Book Review

SBit Patrick Reviews: Lord of Scoundrels, Part I

Title: Lord of Scoundrels
Author: Loretta Chase
Genre: Historical: European

Book CoverA snarktastic chapter-by-chapter account by Li’l SBiT Patrick

Howdy, howdy!  It’s time I get underway with my next review, of the much-ballyhooed Lord of Scoundrels.  As I write these words I’m about a chapter and a half in, and already I’m afraid that there might be a little less snark in this episode: so far the book is pretty much a big ol’ loaf of awesome smothered in a rich awesome sauce.

I’m liking it a lot: the writing is sharp, the characterizations subtle but effective, and the plot darkly hilarious.  While the prologue had a nearly gothic overtone not unlike that of one of Hugo’s darker works, the first two chapters I’ve completed have been lighter, airier, and great fun.  Dain’s a pompous pile of puffery, and Jessica’s the smart and sassy woman who’s going to bring him down…if he can’t get to her first.

Prologue: A demon is born

Yup, the fourth Marquess of Dain had one hell of a childhood.

Sebastian was the child of a broken home.  His mother returned to the continent when Bas was eight, leaving him in the hands of his puritanical father, who tried to break him with the Bible.  Even boarding school brought him no respite, and in his first months at Eton, before he earned his own place beside the wickedest of the older boys by beating one of them senseless, he found himself the target of all their vicious pranks.

But a rough adolescence made him strong, and once he’d secured a position on the seamy side of society he devoted himself to all that was devious, devilish, and deviant.  The Bane of the Ballisters became an astute money manager and, upon inheriting his father’s estate on the latter’s death, made a name for himself in the world of commerce.

As the book begins he’s thirty-three (or “three and thirty,” as Chase might say) and is on the lookout for whatever good time he can find in all the best salons and cheapest whorehouses in Paris.  What’s a swarthy, smart, sophisticated nobleman to do with all of his ill-gotten gains?

These first twenty pages or so are offer a portrait in chiaroscuro of the man who’s sure to be our hero, though at this point he’s very much an antihero.  As we’ll soon see, though, he’s difficult not to like, when compared to our heroine’s buffoon of a brother.

Speaking of whom…

Chapter 1: Is it a literary law that all useless tossers be named “Bertram”?

Chase’s Bertram Trent reminds me very much of Wodehouse’s Bertram Wooster, only (if it’s possible) the latter is by far the more intelligent.  At least Bertie Wooster would never mistake an icon for an acorn (see Chapter 3 of LoS).

Indeed, Bertie Trent is an oaf, a rich-but-not-quite-rich-enough-for-his-own-good idler who would have fit right in at a Drones Club alongside Oofy Prosser and Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps.  Chase sums him up delightfully and laconically when she says “He [Dain] had lured Bertie – who, lamentably, was not the cleverest of gentlemen – into his nefarious circle and down the slippery slope to ruin.”  Yes, Bertram finds himself in the midst of the Marquess’s knot of ne’er-do-wells, much to the chagrin of Bertie’s sister, Jessica Trent, who’s been summoned to straighten her brother right out and get him out of the nobleman’s wicked clutches.

The first chapter opens with Jessica’s arrival.  She comes with Genevieve, her hilariously iconoclastic grandmother, in order to sort out the family affairs and put them on the road to solvency, even if it means taking a day job.  “Work?  You mean earn wages?” asks Bertram.  Yes, Jessica means to open a shop, and not a “rag-and-bottle shop,” as Bertie puts it, but a proper one in which she can put to use her skill for sighting a profitable sale.

This chapter, most of which takes place in a seedy Paris curio shop, is devilishly funny.  Besides the blizzard of ribald ripostes with which Jessica assails her blubbering brother, we get to see her match wits with Dain for the first of what are sure to be many, many times.  I lost track of the number of times I laughed out loud during this couple’s exchange.

There’s even a bit of math: “She was, by the sounds of it, a bluestocking.  Dain had never before in his life met a female who’d even heard of an equation, let alone was aware that one balanced them” (p. 26).

The funniest bit of all comes at the chapter’s close when Dain distracts Bertie Trent by telling him to check out the shopkeeper’s newly acquired automaton.  Shiny shiny!
Chapter 2: Round One

Yup, they’re hot for each other.  The electricity between Dain and Jessica could power a mid-sized American city for a week.

We’re still at Champtois’s shop.  Dain tries to fluster Jessica by purposely standing closer to her than polite society allows.  She was initially rattled and took unladylike liberties: “She should not have been looking there, even if it was only an instant’s glance, but a physique like that demanded one’s attention and drew it…everywhere.”

But she stands her ground stoically.  Knowing full well that Dain is trying to humiliate her by showing off the workings of a pornographic watch, she plays along and observes its function without batting an eye, remarking glibly that the watch’s enamel is slightly damaged but that it’s in otherwise fine condition.  “It’s for my grandmother,” she tells him coolly as she makes to purchase it.  Hee hee!

For her encore, Jessica talks M. Champtois down from forty sous to ten for another piece, paying a quarter the asking price for a rank and rotten miniature of a woman with “an interesting expression.”  What a remarkable woman!  Of course, Dain will soon remark to his compatriots that “All I saw was a razor-tongued, supercilious bluestocking of a spinster.”  You ain’t foolin’ anyone, bra.  As much as he jokes about sex and love being one and the same, Dain’s clearly already starting to feel the stirring of something more the latter than the former.

Meanwhile, Jessica’s big enough to admit her feelings to her grandmother: “This is not only mortifying, but inconvenient.  I am in lust with Dain.  Of all times, now.  Of all men, him.”  Genevieve urges her on, noting that Dain will make a fine husband, that she out to “set her hooks and reel him in.”

Since I’m obviously not doing a very good job at snarking on this novel so far, let me take this opportunity to snark on something else.  Jessica’s reply to her grandmother’s comment above, “This is not a trout, Genevieve.  This is a great, hungry shark,” reminds me of a line from what is surely one of the worst plays ever produced, Streets and Boulevards, once put on at the Belcourt Theater in Hillsboro Village in Nashville.  (It may have been produced elsewhere since then, but I sincerely hope not.  I’m not going to waste the time it would take to do an internet search for it.)

The play is a godawfully hackneyed piece of cheese about a bunch of low-level mobsters who are trying to work their way up the mafia ladder by offing one another and doing other assorted sordid deeds.  One character’s shark metaphor for the big-fish-eat-little-fish world of organized crime sets up the hero’s delivery of what has to be the most flatly anticlimactic climactic line ever written: “I’m not a shark.  I’m a salmon.”

That line is one of two things Maughta and I will never forget about this craptastic work of “art.”  The other is the point at which a minor character’s unintentionally funny pantomiming made Maughta laugh at a completely inappropriate (and quiet) moment in the action.  There were fewer people in the audience than there were in the cast and crew of the play, and Maughta’s laugh is very recognizable, so it wasn’t at all surprising when during the intermission our friend who was performing in the play came out to see us and declared, “I heard you laugh!”  Indeed, he’d been the one she was laughing at.

Back to Lord of Scoundrels.  I, for one, am hooked.  (Get it?  Hooked?  I’m not a shark, I’m a trout!)  The story so far is well written and well paced.  The action is meaningful and the dialogue is sharp.  The book is hilarious, and the humor acts in the service of subtle and effective character development.  I’m very much looking forward to more, and I understand how it is that this book came to the top of so many SBTB readers’ lists.

Stay tuned for Chapter 3: The bluestocking does some blue-balling, in which Dain discovers just how much of a coup Jessica managed to strike in Champtois’s shop!

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    Chapter 1: Is it a literary law that all useless tossers be named “Bertram”?

    Yep.  Or Percy.  :-D

    food75—one of Bertie Trent’s major preoccupations

  2. 2

    Love it.  You’re off to another great start, and you’ve reminded me why I love this novel so much.

  3. 3
    Elyssa Papa says:

    Clearly, there’s a reason why Patrick has his doctorate. I love his chapter subtitles and reactions to LOS. Who can’t help but love brutish Dain and smart, savvy Jessica?  I’m glad he’s enjoying this one.

  4. 4
    Maya M. says:

    I’m amazed you didn’t say anything about the anti-meet cute, when instead of describing his first sight of Jessica with hearts and flowers and violin music, Dain says he feels like he’s been put head first down a latrine!  I am not a fan of toilet humor at all but the extreme opposite to some of the snark-worthy descriptions of meetings between romance protagonists was too, too funny.

  5. 5
    Lovecow2000 says:

    Hooray!  Great review…. When are we going to foist a bad book on li’l SBiT Patrick? I’m looking forward to his sharpening his wits on some bad writing as well as good.

  6. 6
    Lori says:

    Lovelovelovelovelove this book!

  7. 7
    Phyllis says:

      Chapter 1: Is it a literary law that all useless tossers be named “Bertram”?

    Yep.  Or Percy.  :-D

    In a contemporary, he’d be Brad.

  8. 8
    willaful says:

    ONE OF US! ONE OF US!

  9. 9
    Suze says:

    I’m not a shark.  I’m a salmon, in ur ass, saving ur haunted vagina.

  10. 10
    The F says:

    Love it. More kthx.
    Mostly glad that you’re enjoying it. :)

  11. 11
    beggar1015 says:

    I’d like to thank Patrick for making me look up the word “chiaroscuro”. It’s a good thing to learn something new every day.

  12. 12
    JennyME says:

    Yay!!

    That’s all I have to say. Other than: I am going to dig out my copy of LoS as soon as I’m home and start a long overdue re-read.

  13. 13
    GrowlyCub says:

    Glad you like it, Patrick, and looking forward to future post, but don’t think you need to sound like Sarah’s awesomesauciness. :)

    You are allowed to coin your own special terms of approval. :)

  14. 14
    Danielle says:

    This is one of my favorite books!!! I love Dain and Jessica.

  15. 15
    Melissa S. says:

    *Gasp* I want to read this now. I’m going to the book store right now.

  16. 16
    ev says:

    It’s buried in my tbr pile somewhere. I must find it.

    In a contemporary, he’d be Brad.

    Or William or Frederick

  17. 17
    Madd says:

    A year or so ago I saw awesome sauce used in a product description on Think Geek and I got a giggle out of it, though I found it kind of odd.

    I’m glad Patrick’s digging LoS. It’s in my top 5.

  18. 18
    fiveandfour says:

    I’ve always liked to think that LoS had many kinds of homages within it, including the use of Bertram as a name (here’s Bertie under the influence of the anti-Jeeves, if you will), plus an upcoming scene between Jess and Dain that’s like one out of Georgette Heyer’s Devil’s Cub

    Sadly, there are so, so many books in the romance genre that lend themselves all too easily to snarking.  The trick would be to find one painful enough to induce snark, but not so painful that we scar Patrick for life.  It actually seems like more of a challenge than one might initially think.

    And “Li’l SBiT “?  Eeep, whataname.

  19. 19
    Bhetti B says:

    Glad I read this already, I can follow the review spoiler-fearing free. Hope the rest of the book lives up to the set-up for ya!

  20. 20
    Kaetrin says:

    You are reminding me how much I loved this book and what set me on the quest to get Loretta Chase’s backlist.

    Must go and look up chiaroscuro….

    Looking forward to the rest of your review Patrick.

    thx

  21. 21
    Holly says:

    ok, I ordered it off paperbackswap today.  sounds like a keeper.

    I only recently discovered the review for Decadent when I was scrolling through the Greatest Hits.  I immediately sent it to the sister, the sister in law, the sister in law in law and the sister in law in law in law. 

    I don’t think Patrick could improve on Candy’s review, but it’d still be hilarious to watch him wade through that stuff.

    Not to offend anyone, but how about some Coulter?  Or—oooh – how about some Old Skool stuff?  Has anyone suggested throwing a Woodiwiss at him? 

    sound81:  as I was complaining to a coworker today about a kid I saw walking down the street holding his pants up with one hand because if he didn’t, they’d fall down around his ankles, it occurred to me that I sounded 81.  And I didn’t care.

  22. 22
    Diane/Anonym2857 says:

    After languishing in my TBR pile for months, I finally read this over the weekend so that I could folow along. What a wonderful book!  I’ve been going back and re-reading passages for days. LOL

    I’m looking forward to reading Patrick’s views on it.

    Diane :o)

  23. 23
    Zoe Archer says:

    Whew!  I just finished a ms. today, so maybe I’ll treat myself to a reread of LoS.  I wonder if I can get my hubs to read it, too….

  24. 24
    Brenna says:

    This book is my absolute favourite Loretta Chase book and I’m glad that he’s enjoying it too.  Chase is such a smart and witty writer. 

    You do get to learn a new word from Chase sometimes.  In Not Quite a Lady, Darius was saying to Charlotte that he touched her “pudenda”.  I had to look at the meaning. *g*

  25. 25
    eaeaea says:

    Not quite ‘The Lord’s sexy shopgirl’ or similar snark.
    Glad Patrick is enjoying it, I’m certainly enjoying the review.
    Looking forward to next part.

  26. 26
    Stelly says:

    Your reviews are super entertaining to read.  I’m looking forward to the next instalment.  :)

  27. 27
    Chani says:

    Glad you’re enjoying the book Patrick! Loved the first synopsis, keep ‘em coming.

  28. 28
    Sandia says:

    I’m totally doing a read-a-long with our SBiT Patrick!  I’m glad he’d been enjoying it.  I lurved both LoS and the Last Hellion.

  29. 29
    Kelly C. says:

    Ummmmm . . . . . what does it mean when my Uncle’s name was Bertram?

     

    And yes, he was born (barely) in the 20th Century.  :) 

    spam-a-lot word :  still87 . . . . . oh how I wish it were still 1987.

  30. 30
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Indeed, Bertie Trent is an oaf, a rich-but-not-quite-rich-enough-for-his-own-good idler who would have fit right in at a Drones Club alongside Oofy Prosser and Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps.

    All I can say is Marry me! If you can quote Black Adder as well I’m done for . . . *grin*

Comments are closed.

↑ Back to Top