Lord of Scoundrels is described on The Book Smugglers site as "the One Romance to Rule Them All". High praise indeed and when Ana posted a comment on my blog saying "...I urge you , no I BEG of you to search for Lord of Scoundrels - that is not only the best Loretta Chase novel but also , quite possibly,the best romance I have ever read. period." I felt that it was time to take up the challenge. I won't even go into the painful details of my experience attempting to locate it at my library (one hour, three staff and an increasingly frustrated Peta) but they kindly ordered in another copy for me to replace the mysteriously lost one and as soon as I received it I plunged in.
The blurb: "They call him many names, but Angelic isn’t one of them . . . Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain, is big, bad, and dangerous to know. No respectable woman would have anything to do with the “Bane and Blight of the Ballisters”—and he wants nothing to do with respectable women. He’s determined to continue doing what he does best—sin and sin again—and all that’s going swimmingly, thank you, until the day a shop door opens and she walks in.
She’s too intelligent to fall for the worst man in the world . . .
Jessica Trent is a determined young woman, and she’s going to drag her imbecile brother off the road to ruin, no matter what it takes. If saving him—and with him, her family and future—means taking on the devil himself, she won’t back down. The trouble is, the devil in question is so shockingly irresistible, and the person who needs the most saving is—herself!"
That synopsis had me cackling with glee - a rake, a determined heroine = sparks flying. Joy! Like her other books, there is more depth to this romance that their might appear and the character of Jessica Trent is a delight. She is fearless, intelligent, brave, clever, beautiful (of course) and more than a match for the angry, painfully insecure, vulnerable and filled with self-loathing, Dain.
Without going into the details of Dain's childhood, I should mention that it struck me whilst reading this book how unusual it is to have a properly thought out back story to explain why our hero became a selfish, dissolute rake in the first place. This also allows us to be convinced that he's got genuine motivation and desire to turn a new leaf and be reformed by his heroine! And that's what makes Chase special - she's not turning out a story without thought for her characters but thinks about why they act as they do.
I followed reading Lord of Scoundrels with the final book in her Carsington series - Not Quite a Lady. I'm not going to do a "proper" review, as I have not got time, but like Miss Wonderful, MrImpossible and Lord Perfect it was a delight to read and, yet again, a fabulous example of how to write romance novels that feature interesting characters that you genuinely care about and with a story line that didn't feel generic. This one actually made me cry!
In summary, Loretta Chase is surely the Queen of Romantic Fiction!