Silk is for Seduction
Avon, June 28, 2011, $7.99
From the Design Book of Marcelline Noirot:
The allure of the perfect gown should be twofold:
ladies would die to wear it . . .
and gentlemen would kill to remove it!
Brilliant and ambitious dressmaker Marcelline Noirot is London’s rising star. And who better to benefit from her talent than the worst-dressed lady in the ton, the Duke of Clevedon’s intended bride? Winning the future duchess’s patronage means prestige and fortune for Marcelline and her sisters. To get to the lady, though, Marcelline must win over Clevedon, whose standards are as high as his morals are . . . not.
The prize seems well worth the risk—but this time Marcelline’s met her match. Clevedon can design a seduction as irresistible as her dresses; and what begins as a flicker of desire between two of the most passionately stubborn charmers in London soon ignites into a delicious inferno . . . and a blazing scandal.
And now both their futures hang by an exquisite thread of silk . . .
Loretta Chase begins a new series about three dressmakers in London with Silk is for Seduction. The three Noirot sisters are a part of the charismatic, though shady, branch of the Dreadful DeLuceys, whom you may recall from Lord Perfect. Their DeLucey mother married into the French equivalent family, the Noirots, and so this particular pairing has been particularly dreadful. Marcelline and her sisters have clawed their way up to be proprietors of an up-and-coming dress shop in London, based upon Marcelline’s stunning creations and their, at times manipulative, charm. All they need is one spectacularly prominent client to make their fortunes, and the girls have their sights set on the future Duchess of Clevedon. To procure her, Marcelline travels to Paris where the duke is dragging his feet about returning to London and actually proposing, in order to garner his attention and patronage. Well, she gets a bit more of his attention than she’d planned and things become wildly complicated.
Among the plethora of things that Loretta Chase does very, very well in this book, I’d like to highlight something that often gets overlooked in historical romance. Many heroines have had employment—governesses, companions, perhaps the proprietor of a genteel little bookshop. But Marcelline is baldly in trade and makes no bones about it. The gulf between someone like her and a duke is unfathomable, not just in status and society, but in mindset. Aristocrats—dukes especially—are different creatures from regular people. Working in order to survive is something so far from their experience that they cannot imagine it, and Clevedon is no exception.
This was his payment, he told himself, for consorting with a shopkeeper, a vulgar, money-grubbing person. He could have bedded Madame St. Pierre last night—and he was running out of time for bedding anybody—but he’d spoiled his chance by chasing this—this creature.
“I work for a living,” she said.
Provoked, he said it for her before he could catch himself: “Unlike me and these other dissolute aristocrats, you mean. The bourgeoisie is so tediously self-righteous.”
She shrugged, calling his attention to her smooth shoulders, and unfolded her hands. “Yes, we’re great bores, always thinking about money and success.”
Later, she gives an impassioned speech on what her shop means to her, not just intellectually or artistically, but in terms of plain, basic survival, something he still cannot comprehend.
“That’s all you think about. Your business.”
“It’s my life, you great thickhead! This—” she swept her hand to indicate the shop—“This is how I earn my living. Can you not grasp this simple concept? Earning a living?”
“This is how I feed and clothe and house and educate my daughter,” she raged on. “This is how I provide for my sisters. What must I do to make you understand? How can you be so blind, so willfully obtuse, so—”
“You’ll make me run mad,” he said.
When Clevedon finally gets to the point where he tells a friend who is chiding him for helping the ladies in a time of need that,
“You don’t understand a damned thing,” Clevedon said. “They have a business to run. They can’t afford to lose time. They needed a place to work. They needed help.”
It is a great moment of understanding and relief. He gets it. He finally realizes and has compassion for what most of the world has to do to survive. There are, of course, many other delights to be found in Silk is for Seduction, but the education of Clevedon on how the other half lives, is an unusual and profound one.
Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com