Pros: Witty sense of humor, engaging characters, fast plot
Rating: 5 out of 5
When Francesca Bonnard’s husband divorced her, she took with her a packet of his letters, letters that could mean the end of his position in high society. Moving from England to the Continent, Francesca became a high-priced courtesan. Now, five years later, her ex-husband wants his letters back, but he’s not the only one. James Cordier has been appointed to retrieve the letters as part of an investigation. Expecting a simple seduction to do the trick, he finds his plans derailed by the willful, independent beauty he meets. Francesca, although intrigued by James, is determined to protect both herself and her independence. But when it becomes clear that Francesca’s ex-husband will do anything to get those letters back, Francesca and James must team up.
I must admit, I’ve always enjoyed Loretta Chase’s novels. They are witty and fun, and Your Scandalous Ways is no disappointment. Chase’s characters are as amusing as ever. Francesca, in particular, has a gift for witty replies. At one point in the novel, she and a disguised James are discussing English names for a male courtesan. Her response? “A penniless aristocrat.” I couldn’t help chuckling. Wit, however, is not limited to Francesca. Some of the best dialogue occurs between her and James, as their frustration with each other develops into a verbal sparring match.
Chase also seems to enjoy putting her characters into rather unusual situations and seeing how they react to both the situation and each other. At one point, the two find themselves alone in a gondola (the story is set in Venice) and a bet is made. Francesca thinks that she can seduce him, while he believes himself able to withstand temptation. At stake is a peridot parure. It is a very entertaining scene to watch, because Francesca’s attempts at seduction and James’ attempts at self-control play off of each other so well.
The plot also rolls along at a good clip. Not only do we have Francesca’s and James’ conlfict between each other, we also have outside agents moving the story along. Francesca’s ex-husband makes an appearance, and we also get to follow the story of his henchwoman as she attempts to retrieve the letters. She’s a little bit crazy, obsessed with emeralds and causing pain. She brings a welcome note of suspense to the conflict between James and Francesca, leaving the reader praying that the two will team up in time to thwart her.
This is a fun book to read, both in terms of the characters and plot. The setting is also well described, leving you feeling as if you could see the city of Venice and smell the waters of the canals. To give the reader even more of an Italian feel, there are also lines of Italian in the dialogue. (Translations are provided)
When you combine the plot, characters, and setting, you get a well-crafted, engrossing story that flows at an excellent pace. Chase’s characters are a joy to watch in action, and their interactions are amusing. Emotions feel genuine, not forced or faked, and the plot brings just enough tension to keep the reader hooked. A wonderfully enjoyable read!