy heroine, but that’s me and I know I’m probably in the minority. Personally, I’d rather have a believable heroine who’s a little loose than an unbelievable heroine who keeps her knickers on.)

    Anyway, I just didn’t bite on Francesca being a great seductress — a woman who was driving men wild all over the Continent, amassing large collections of sexually-earned jewels and who could drive this ultra-jaded spy to distraction. I know we got TOLD all that was true: She studied with Mme. in Paris! She has a snake tattoo and a scandalous corset! She wears naughty nighties! But all that fell flat for me. I think the reason is because all this stuff went to pieces when James walked in. I was really rooting for her to give him a workout. But then, he got the upper hand early. Maybe they just didn’t have enough witty banter? Example: I really wanted her to Hulk Smash! that one villain (on the gondola), but then here’s James to save the day. Gee, thanks kind sir. I feel like Best Whore in Town should have had that situation under control. A stiletto held to the villain’s jiggly bits or something … isn’t that standard Best Whore training?

    Also, I think I’m tired of the Best Whores in Town romance stories. I want a story with a Pretty Good Whore. A damn fine whore who’s not all flashy boil over, but who still gets the job done with style … a whore with a little less reputation, a little more action.

    And … I think I’m with Janine and Cecilia, who felt it was slow to get moving, too. BUT OVERALL, this was a good read and I likelovelove Chase … and I still love whores too.

  9. Jayne
    Jun 04, 2008 @ 18:34:25

    But every time someone ended up in the canal? I cringed. Among other things, the canals were the Venetian sewer system! Just ick.

    Oh Lorelie, I was thinking the same thing. Ick squared. Seems like I recall Anne Stuart’s “The Demon Count” mentioning something about how nasty the canals were to fall into.

  10. Jayne
    Jun 04, 2008 @ 18:36:02

    Lizzy maybe an author will hear your prayer and produce a Pretty Good Whore heroine. I’d love to read about one myself. [G]

  11. Janine
    Jun 05, 2008 @ 10:31:03

    Also, I think I'm tired of the Best Whores in Town romance stories. I want a story with a Pretty Good Whore. A damn fine whore who's not all flashy boil over, but who still gets the job done with style … a whore with a little less reputation, a little more action.

    The heroine of Megan Chance’s first book, A Candle in the Dark, was just a prostitute, not a great courtesan. The heroine of Balogh’s A Precious Jewel was a lady-turned-prostitute and not a great courtesan either. Both good books, if you haven’t read them yet.

  12. Beth
    Jun 05, 2008 @ 15:26:04

    I liked this one, and agree with many opf the comments made so far.

    Reading it, I was reminded of the film Dangerous Beauty, about a (real) Venetian courtesan.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118892/

    Although set in the 1500s, the film also featured a very successful courtesan who falls in love and becomes involved in political intrigue.

    I didn’t think the writing was up to Chase’s usual standards, which are pretty high. Phrases like “post coital bliss” did not sound very 18th century to me, and several other phrases, one in particular was something like “a lifestyle to which she had become accustomed” were over used.

    Like others, I was disappointed that the heroine, despite being a divorcee, a highly successful courtesan, and not — we are told — a sexual prude, behaved and reacted in the love scenes in the exact same way every other historical romance heroine does.

    Still, a very very enjoyable book.

  13. Allie
    Jun 06, 2008 @ 03:26:45

    I picked up Your Scandalous Ways yesterday and just finished it. As someone who’s never read a Loretta Chase book before and has nothing to compare it to, (I’ve always been scared to read Lord of Scoundrels because of its insanely good reputation – I’m afraid it’ll disappoint) I really enjoyed it. I thought it flowed beautifully. Usually I skip the villain/villainess interludes in romances, but I even read those in this one. James was very cute as he became so befuddled by Francesca (I also liked that he always respected her, even when he was jealous) and Francesca was really cute, too. It was very endearing how she thought of herself as so experienced and jaded, when she clearly wasn’t.

    And I loved the Venice setting and the Byron poetry was an excellent touch. It wasn’t an epic romance, but I thought it was a well-done light-hearted one.

  14. Brenna
    Jun 07, 2008 @ 08:22:08

    Reading it, I was reminded of the film Dangerous Beauty, about a (real) Venetian courtesan.

    You know, an old Chase book, the Knaves Wager reminded me of the movie Dangerous Liaisons and she did say that it was an inspiration. I have the DVD of A Dangerous Beauty and I think I’ll watch it again before my copy of YSW arrives. I do remember that the heroine was trained as a courtesan by her mother who was also one and fell in love with a Venetian nobleman.

    James was very cute as he became so befuddled by Francesca (I also liked that he always respected her, even when he was jealous) and Francesca was really cute, too.

    Allie, you should try Lord of Scoundrels as Dain was also so befuddled with Jessica that is was funny watching him making a mess of himself.

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