Monday, January 5, 2009

Review: Lord of Scoundrels

Title: Lord of Scoundrels
Author: Loretta Chase
Genre: Historical Romance
Published: January 1995/Reprint December 2007

Beelzebub, Lucifer, Prince of Darkness... These are the names Sebastian Ballister, Marquess of Dain, is not only referred to but seems to relish living up to. He is known as the "Bane and Blight of the Ballisters" and he is about to meet his match. In walks Lady Jessica Trent. While attempting to save her idiotic brother from ruin she must confront Dain and match her impressive wits against his. So she makes a deal with Beelzebub himself and finds that there's more to the man than his devilish names.

I had such high expectations for it and while I certainly liked parts of the book I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. I did enjoy Chase's writing style and the banter between the hero and heroine. Unfortunately the problem I had with the story, which came towards the end, seems to overshadow the overall appeal of the book. As so many readers have said it's one of their favorite historicals. But sadly, I'm not among them.

It's 1828 and our heroine Jessica Trent has arrived in Paris with her grandmother, Lady Pembury. They have come to save Jessica's brother Sir Bertram Trent from the evil that is the Marquess of Dain. Jessica is beautiful, practical, efficient and isn't afraid to speak her mind. At 27 years of age she is a virgin who spends time with her unconventional grandmother who speaks frankly about men and women to Jessica. So while she has never been physically intimate with a man she is very aware of what goes on between men and women.

Jessica's first impression of Dain:

Bertie had told her Dain was a very large man. She had half expected a hulking gorilla. She had not been prepared for a stallion: big and splendidly proportioned - and powerfully muscled, if what his snug trousers outlined was nay indication. She should not have been looking, there, even if it was only an instant's glance, but a physique like that demanded one's attention and drew it...everywhere. After that unladylike instant, it had taken every iota of her stubborn willpower to keep her gaze upon his face. Even then, she'd only managed the feat because she was afraid that otherwise she'd lose what little remained of her reason, and do something horribly shocking. pages 30-31

As you can see from Jessica's first reaction, Dain isn't what you could call an elegant dandy of the time. And yet she's definitely attracted to him. He has a very commanding presence and can be quite scary when he wants to be. One thing about Jessica that I liked was the fact that she doesn't always back down from Dain and she doesn't always take the direct approach when it comes to getting what she wants from him. A bit sneaky... I like that.

Jessica's relationship with her grandmother was wonderful to read. The fact that she didn't shun her grandmother but embraced her eccentricities was refreshing. Chase's secondary characters are well written and add depth to the story.

Dain was anything but the typical aristocrat of the time. He was given little love as a child. His looks were a detriment too. His father felt only disapproval towards Dain and his mother left when he was 7 years old. At the age of 8 Dain is sent away to school at Eton. There he is bullied by the other students and has no friends. The attention he receives from the teacher is usually in the form of whippings. Dain shows his defiance of his father by getting into trouble and earning a reputation of a troublemaker.

The number of rude comments, put downs and disparaging remarks made about Dain were at times a bit much. Sometimes I felt sorry for him but then he would turn around and agree with whatever nasty thing was being said about him. I can't help but think that it had become rote with him to think of himself this way because it had been drummed into him at such an early age.

With regards to Dain's size and looks, Jessica acknowledges his size and less than angelic looks but takes it as part of the whole. She enjoys his looks, the breath of large shoulders, his olive skin etc. She takes a practical view of it and moves on. I did like the dialogue between Dain and Jessica. It was well written and I enjoyed the scenes where there was just the two of them with their back and forth banter.

I liked LoS up to a point, that point being when Dain's son made his appearance. The ride went downhill from there and I was never able to completely recover. The problem I had was with Dain's attitude towards his son. Not only did he think horrible things about his son but he said them aloud.

These are Dain's thoughts after Jessica has told him he must go and get his son. ~

He could not even think about the loathsome thing he'd made with Charity Graves without becoming physically ill. How in Lucifer's name was he to go to it and look at it and talk to it and touch it and take the thing into his keeping? page 303

I can, to a certain extent, understand why Dain felt this way towards his son but IMO it doesn't excuse it, merely explains the why of it. Dain did redeem himself somewhat in his attitude and actions towards his son but I think this had more to do with Jessica's interference. If she had not pushed Dain I'm really not sure if he would have simply continued on as he had been or he would have changed on his own.

Unfortunately when I think about this book it's Dain's attitude towards his son that first comes to mind. It was difficult to come up with a grade but I did enjoy most of the book just not the last bit. I plan to continue reading Ms. Chase's books and I look forward to more of her witty dialogue and interesting characters. The next Chase book I plan to read is Captives of the Night. It's the Comte d'Esmond and Leila Beaumont's story and it sounds absolutely wonderful. d'Esmond was a wonderfully written secondary character in Lord of Scoundrels.

Rating: B+


  1. What a thoughtful review. I liked the stuff with the grandmother a lot, too. I liked this book better than you did, and though I can see how Dain's rejection of his son would rub people the wrong way, I saw Dain's rejection of the son as a rejection of himself, bc to me, the son sort of *was* Dain, or more, represented a painful and disowned part of himself that he couldn't bring himself to embrace. Though, of course, that is just an interpretation!!

  2. Great review, Leslie. I get why you were turned off by the way that Dain treated his son because as I read the story I felt the same way, but I agree with CJ's acessment of Dain's feelings toward his son.

    Dain very much disliked himself because everyone else around him did. He was raised to think that he was a horrible, ugly boy, and like you said, it was drummed into him so much that he accepted it. With that past, I would have found it crazy if he had accepted his son (who looked very much like him) so easily. He had been brought up to think that he was wrong and he thought the same thing about his son.

    And as far as Jessica helping him see the light. Sometimes it takes the push of someone else to point us in the right direction.

  3. Thanks CJ. I wasn't an easy review to write. There was so much that I did like about LoS.

    I think if Dain's son showing up had happened sooner and we had gotten to see their relationship grown it would have been easier for me to get past his initial reactions. But you are right about Dain and why he rejected his son - like looking in a mirror for him. I was just shocked at what Dain said about and to his son. I suppose it could be said that that was simple the attitude towards bastard children at that time.

  4. Brie ~ Thanks. I'm glad you liked the review. What you said makes sense about Dain not accepting his son easily. There was one part where Dain thought that he(Dain) was made "wrong side out". That made me sad for him. But I swear there were times when I thought "Just shoot him again Jess" LOL So thankful she gave him the shove he needed.

  5. Great review, Leslie. I really like how in depth it is.

    I agree with CJ and Brie about Dain's reasoning for rejecting his son - so I won't say anything else on that.

    I did want to say though, in regards to Jessica pushing him, I think that was the sweetest part of the story. Dain couldn't see what a gem he was, so Jessica had to show him. I think perhaps I identified with that because we often have a different perception of ourselves than others have of us.

    How often do you hear a friend say something negative about themselves that isn't true? I felt it was like that with Dain and Jess.

    I do understand where you're coming from, though. I just saw it a different way.

    I haven't really found another LC novel that compares to this one, though.

  6. Thanks Holly : )

    Totally agree with Dain needing Jess to show him that he was good and worthy of love. It's like when we look at a picture of ourselves and many of us see only what's wrong where a friend see the good things.