Loretta Chase's most recent series, The Dressmakers, is the best kind of romantic decadence. The books feature beautiful romances, yes, but they also have abundant descriptions of the fashion indulgence. The series follows a trio of sisters building a fashion house in pre-Victorian London. Silk is for Seduction, the first book in the series, was intense and angsty. The second book, Scandal Wears Satin, is lighter and more humorous, but the romance is just as good.
Summary: From the Journals of Sophia Noirot: A dress is a weapon. It must dazzle his eye, raise his temperature...and empty his purse.
A blue-eyed innocent on the outside and a shark on the inside, dressmaker Sophy Noirot could sell sand to Bedouins. Selling Maison Noirot's beautiful designs to aristocratic ladies is a little harder, especially since a recent family scandal has made an enemy of one of society's fashion leaders. Turning scandal to the shop's advantage requires every iota of Sophy's skills, leaving her little patience for a big, reckless rake like the Earl of Longmore. The gorgeous lummox can't keep more than one idea in his head at a time, and his idea is taking off all of Sophy's clothes.
But when Longmore's sister, Noirot's wealthiest, favorite customer, runs away, Sophy can't let him bumble after her on his own. In hot pursuit with the one man who tempts her beyond reason, she finds desire has never slipped on so smoothly... – Goodreads
My thoughts: Scandal Wears Satin works so well because of its heroine, Sophia Noirot. The second of the three Noirot sisters is the cleverest and most ruthless. She's quick-witted, sharp-tongued and far too smart for her own good. She's also reckless and not afraid to play dirty in defense of her family and their business. She first met the burly but handsome Earl of Longmore in Silk is for Seduction, and from the moment he met her, Longmore has been plotting to get her into bed.
Longmore himself is a strange character. Everyone, including Longmore himself, assumes he's not the brightest of fellows. His first reaction is always to use his fists and he often jumps into things without taking the time to assess the situation. Yet sometimes he provides such clarity and common sense that the reader must wonder if he really is the plodding dolt he is perceived to be. I found this characterization somewhat inconsistent, but I appreciated how Sophy explained it: "But whatever Longmore's faults might be, he was exactly what he seemed to be. Himself. Always."
Regardless of his intelligence, it's clear that Longmore appreciates Sophy for more than her sensual beauty. He's impressed by her cleverness, and he thinks she's pretty much the cutest thing around. He describes her as "adorable" at points, and when she attempts to match his brute strength, he smiles at her and announces, "That tickles." Once he does get her into bed, everything goes swimmingly...until they are confronted with the reality that Longmore is an earl and Sophy is a middle class dressmaker. This conflict is resolved in a somewhat facile manner (as it was for Sophy's sister Marcelline and the Duke of Clevedon), but I'm not bothered by that in class romances.
Loretta Chase spends a significant part of the book describing the fashions. Her lush descriptions of fabrics, colors, dresses and accessories may be tedious to those uninterested in fashion, but I adored them. The lengthy passages added a sense of luxury to the Noirots' middle-class life.
Scandal Wears Satin may work as a standalone, but readers who have read Silk is for Seduction will appreciate the book much more. I read the two books back to back and therefore understood more of the references and subtexts. My recommendation: Read the first book before you read Scandal Wears Satin. It's time well spent.
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: June 26, 2012
Length: 384 pages
Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in return for a fair and honest review.