Book Review

Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase


Title: Mr. Impossible
Author: Loretta Chase
Publication Info: Berkley Sensation 2005
ISBN: 0425201503
Genre: Historical: European

Have I ever mentioned how happy I am that Loretta Chase is writing regularly again? You might’ve gotten an inkling since I actually dedicated three—THREE—entries on this website on my search for a copy of Mr. Impossible. And I’m as happy as Dieter getting his monkey touched to report that with her latest effort, Chase doesn’t disappoint. (She rarely does; the only time I’ve been less than impressed with her work was with The Last Hellion, but the less said about that book the better.) Mr. Impossible is almost perfect, and I stayed up until 5 a.m. Saturday morning finishing it, trying not to bounce too hard with suppressed glee so I wouldn’t wake The Very Tall Husband.

Daphne Pembroke fell in love with hieroglyphics the first time she saw them as a little girl, and has dedicated her life to doing what no scholar has succeeded thus far: finding the key to translating those odd little picture-words. Her dedication to furthering her knowledge is so fierce that when she was 19, she married a clergyman 35 years her senior because of his extensive book collection. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Virgil Pembroke turns out to be a stuffy, passive-aggressive asswipe; ref. Romance Novel Commandment No. 42: “Thou shalt not suffer a heroine who hath a happy first marriage with an excellent sex life to live, though the hero may be allowed provided the former wife be uncommon delicate of constitution and expire painfully during childbirth, consequently leading to years of self-flagellation, anguish and guilt.”

Luckily for Daphne, Virgil cocks his toes five years into their not-quite-blissful union, and she’s free to travel to Egypt and follow her interests without his admonishments about her unfeminine pursuits. But that still leaves the problem of having her scholarship being taken seriously by the rest of the world. Enter her lovely and supportive older brother Miles, who helps her by masquerading as a linguistics scholar and thus providing her with a much-needed link to the mainstream of scholarly society.

And then Miles goes and gets kidnapped shortly after he purchases her a rare, beautifully-inscribed papyrus, reputed to hold the secrets to the location of an ancient pharaoh’s tomb, filled with treasure. Daphne runs to the British Consul for help, only to find that the only assistance available is Rupert Carsington, the completely unmanageable fourth son of the Earl of Hargate. He’s huge, spirited and tremendously strong, but he also doesn’t seem all that bright: he’s currently languishing in the depths of one of the nastiest dungeons in Cairo for allegedly trying to take on a large chunk of Muhammad Ali Pasha’s army, single-handedly.

Rupert isn’t stupid, of course. He merely enjoys provoking the very beautiful, very smart Daphne, just to see what she’ll say or do; he also finds that keeping her in a state of high dudgeon helps prevent her from crying, a female state he feels completely unequipped to deal with that drives him absolutely frantic. So he cheerfully declares that thinking is her domain, insists on calling papyri “those brown thingums,” claims her servants’ names are completely unpronounceable and proceeds to call them by English names, and then goes on to flirt outrageously with her. And Daphne can’t help but be attracted to this unpredictable, beautiful man who, infuriating though he may be, actually seems fascinated by her intellectual prowess instead of belittling it.

The budding romance happens during a most delightful adventure story that reminds me in many ways of an Indiana Jones movie, only set in 1821. Daphne and Rupert weather all sorts of attacks by assorted thugs hired by not one, but two different villains, narrowly escape from being trapped in pyramids and other types of ancient Egyptian tombs, rescue some strays along the way, are shot at, stabbed at, have their heads beaten (and do some head-beating of their own) and still somehow manage to save the day (and Miles, of course).

And may I say that Chase does a most excellent job with her villains? She doesn’t make them gay, or hideously ugly, or beat up small animals or children, or anything else of the sort to indicate that they’re Very Nasty People. Instead, they’re two men engaged in a race for Egypt’s slowly dwindling supply of antiquities, and their ambitions have so completely consumed them that it has become a veritable war of one-upmanship. One of the villains actually treats his employees very well and forbids them from being beaten—that is, unless they fail at a crucial task, in which case their punishment is very familiar if you’ve ever read Asterix and Cleopatra.

As in every Chase novel, the witty dialogue is the best feature. Rupert, in particular, won me over with his sly attempts to incense Daphne and his cheerful proclamations of his irresistible charms. Here’s a little sample from the very beginning of the book, where Daphne and the consul’s secretary are picking Rupert up from the Cairo dungeon. Keep in mind he’s still behind bars, and his release is as yet uncertain:

“That man,” she said in low but still audible tones, “is an idiot.”

“Yes, madam, but he’s all we got.”

“I may be stupid,” Rupert said, “but I’m irresistibly attractive.”

“Good grief, conceited too,” she muttered.

“And being a great, dumb ox,” he went on, “I’m wonderfully easy to manage. (…) I’m as strong as an ox, too,” he said encouragingly. “I can lift you up with one hand and your maid with the other.”

“He’s cheerful, madam,” Beechey said, sounding desperate. “We must give him that. Is it not remarkable how he’s kept up his spirits in this vile place?”

Obligingly, Rupert began to whistle.

And I don’t know if you noticed, but when you read Chase dialogue, you can actually hear the British accents in your head. Chase has an uncanny knack for the correct rhythm and cadences of British speech, and never resorts to random ‘tis-ing and ‘twas-ing in an attempt to recreate “authentic” historical speech patterns.

I only have two very, very minor complaints with this book. One of them falls into the realm of petty nitpicking, but really, I hate it when authors do this. One of the villains is described as having tawny hair and eyes at the beginning of the book, but towards the end of the book his eyes mysteriously change to blue. This pulls me out of the story and sends me on a frantic search for eye color references in other parts of the book the way few other errors can.

The other flaw has to do with what I feel are too many references to Alistair Carsington, Rupert’s older brother and the hero of Miss Wonderful (another excellent book). I felt that Rupert’s references to Alistair add something to the book in only two spots during the story; the other mentions started to sound repetitive after a while. Yes, we know Alistair is a Waterloo hero; yes, we know he limps. Get on with the seduction and/or the skullduggery already!

Anyway, if you like your heroes big, protective and confident without being annoyingly arrogant; if you like intelligent, strong-willed heroines who don’t indulge in Too Stupid To Live behavior; if you enjoy zippy dialogue and adventure stories that swash and buckle along with great flair—you’ll probably enjoy Mr. Impossible. God knows I did. Now I’m just antsy with anticipation for the next book in this series, featuring the oldest Carsington brother, Benedict.

I know, y’all can’t wait to read the no doubt four or five blog entries I’ll dedicate to my obsessive attempts to get my hands on a copy as soon as humanly possible.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Jane Porter says:

    Hey, am still very new here but was thrilled to bits (sorry—trying hard to find a fuck yeah way to say this without saying fuck yeah and turning into a 41 year old female Fonzie) to see a rewview for Loretta Chase’s Mr. Impossible here.  I am such a picky reader and few books get my full approval but Loretta Chase is a fav author and Mr. Impossible was so damn much fun to read.  She made me want my very own Mr. Impossible.  Thanks for a great review and getting just how talented Chase is.

  2. 2
    Candy says:

    Wheee! People finding all sorts of old reviews on this site tonight. Warms the cockles of my heart. Anyway, glad you agree with my assessment. My stance on Loretta Chase novels is: I’ll read ‘em and review ‘em as fast as she can write ‘em.

    In other words: She can’t write fast enough for me, really.

  3. 3
    Jane Porter says:

    The first book I ever read by Loretta Chase was Lord of Scoundrels (I think that’s the title….) and from chapter 1 I was completely enamoured.  I love that she writes a tight story with wonderful characters and intelligent prose without needing to resort to cliches or over the top sex to make a book a page turner.  I love sexy novels, but think love scenes should fit a book…and (hopefully) have emotional resonance so its a love story not just wham bam…especially in a Regency setting!

  4. 4
    Angela H says:

    Candy, I picked up this book based on your review.  I read it last night and I send big cyber-smooches to you.  I just loved it.  I was cackling with mad glee the entire time.  This was my first Loretta Chase and it won’t be my last.  Cheers to you, Candy!

  5. 5
    lovelysalome says:

    I, too, picked up this book at the library last week based on your review.  Thanks!!  I have been searching for a new MUST READ (MOST) ALL BOOKS authors, and Chase seems to qualify.  I also just finished Lord Perfect which was a hoot.  I am such a huge fan of books where the author can sustain dramatic and romantic tension throughout the entire novel without any horrible BIG MISUNDERSTANDING.  Mr. Impossible achieved that, as does Lord Perfect

    And you were very right about the English accents.  My husband is from London, and I was laughing out loud at how accurately Chase rendered Rupert’s dialogue.  For some reason, I kept hearing Hugh Laurie from roles like Wooster (Jeeves & Wooster) or George VI (Blackadder III) when he plays someone so flabergasted and jovially stupid.  When Rupert was well into playing the part of the idiot, or when he didn’t know that what he felt was love, I kept hearing Hugh.  Which isn’t a bad thing at all! 

    Currently searching out Miss Wonderful

    Thanks again!

  6. 6
    Nougat says:

    I read this book after seeing your review and I must agree, it was very good.  So nice to read a romance novel with a real plot for once. :)

  7. 7
    Jen says:

    I just read this book after seeing it so highly ranked on your site, and I have to say, its marvelous!  It was my first Loretta Chase, and I ran out to get Miss Wonderful afterwards.  The only thing that loses points with me- I wanted to hear less about the criminals, and more about my delightful couple.  Still, it was a fantastic read.  What fun!

  8. 8
    Alan says:

    I just finished this book and it was wonderful. My only complain is that Rupert was too much of a Gary Sue in that everyone (including animals) loved him. Other than that, it was a great book.

  9. 9
    Alan says:

    Oops. I meant Gary Stu, the male version of a Mary Sue.

  10. 10
    Erin says:

    I found “Mr. Impossible” for $1.50 at the farmer’s market. I picked it up because I remembered you guys liking it, and you were so right. So much love. If romance is the “fast food” of literature, as some say, then Loretta Chase is Chik-fil-A. And I really freaking love Chik-fil-A (especially the salads. And the milkshakes. Mmmm.)

  11. 11

    I am such a picky reader and few books get my full approval but Loretta Chase is a fav author and Mr. Impossible was so damn much fun to read.

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