Lord of Scoundrels (1995) has been in my TBR pile for years; it was one of the first books recommended to me when I started reading romance. (I’m pretty sure the first recommendation came from Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell, although others soon followed.) I read and enjoyed other books by Loretta Chase, but for some reason, I put this one off. But since this month’s challenge theme is fairytale stories, and this is very much Beauty and the Beast, I finally got around to it. (Although technically I didn’t read my TBR copy; I am recuperating from wrist surgery and can’t yet manage print books, so I snagged the discounted e-book for this review.)
The beauty character, Jessica, is more than just beautiful — she is intelligent, self-sufficient, practical and a good shot. She has a lot of experience with boys, having helped to raise many in her family, which gives her excellent insights about men. She isn’t afraid to take on the very intimidating Marquess of Dain in order to safeguard her interests and those of her family.
Dain, our beast, has renounced love of any kind after a miserable childhood without it. He is selfish to a fault and disdainful of other people, and he is not about to let Jessica claim victory once they have clashed. Chase gives the reader a lot from Dain’s point of view early on and throughout the novel; I never found him unsympathetic, even at his most beastly. Jessica attracts him, but he believes she must find him repulsive. I felt for him even when he pushed her away, and I could do that because I knew Jessica was strong enough to handle whatever he threw at her.
Dain is in way over his head emotionally with Jessica, while she is out if her depth physically. She can’t resist her sexual attraction to him, and her pragmatic responses to that realization are endearing. I just loved Jessica, and I was rooting hard for Dain to learn how to love her, too.
The best surprise out of this book was how funny it was. Dain and Jessica are well-matched banterers, both used to being the smartest person in the room and to using wit to prove it. The humor gives them a connection, because they each appreciate each other’s wit even when they are the target, and those encounters provide fabulous counterpoint to the emotionally charged process of overcoming Dain’s past. I enjoyed every page of this book, and I can imagine reading it again and again. WIN.