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Scandal Wears Satin
by Loretta Chase
(Avon, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0062100313
*****
Scandal Wears Satin is even better than the first book in this trilogy, Silk is for Seduction. Now that sister Marcelle is safely married to her Duke, the Noirot sisters plan to continue their dressmaking business, Maison Noirot. This is Sophy’s story. Sophy, who is the decided brains behind the outfit, and with a sharp sense of humor to match, is an absolute delight and my favorite heroine of the year so far. And her hero, the somewhat indolent but no less intelligent Earl of Longmore, isn’t far behind.

Sophy’s strength is her keen eye for publicity. She often disguises herself as a serving maid in order to attend a ball or party, then writes a column about the fashions of the ladies for a London newspaper. The creations of Maison Noirot are usually featured prominently. So far, nobody has recognized her – nobody, that is, but the Earl of Longmore, the Duke’s best friend and brother to his ex-fiancee, Lady Clara. Longmore is more than a little interested in Sophy. She thinks he’s a complete dolt, though a very handsome one.

When Lady Clara is caught in a compromising situation with a fortune-hunting rake, Sophy witnesses the whole episode and knows it must have been a setup. Clara, desperate to avoid a forced marriage, runs away with her maid. Longmore is determined to follow her and bring her back. Sophy knows he’ll have little chance of reasoning with Clara, but she might be able to get through to her. So they join forces and chase Clara to the coast, arriving in time to prevent her from boarding a ship.

Along the way, Sophy and Longmore have a bit of time to get to know one another, and they like what they find. Sophy is aware that she’s a mere dressmaker, and a member of the notorious DeLucey family, as well as being rather independent and self-sufficient. No respectable earl would have her. Longmore, however, is far from conventional and has a few surprises up his sleeve. He also has a wicked sense of humor and a cheerful disregard for Society, other than protecting his sister. It’s a great combination.

The road trip exists mainly to give Sophy and Longmore time together, and the author uses it to great effect. Once Lady Clara is retrieved, it’s Sophy who devises a plan that will end her forced engagement for good, and it will take Longmore’s and Clara’s help to make it happen. By now Longmore and Sophy have become a team, growing closer all the time.

My favorite romances are those in which the hero and heroine become friends before they become lovers, thus giving the reader a sense that the romance is genuine and not just a fit of overwhelming lust. Here it’s done to perfection, and with splashes of humor. Longmore has few intellectual aspirations and doesn’t care, though he’s sharp and witty. Sophy is fiercely protective of her sisters, but can’t help being intrigued by Longmore, who isn’t turning out to be the dunderhead she thought.

Almost everyone in this story is straining against Society’s leash: the Noirot sisters, by running a house of couture even though the eldest is now a Duchess; Lady Clara, whose refusal to marry a man she doesn’t trust culminates in a fairly well-reasoned flight; Sophy, who longs for a romantic relationship that Society will condemn. In somewhat hilarious contrast is Longmore himself, who doesn’t really give a rat’s behind what Society says and would take great delight in flouting convention, as long as it wouldn’t harm his beloved sister.

Lady Clara is destined for her own romance, and it’s too bad that it will probably be a sidebar to that of Leonie, the youngest Noirot sister. Sophy made a strong impression in the first book, but Leonie is virtually a cipher and has received no setup at all to this point. Since I know nothing about her, I’ve nothing to look forward to in the next installment except Lady Clara, who was delightful in her own right and could easily carry an entire book. She deserves it.

Scandal Wears Satin is a wonderful read, one not to be missed. Sophy and Longmore will charm and delight you, and definitely leave you wanting more.

--Cathy Sova


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