Vixen in Velvet (The Dressmakers)
Avon / June 24, 2014 / $7.99 print, $6.99 digital
From the Diary of Leonie Noirot: The perfect corset should invite its undoing . . .
Lethally charming Simon Blair, Marquess of Lisburne, has reluctantly returned to London for one reason only: a family obligation. Still, he might make time for the seduction of a certain redheaded dressmaker—but Leonie Noirot hasn't time for him. She's obsessed with transforming his cousin, the dowdy Lady Gladys, into a swan.
Leonie's skills can coax curves—and profits—from thin air, but his criminally handsome lordship is too busy trying to seduce her to appreciate her genius. He badly needs to learn a lesson, and the wager she provokes ought to teach him, once and for all.
A great plan, in theory—but Lisburne's become a serious distraction and Leonie's usual logic is in danger of slipping away as easily as a silk chemise. Could the Season's greatest transformation be her own?
WORDSMITH : a person who works with words especially : a skillful writer—a.k.a. Loretta Chase.
Wordsmith means different things to different people. For some it is the beauty of combined words; to others it is the way the words evoke emotions. Not that I would disagree with either definition. But what truly impresses me is a writer’s ability to compose witty dialogue that not only entertains, but ingeniously builds the tension between the hero and heroine.
Witty dialogue takes a book from ho-hum to delightful—it's the equivalent of being at a boring gathering, until the life of the party walks in—He or she makes a wisecrack, and then another individual makes a quip on that remark, and before you know it, the party is alive with excitement and energy. That is exactly what happens in a book, when an author has the ability to write entertaining interchanges between the characters. Plus the stimulating battle of wits between the protagonists not only illustrates that the couple are well-matched, but that they also have some mighty powerful sexual attraction.
Loretta Chase is in a class by herself in utilizing these techniques. She writes deliciously wicked scenes filled with witticism and wordplay.
Chase's magic with words are clear from the very first pages of Vixen in Velvet. The hero and heroine meet at an annual exhibition of ancient master painters. Leonie Noirot is fascinated with a Botticelli work titled Venus and Mars. While there, she literally runs into the owner of the painting, Simon Blair, Marquess of Lisburne. Next thing you know they are engaged in clever repartee:
“It stands out, rather, now you mention it,” he said. “No one seems to care much for Botticelli these days. My friends urged me to put in a battle scene.
“Instead you chose the aftermath,” she said.
His green gaze shifted briefly to the painting, then back to her. “I could have sworn they’d been making love.”
“And I could swear she’s vanquished him.”
“Ah, but he’ll rise again to — er— fight another day,” he said.
“I daresay.” . . .
“Venus’s expression intrigues me,” she said. “I wonder what she’s thinking.”
“There’s one difference between men and women,” he said. “He’s sleeping and she’s thinking.”
“Somebody must think,” she said. “And it does so often seem to be the women.”
I think this one is a tie!
Along with her effortless repartee, Ms. Chase adroitly turns typical stereotyping on its head. Oh, you still are going to have the gorgeous hero:
They were green, with gold flecks, like the gold streaks in his dark blond hair. And that was curly like Mars’s and appealingly unruly. Something less easily definable in the eyes and mouth hinted at other kinds of unruliness: the mouth on the brink of a smile and the eyes open a degree to wide and innocent.
But he doesn’t quite fit the normal peer of the realm role:
“Not a blot anywhere,” he said. “Do you do this? How do you write all these numbers and such and never blot?”
“My lord, that is private financial information.” . . .
“Your secrets couldn’t be safer,” he said. It’s all hieroglyphs to me. I could read it for days and come away none the wiser. No, that’s not quite true. I do know what the red ink signifies. My agent has pointed it out often enough. That is to say, he did, until I left such matters to Uttridge, my secretary. He warns me when I’m stumbling into red ink territory.”
“Your secretary manages your funds?” she said, her horror plainly audible. “You don’t look at the books at all?”
And Leonie, while she dresses in feminine attire, she is so much more than a pretty face:
The chin went with the columns of neat numbers and no blots.
The dress belonged to some fairyland.
White ruffles and lace cascading to her waist like ocean foam. Below the lace swelled sleeves as plump as bed pillows. From her dainty waist a skirt billowed: white embroidered with what seemed like thousands of tiny blue flowers. It was deliciously madly feminine and it made a man want to rumple her, just to hear the rustling.
There also is the art of balancing the growing sexual attraction between the hero and heroine against the conflict of wills. Too much of one leaves one of the characters either overbearing or strident. But, with too little discord, the conflict fizzles out before the end. But you have no worries here. Not only do the hero and heroine skirmish verbally, they have an invested interest in winning a bet:
He stopped and turned back to her. “No, I can’t do it. I can’t go without knowing. Miss Noirot, I’m perishing of curiosity. Tell me you didn’t tell Gladys you’d make her the belle of the ball.” . . .
She donned the politely amiable smile. “You seem to find it inconceivable that Lady Gladys has unfulfilled potential. To you it may seem impossible that anybody not born beautiful and charming could ever win anybody’s heart. Or do I misunderstand?”
“We’re not talking about anybody,” he said. ”We’re talking about Gladys. You can’t be serious.” . .
“A young woman’s hopes and dreams are no joking matter to me,” she said. . . . By the time Maison Noirot is done with her, Lady Gladys will need only to crook her finger to have any beau she wants."
“This is deranged,” he said. “I thought you were a sensible woman of business.” . . .
“You underestimate me,” she said. “You wouldn’t be the first.”
There was a short, taut silence.
He eyed her up and down.
Sizing her up.
She was used to arrogant men looking her over. But he might as well have put his hands where his glittering green gaze went. She grew hot and confused. And so she made a mistake.
She returned the favor.
A very stupid mistake, given the perfectly sculpted face and dangerous green eyes and the powerful torso . . . tapering to a taut waist and then the view downward . . . looooong, muscled legs. She felt a wave of dizziness, which she resolutely ignored.
“By the time you’re done with her,” he said slowly, as slowly as he’d let his gaze run up and down over her like hands. “That’s conveniently vague.”. . . .
“Let me see,” she said. She put two fingers to her temple the way he’d done before, pretending to be an idiot. “What is today? The fifteenth. She’ll have gentlemen at her feet by the month’s end.”
“At her feet,” he said. His voice had dropped and grown rougher. “In a trifle over a fortnight’s time.”
“Anybody she wants,” he said.
“Yes.” She fiddled with the pencil, waiting.
He said, “Would you care to make a wager?”
She swallowed a smile.
A new release by Miss Chase is cause to celebrate and Vixen in Velvet has all of Loretta Chase’s trademark style—-humor, witticism, delightful sexual chemistry, and fascinating characters.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of Vixen in Velvet by Loretta Chase, available June 24, 2014:
Leigh Davis, blogger