I love capable heroines and Chase is great at writing just that. She has the talent to have the heroine come out on top and coolly confound the hero at every turn, without making him seem like a dolt. He’s just…flummoxed by her. I love a good flummox. 😉
Chase takes this story in a rarely seen direction and casts the heroine as a dressmaker. I’m used to seeing class differences in HR, but I can’t say that I’ve seen many like this. Not only is the heroine a dressmaker, she’s “the greatest modiste in the world.” (Probably that would be funnier if you had already read the book.) You can tell that the author has done her research on dressmaking in that period. Marcelline’s business caught my attention just as much as her stunning personality. She had a shrewd mind and a flair for her job that made it a joy to watch her work. What other dressmaker would ever embark on such a scheme to snare the business of the duke’s future duchess?
I laughed so much while reading this book. I always do when I read a Chase. She has an incredibly engaging, wry writing style that draws the reader in. Even the serious scenes pop because they’re delivered with such flair. Clevedon and Marcelline were awesome together. Neither of them were actively pursuing each other—just the opposite, in fact!—but somehow they kept circling back around until they were together again.
”Stop taking care of me!”
He turned back to look at her. “Stop being childish,” he said. “Are you afraid I’ll ply you with food in order to seduce you? Think again. Have you looked in a mirror lately? And may I remind you that I was the one holding your head while you were sick last night. Not exactly the most arousing sight I’ve ever seen. In fact, I can’t remember what I ever saw in you. I only want to feed you so you’ll be well and get out of my cabin and out of my life.”
“I want to be out of your life, too,” she said.
“Right,” he said. “Until it’s time to pay my duchess’s dressmaking bills.”
“Yes,” she said. “Exactly.”
“Good,” he said. “That suits me very well.”
He went to the door, opened it, went out, and slammed it behind him.
How can you resist such a couple? They’re so much fun together!
I loved how Marcelline and Clevedon were developed. She was the more practical, ruthless of the two. He had lived an easier, charmed life and originally had a hard time understanding her fixation with her business. He was kept constantly off balance, uncertain whether or not her interest in him was his due solely to his future wife’s possible patronage. He couldn’t imagine that he could be so intrigued while she could remain aloof. Of course, he worried for nothing, but Marcelline was a smart business woman and knew that her reputation as a dressmaker couldn’t afford the blow of being a rumored “husband stealer.”
I was a little nervous about being able to enjoy their developing romance while Clevedon took steps to marry another woman. But it ended up being beautifully laid out with no easy outs given. You could clearly see what was going on—everyone could see it, even the intended wife, Clara. I loved that Clevedon stubbornly tried to stay in denial about what he was doing, only to be stripped bare of his excuses by Marcelline. She was nothing if not bluntly honest about what they were doing and who it would hurt, even when it didn’t cast her in a very good light. Clara grew as a person and it was easy to see how she could go on to be friends of Clevedon and Marcelline. I really liked that she wasn’t demonized and that the situation developed in a way that felt natural.
Whenever there’s a class difference between protagonists I take special note of whether or not the author addresses the scandal and the future hardships they might face. If it’s ignored I have a hard time accepting the HEA. I want to know that the characters know what they’re getting into and that they’re choosing love anyway. I loved how it was handled here. Marcelline was so ruthlessly practical that she brought up every concern I had. I knew that whatever happened, they knew what they were getting into, and they were ready to face it together. And I have no doubts that these two could face anything as long as they were together. *sigh*
“Surprise?” she said. “There’s an understatement. Have you taken leave of your senses?”
“I was worried about you,” he said. “When you left Paris so suddenly, I thought a catastrophe had occurred. Or a murder. Have you murdered anybody, by the way? Not that I would dream of criticizing, but—“
“I left Paris to get away from you,” she said.
“Well, that didn’t work.”