Book Review

Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase

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Title: Your Scandalous Ways
Author: Loretta Chase
Publication Info: Avon 2008
ISBN: 006123124X
Genre: Historical: European

I checked the reviews on Amazon before I wrote my review for this book, just because I was curious to see how other people’s reactions stacked up to mine, and found that the two most popular complaints were:

1. OH MY GOD THE HEROINE IS A WHORE YOU GUYS THIS IS TOTALLY GROSS.

2. Loretta Chase has lost her zing.

The first criticism is something I can empathize with, even though I strongly disagree with it. I love Francesca because she’s an unrepentant, magnificent, ruinously expensive whore, and because she doesn’t mince words about it. On the other hand, I can understand people finding that utterly repulsive, an affront to their moral sensibilities. I’d feel the same way if I had to read a romance novel featuring, say, right-wing talk radio hosts, or Carrot Top. We all have our lines in the sand, and apparently, Francesca crosses it for many people. And what’s more, I love James, the hero, because Chase sets up his character and motivations in such a fashion that he recognizes Francesca as a kindred spirit, thus bypassing most beautifully the whole “You’re a whore, and therefore untrustworthy in every way” conflict I was dreading when I first picked up this book.

Anyway, I could go on and on about the unfair standards we hold heroines up to, but for now, I’ll just say that the fact that a heroine who unabashedly breaks the rules and gets away with it is given infinitely less slack than a hero who does the same thing tells us every bit as much about the reader and the dominant cultural mindset than the book itself.

The second criticism, however, addresses something I have observed in the last few books Chase has released. Not Quite a Lady, in particular, had me checking the cover continually to make sure Loretta Chase was actually the author, because it was so shoddily constructed and lacking in Chase’s signature sparkle and vigor. Is the zing of her best work fully restored in this book? Not really. But it is present in substantial amounts throughout the book, and while the ending is a touch too neat and the villains lack complexity (which is a shame, because Chase has written some damn fine villains), she makes some highly unusual choices and pulls them off with great panache.

The plot goes thusly:

Two whores meet in Venice. (This could almost be the opening line for a Shakespearean comedy, couldn’t it? Except it’s trochaic, not iambic.) One is a jewel thief and spy and whores for his government; the other is a disgraced divorcée exiled from polite English society who whores to secure her own future. Whore #1 is tasked to steal some Supah Sekrit papers from Whore #2. They really don’t want to fall in love because it’s bad form. Whore #1 wants to marry an innocent milksop miss to counteract the darkness and moral ambiguity he’s been immersed in for far too long, and knows he’ll have to betray Whore #2, which doesn’t exactly thrill him. Whore #2, on the other hand, knows Whore #1 can’t afford her. imageThat, and her vile ex-husband left her with beaucoup de scarring in the squishy bits of her psyche where trust, love and security reside. And then people try to kill them, because that’s what you get when there are Capers Afoot, and lots of people are tossed into canals, because that’s what you get when there are Capers Afoot (A-boat?) in Venice. But the bad guys are caught in the end, and, being exceedingly naughty in our sight, snuff it. A gratuitously happy ending is presented to us in an epilogue, wherein I almost expect rainbows to start shooting out of people’s asses, it’s that sappy-shiny-perfect (even if it does have some clever repartee), and I really wish romance novels will stop with that shit, already—but that deserves a separate rant of its own.

Francesca Bonnard is one of the most unusual heroines I’ve encountered in Romancelandia: she’s been deeply damaged by her husband’s treatment of her, and as a consequence, her skittishness about falling in love and allowing any man to have ultimate power over her is genuine and consistent. She sincerely loved her handsome diplomat husband, so when she found out about that he’d never been faithful to her and cheated on him in retaliation, only to have him divorce her for her one infidelity, her life was, in a literal way, wrenched away from her. But instead of playing the martyr or retreating to the country to lick her wounds, Francesca decides to become a courtesan—a very expensive, very successful courtesan. And what’s more, she decides to steal some highly incriminating letters from her husband to ensure her continued safety and to rub her husband’s nose in her newly-chosen profession by writing to him periodically about her amorous conquests on the Continent, as well as the shockingly expensive jewelry her lovers shower on her.

Francesca is, in short, fantastic. Magnificent. Easily one of my favorite romance heroines of all time. She’s strong-willed and strong-minded, and what’s more, she’s effective with it. So many romance heroines are presented as being competent and (gag) feisty and full of strength, only to be systematically emasculated by the story so she can be proven wrong and then rescued by the hero—even in really excellent romance novels, like The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne. Not so Francesca. Every time James tries to pull one over her, she pulls a judo move on him and flips him onto his back before he quite knows what happened. She genuinely outwits him a time or two, and instead of setting up an adversarial relationship in which the hero is clearly the protector and the heroine’s attempts to subvert him lead only to further danger, the story features two true equals, worthy adversaries who never quite successfully get the upper hand on each other. When Francesca outwits James, he’s filled with admiration for her—and so am I, because it’s so rare to have a romance heroine who’s genuinely clever. I’m so tired heroines who are presented to the reader as the smartest biped to promenade around Almack’s, only to have the author show, over and over and over again, that her particular hamster is sleeping at the wheel. Francesca doesn’t have a hamster powering her brain. Perhaps something more like a devious robot ninja.

Oh, come on, if I didn’t have at least one of these cockeyed analogies in my review, it wouldn’t be the same, and you know it.

Francesca also refuses to portray herself as some sort of wounded, misunderstood soul, which only underscores the pathos of her situation. Her choice to be a high-priced courtesan is an expression of her desire to control every aspect of her intimate interactions with men, as well as an attempt to free herself from depending on a man for security, either emotional or financial. Even the way she refuses to paint herself for anything else other than a courtesan is a defensive move, designed to defuse any barbs slung her way, much in the way an overweight girl will make a joke about the size of her ass before anyone else gets there—and make it funnier and more cutting. This exchange, in particular, is telling; it takes place when Francesca is retrieved from the canal, shivering and dressed only in a transparent chemise:

“You’re creating a diversion, all right,” [James] said. “You’re wearing a shift that’s soaked through. You might as well be wearing nothing. And everybody’s looking.”

“That will never do,” she said. “I’m a harlot. They must pay to look.”

Even better, Francesca doesn’t have a problematic sex life, and she doesn’t find True Luuuuurrrve because James turns out to have the one and only cock in all of creation capable of giving her orgasms. She enjoys sex, and she feels lustful when she notices a beautiful male form. (One of my favorite lines in the book is when Francesca says to James “You’re beautiful when you’re angry.” The inversion of gender tropes and the switching of the focus of the gaze makes me profoundly happy in the pantalones.) Francesca gets an inkling that what she feels for James is out of the norm, however, when the sex isn’t just excellent—it’s extraordinary. In short, the experience that’s reserved for showing slutty heroes that He’s Found the One is the exact same one used for a slutty heroine, and it works.

And I think that’s why I’m somewhat disappointed by the readers who seem to dismiss Francesca as an unworthy heroine simply because she’s a whore who isn’t repentant for her actions or condemned by the characters who serve as the ultimate moral compass—James, in fact, tells Francesca that if he can’t keep her interest, it’ll bloody well serve him right to be a cuckold, which just about knocked me on my ass with glee. Francesca becomes a prostitute in a way that’s completely in keeping with her character and motivations, and her lack of shame about it is refreshing. None of the same readers who are bothered by Francesca seem similarly bothered by the way James whores himself and calls himself such. Part of it may be related to the fact that James is doing it for King and Country and not filthy lucre, but I feel like Chase manages to set up Francesca’s circumstances in a very sympathetic way. Mostly, I think, readers tend to be much harder on heroines because they’re simultaneously placeholders and competition, with the added complication of not being the object of desire the way heroes tend to be.

James is a worthy partner for Francesca, though because he’s set in a somewhat more conventional mold, I’m not quite as gleeful over his development as I am over the flaming hoops Chase has made the genre conventions governing heroines jump through for this particular book. James’ brutal honesty about what he does and the methods he chooses to employ are refreshing, and I greatly enjoy the fact that he never judges Francesca by a different standard than he does himself. It’s to Chase’s credit that she makes this egalitarian honesty so much a part of James’ nature that I never pause and wonder if this would’ve been a convincing attitude for a man of that time, because she makes it clear that he is not an ordinary man.

Chase’s knack for wry observations and witty banter stand this book in good stead, too. Several bits made me laugh out loud, such as this observation from Francesca, when she swoons after running too much:

She’d fainted because she was not used to running, Francesca told them as they fussed over her in the gondola. (…) “Have you ever run in stays?” she said to James. “Oh, why do I ask you? Of course you have. But you’re a man, and your lungs are larger.

This book isn’t quite perfect, however. For one, I feel that Chase’s prose has gotten choppier over the years, and it’s not an improvement. Her current style doesn’t quite flow in the same way it used to, and I miss that. I also wanted more book. I wanted more detail, more depth of emotion, more details on what Francesca went through during and right after the divorce, and James’ (mis)adventures.

The villains aren’t especially interesting, either. In the past, Chase has made the effort to give us a glimpse into the villains’ motivations, making them, if not outright sympathetic, then at least characters in their own right. The bad guys in this story, however, lack depth. The female villain is a screaming bundle of irrationality, poor breeding and homicidal urges; the male villain, Francesca’s ex-husband, is a scheming, cold-hearted, voracious predator. They weren’t particularly scary to me, and they were never any genuine threat to the safety and sanity of the protagonists. This is a shame, because there’s so much delicious territory to be exploited by a villain who’s genuinely scary, who actually makes you doubt whether the protagonists will survive him, despite knowing there will an HEA waiting for you by the end of the book.

And lastly, I didn’t particularly enjoy some aspects of the ending. Certain bits made sense in the context of the plot, but other bits of Happy Ending were gratuitous and pushed me from feeling satisfied to mildly incredulous. Srsly, why do romances insist on making everything nauseatingly perfect for their characters in the happy ending? Authors: it’s OK for the protagonists to not get every single goddamn thing they want. I just want a solid reassurance that they’ll be happy. In fact, knowing that there are one or two things off-kilter makes the sweet parts even sweeter. You don’t want to douse a decadent brownie with maple syrup; you want to complement it with some slightly tart berries, or pair it with the subtle sweetness of freshly-whipped cream, or the mellow accents of vanilla ice-cream.

All in all, though, these flaws are inconsequential. Your Scandalous Ways is a fantastically entertaining book with a heroine who quickly shot to one of my top spots for all-time favorite and a hero who matches her in every way. If you’ve enjoyed Chase in the past but have found her last couple of efforts somewhat lackluster, I highly recommend that you pick this up.


This book is available in mass market paperback from Amazon and Powell’s, or rented from Paperspine.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Mos Stef says:

    I’m actually reading this book right now, so it was cool seeing this right up at top. I discovered Loretta Chase through this blog and the great pimping of her books, and she’s become my favorite historical romance author. I’m also unhealthily obsessed with Venice (I have a shelf nearly full of books about the place) so the combo was a match made in heaven for me. I’m still pretty early in so I couldn’t read your whole review- I’m terrified of spoilers- but so far I love it. Even though I’m pretty new to the romance genre and VERY new to historicals, I haven’t read a book with the heroine being an out and out whore. It’s awesome, and the fact that she CHOOSE that life and is proud of it is wonderful, and a refreshing change from virginal country girls who can barely emote for fear of being labeled an unmarriageable slut.

    Anyway, thanks for the review and being so pro-Loretta Chase from the get-go, I can’t wait to read your review all the way through. ;)

  2. 2
    emwhist says:

    Reviews like this are precisely why I am a Candy and Sarah devotee. Having read ‘Your Scandalous Ways’, I must concur that it was incredibly refreshing to have a whore for a main character. Trashy books abound featuring men who gain their fortune through whoring in their younger years, and that seems perfectly acceptable. So FINALLY, here is a book in which the heroine is not pure-as-the-driven-snow or slept-with-an-asshole-once, or some other version of innocent.

    Is this the best book ever? No. Is it the best Loretta Chase ever? No. But it’s still much better than most and it presents a familiar plot with some well-written twists.

  3. 3
    Melissandre says:

    I must also thank the Smart Bitches for clueing me in to Loretta Chase.  I haven’t had a chance to read all of her books, but I have enjoyed what I have read.  This one was good, but not my favorite (and for the same reasons it’s not Candy’s favorite).  That said, Loretta Chase at her “worst” is lot better than the “bests” of many other authors.  Read and enjoy!

  4. 4
    SusanL says:

    I’m trying to save this book for my vacation over July 4, but I don’t think I’m going to make it.

    Did you see the videos of Ms Chase posted on You Tube?  There are five clips of her discussing the characters etc.  I can’t remember where I found out about them, so my apologies if I heard it here first :)

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=qVyzbH5FmlQ&feature=related

  5. 5
    Liz C says:

    Loved Francesca and James. Agree about the ending. It was way too neat. I have no problem with them getting married, that’s expected, but she had to throw in some titles and respectability as well?

  6. 6
    SonomaLass says:

    This is the first Loretta Chase novel I have read—I’m just getting back into historicals after a LONG hiatus, and this looked good from the review at DA.  Obviously I can’t compare it with her other books, but I enjoyed it and look forward to reading some of her back list.

    I like James a lot as a hero, and I loved Francesca!  For all the reasons Candy said (very good review, thanks).  I liked her, I believed her, I understood her, and I really enjoyed seeing how traditional romance elements work with a heroine who is more like a conventional hero.  I particularly liked how the sex was handled—it’s refreshing to have a central couple who both understand sex and enjoy it, but who then find that it can be even better with someone who really loves you.

  7. 7
    Vanessa says:

    I wanted to love this book so hard it was ridiculous. Everything you said in your review is on the money, at least for me, but the book was missing that spark, the ZING of a “Most Favorite Book of All Time”. Maybe it was that Francesca said she was a whore so often and I felt like we already got it, but she kept saying it. It was shown enough that I didn’t need to be told. And I wanted to see more of James, I felt like I didn’t get my hero fix.

    So I wanted to give it an A+, and I really think it deserves a grade in the A range, but because it was missing that indefinable crazy spark, I gave it a B+. And thats still pretty awesome in my book.

  8. 8
    Candy says:

    Liz: Yes, the respectability and the title were the hardest bits for me to swallow. I mean, really, the ending would’ve been perfectly adequate as it was; I liked the fact that Francesca and James found happiness despite having to pay a price. There’s power in moving on, and by giving them what she did, I felt like Chase diluted that power. Ah, well.

    I’m thinking some more about that certain something about the book that’s missing in Chase’s very best work, and I think it’s the extremely compressed timeframe.

    My favorite romance novel courtships tend to take place over a period of months—even years. The story in Lord of Scoundrels covers several months, for example, and I felt that the relationship was much, much more satisfying as a consequence. This hasn’t been the case with most of the romance novels I’ve read lately, even the ones I’ve enjoyed. Most of Your Scandalous Ways takes place in less than 10 days. Every romance novel Loretta Chase has released since Miss Wonderful has taken place in under a month, I think. I’m trying hard to remember the timeframe of The Spymaster’s Lady (which is another romance I enjoyed reading this year) and I think everything’s over within a month or so. There’s this indefinable rushed quality to a lot of newly-released romances, and I don’t like it. I want the pacing to be more leisurely, goddammit, and for the characters to really get to know each other well before committing to a lifetime with each other.

    I think I’ll have to take an informal survey some time when I have access to my bookshelves again (I’m currently roadtripping through California and Arizona) and compare the timelines of romances I’ve loved that were published in the 80s, 90s and early 00s vs. the ones published within the last 5 or so years.

  9. 9
    Miranda says:

    Note: I have not read this book.

    However, I don’t generally like books about high-paid, glamourous whores because they ignore what being a sex worker includes for the majority of women which includes physical abuse and rape. Many of the women were sexually abused as children and, as I understand it, the median age for entering sex work is 14.

    Again, I haven’t read the book, and Chase may well take the most sensitive tone on the issue ever, but I don’t see it in the review.

    My verification is history81. Prostitutes didn’t fair well in history either.

  10. 10
    Elizabeth Wadsworth says:

    I just finished this one, and while I enjoyed it a lot, it left me rather unmoved compared to, say, Lord of Scoundrels, which had huge dollops of emotional resonance as well as an exciting plot. 

    I get what Chase was doing here:  James Cordier = James Bond, Quentin = Q and so on, and I think that’s why, for me anyway, these characters, while entertaining, didn’t fit comfortably into a happy-ever-after scenario.  I just couldn’t picture James and Francesca growing old together; in a best case scenario I think they’d have 2 or 3 good years and then happily part ways by mutual agreement. 

    However, I loved some of the twists and turns of the plot and how Chase turns many of the conventions of the genre on their heads – for instance, Francesca’s elderly “lover” turning out to be something else entirely (trying not to be spoilery here.)  Her being a “magnificent whore” didn’t bother me in the slightest; in fact I found it refreshing.  I hope Chase makes her BFF Giulietta into a protagonist some time in the future, as I loved that character and the interaction between the two.  And I figured out where the package was hidden long before James did. :)

    And did anyone else think James was going to resurrect his campy Spanish gigolo character after marriage, to ensure Francesca didn’t get bored with him?

  11. 11
    ev says:

    this is in my tbr pile, so I will have to wait until I get home from vaca to dig it out. I am looking forward to reading it now. I love the premise of a whore who don’t give a crap!

    I haven’t been reading a lot of historicals myself either. I got bored with the good girl image that they always portrayed. zzzzzzzz No excitement. Formulaic even.

    I enjoy cleaver repartee myself. Snarky conversations make me laugh and I love to laugh, even a little giggle or snort snuck into a book is good.

    I wish someone would write blurbs on the backs of books the way you did- I can only imagine how many we would sell then!!

  12. 12
    Trix says:

    …feeling I might be opening a can of worms:

    Many of the women were sexually abused as children …

    As were many of us who have not become sex workers. Are there comparative statistics on the level of childhood sexual abuse for sex workers vis a vis that for non-sex workers?

    … as I understand it, the median age for entering sex work is 14.

    Whereabouts? I’m not saying that statistic may not be true, but I’d be interested in knowing what community(ies) it relates to.

    I’m not trying to be disingenuous here – most people who get into sex work do so because they feel it’s the only way they can make money (no skills, drug addiction, and, yes, sexual abuse or abandonment). But it’s not all like that.

    Leaving all that aside, it’s escapist fiction. There aren’t many romance books written from the perspective of the Irish skivvy either… and I’m sure there aren’t any that have the skivvy remaining the skivvy. The aristocracy was (and is) only a tiny minority of the population, after all.

    But if you find a glamorous whore too much of a clanger to enjoy reading about, it’s understandable. I wouldn’t enjoy reading about a religious wife who found the way to deal with her husband via true faith, and the HEA coming about through her “reforming” him. We all have different squicks.

  13. 13
    Trix says:

    Oh, and as a possible model for the book, Veronica Franco. While her later life is unknown, she seemed to have had a stimulating, happy and successful time for most of it. Unlike many female members of the aristocracy at the time.

  14. 14
    Krysia says:

    A gratuitously happy ending is presented to us in an epilogue, wherein I almost expect rainbows to start shooting out of people’s asses, it’s that sappy-shiny-perfect (even if it does have some clever repartee), and I really wish romance novels will stop with that shit, already—but that deserves a separate rant of its own.

    LMFAO!
    So true… and I’m probably guilty of that myself. :)

  15. 15
    Ana says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your assessment of Francesca and James. Their love story was splendid and to me, the best part of it was how she WAS an unrepetant courtesan. Very refreshing.

  16. 16

    Excellent review, as always.  You managed to put your finger on the things that bothered me about this book, as well as pointing out why it was such an enjoyable read. 

    Loretta Chase is still an autobuy for me, simply because even on her bad days she’s better than 90% of us who write historical romance.

  17. 17
    Cat Marsters says:

    I might have to get this book, if just to see how the whore aspect is handled (and because the last historical I bought on SB recommendation was The Spymaster’s Lady, and it was indeed teh awesome).

    As I understand it, this is Venice (although I’m not sure about the period—I’m assuming C18th heyday?), where a high-class whore wasn’t just a whore, but a courtesan—beautiful, educated, desired for her company out of bed as much as in it.  And, most importantly, not a woman forced into prostitution because she had no other way of supporting herself, which is a terrible thing—but a woman who enjoys sex and makes money from it.  Because who wouldn’t want to make money doing something they love?

    Of course, I’ve written about a woman who became a courtesan for the same reason, so I may be biased.  But to me, a high-class courtesan is as different from a downtrodden sex worker as a lady-in-waiting is from a scullerymaid.

  18. 18
    Liz C says:

    Candy: God yes. The rushed quality of most romance novels bugs me. Even when I love the book and the story and the characters a part of me is scoffing that it all happened in a week or even just a month. I just read Tell Me Lies and I think that was 6 days but at least Crusie established a prior relationship even if it was 20 years ago. That’s why I like stories where the hero and heroine know each other already because I don’t have to worry that they’re doing the whole HEA thing after a week when they don’t really know any thing about each other.

    I just don’t understand why current romance authors don’t want to have their characters spend more than a month with each other.

  19. 19
    Kristie(J) says:

    I’m about 1 chapter away from the end of this book and I find it completely refreshing to have a true courtesan heroine.  She is a powerhouse and I like that.
    I hate the double standard that exists in so many romance novels – ok not so much in the romance novels themselves to be honest, but in the exclamations of horror that comes from some romance readers when they see this type of heroine!!  Do they cry in horror when the hero is the one with experience?  I think not.
    Francesca is unapologetic for what she is and I really like that fact.

  20. 20
    Cory says:

    I have to admit, I had given up on romance novels altogether for many years, after finishing too many of them feeling like the author must really, really hate women (including authors whose books I enjoyed on every other count, including, I hate to say it, La Nora). However, having recently discovered – and devoured – this site, I decided to go pick up a few of the authors recommended here. The only Loretta Chase they had at the small library I visited was Not Quite a Lady, which I finished yesterday. I have to say, I was impressed merely by my lack of hatred for the heroine. If it’s one of her worse attempts, and in fact the others are better put together and you actually get to know the characters, and like them (as opposed to simply not hating them), I’m definitely checking out her earlier works.

    Happily,  I read one of La Nora’s yesterday as well, and didn’t hate any of the women in it.

    spam word: usually28. I usually have 28 more cups of coffee before posting to a new board for the first time. I’m sure I’ll regret the sentence structure later.

  21. 21
    Jen C says:

    I read this book two weeks ago and LOVED IT.  A whore?  Awesome.  A female character who has sex even after meeting the male character?  Awesome.  A strong pair of female friends that still lack the feeling of sequel bait?  Awesome. 

    I only picked up Loretta Chase because of the Mr. Impossible being reviewed on this site.  And I picked up LoS, and I was actually disappointed with that one- I liked the majority of the book, but the whole part about the son and Cherry was so completely unrealistic, and Jessica’s reactions were so goddamn cheerful that I was completely irritated.  I don’t want a mopey heroine, but is a little bit of disappointment in her husband’s actions alright?

    Here, I felt the characters were more believable.  Jessica is an awesome heroine, but I don’t know that I ever believed her. 

    I also want to add, if anyone is interested in real-life courtesans, read Courtesans by Katie Hicks.  This book did not strike me as incorrect about what the life of a courtesan was like.

  22. 22
    karmelrio says:

    This book is in my TBR pile, so I have no immediate comment about a courtesan as a heroine other than “how refreshing.” 

    But …but…  I just have to say how much I’m looking forward to grown-up Olivia, Peregrine and Pip stories.  Olivia, in particular (from “Lord Perfect”) was instantly memorable.  Indelible, really. 

    (begging)
    Ms. Chase??

  23. 23
    StephB says:

    I think a lot of the readers who are shocked by having an “unrepentant” courtesan as a heroine are reading from a really anachronistic viewpoint. The majority of women in early 19th-century Europe were not ladies, and prostitution was a common career. Moreover, the high-class courtesans, when they were at the peak of their success, were some of the most financially successful and independent “career” women around, certainly doing an awful lot better than those who worked as maids or other serving girls. (Although sadly many of them ended VERY badly, when they didn’t make financially sound decisions and had no pension to live off after their careers ended.)

    This novel was set in the 1820s, pre-Victorian morality, and while a courtesan wouldn’t have been allowed into the salon of an elite European hostess, she would have had her own opera box and been treated with respect by European gentlemen. It’s not as if these women had the opportunity to be doctors or lawyers to support themselves in a more “moral” fashion…so I’m not sure where the shame for their job is supposed to have come from?

  24. 24
    Thea says:

    Wonderful review, Candy. I’m a relative noob to Loretta Chase, but what books I have read by her are superb.

    Also, for anyone interested in getting your hands on a copy of this one, over at The Book Smugglers we are giving away 3 free copies of Your Scandalous Ways in conclusion of our Loretta Chase Appreciation Weekend.

  25. 25
    Rose says:

    I get what Chase was doing here:  James Cordier = James Bond, Quentin = Q and so on.

    Elizabeth, the first one sounds about right, but I thought it was Lord Quentin from Captives of the Night, and kept hoping he’s leave James on his own for a few days to go deal with Ismal. Now that would have been a welcome cameo.

    Moreover, the high-class courtesans, when they were at the peak of their success, were some of the most financially successful and independent “career” women around, certainly doing an awful lot better than those who worked as maids or other serving girls.

    As I understand it, they were also better off than many wives, including those in the upper classes. I don’t think YSW glamorizes prostitution; at no time did I get the feeling that Fransecsa was meant to be representative of all women involved in the sex trade at the time – if anything Chase went to great lengths to show that she was among a very select few.

    Anyway, Candy’s review is pretty much what I thought except much funnier.

  26. 26
    Ana says:

    but I thought it was Lord Quentin from Captives of the Night, and kept hoping he’s leave James on his own for a few days to go deal with Ismal. Now that would have been a welcome cameo.

    THAT would have been awesome.

    With regards to the the life a courtesan leads, Loretta Chase based her character in real life Courtesans and I quote from an interview we did with her: 

    A number of factors contributed to Francesca’s character. When I thought of creating a courtesan heroine, the first thing that came into my mind was the aria “Sempre libre”—“Always free”—from the opera La Traviata. I had an image in my mind of Violetta—but without TB—before she falls in love, before the big heartbreak and self-sacrifice. I envisioned a glamorous woman, free to choose the man she wants, and men vying for the privilege of being with her. I remembered the start of Regency-era courtesan Harriette Wilson’s memoirs, and her unrepentant attitude. It reminded me—again—that a courtesan, unlike a common prostitute, had a degree of freedom that other women of the time could only dream of (if they could even conceive of that level of freedom or dare to dream of it). And an important nudge came from Susan Holloway Scott’s Royal Harlot, and her view of Lady Castlemaine as a woman who relished her sexual freedom.

    I find fascinating to learn about what inspires the writers and to learn that such a fantastic heroine came to life based on real-life people was even better – her actions sound even more real to me.

  27. 27
    Candy says:

    Miranda: as other commenters have pointed out, a courtesan isn’t the same thing as a streetwalker, especially in 19th-century Italy. There are whores, and there are whores. Sorry I didn’t make that distinction very clear in my review.

    A lot of the views we have about the status of mistresses, courtesans and the illegitimate children they bear have been colored by more modern mores stemming from the Victorian era, I think. Two of the highest ranks in the peerage of England, for example, were created for illegitimate sons of kings born to favored mistresses. OK, fine, by “kings,” I mean Charles I. Take a look at the Duke of Grafton, the Duke of Richmond and the Duke of St. Albans.

  28. 28
    Jill Myles says:

    I loved this book and yet I wanted it to be a little more than it really was.

    To me, it seemed as if Francesca didn’t totally accept (mentally) that she was whoring for her money. She referred to herself as a big ol’ whore all the time and felt like the putti (baby angels) on the walls were judging her. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of her new livelihood.

    Also, the big reveal of her elderly lover being not quite who we think he is…I thought that was terribly disappointing because it really took the ‘teeth’ out of Francesca being a whore. It was like we were getting the cleaned up version of a whore heroine. I wanted it to be a bit more realistic, I guess.

    I loved me some James, though! And after I got over the exaggerated Italian speaking, I enjoyed the Venetian setting. Giulietta stole the show, IMO.

  29. 29

    I’m pretty much with you on this review, Candy.  Even though I really liked the book and the characters in it, for some reason James and Francesca’s relationship seemed to be missing that certain spark that was in LC’s earlier novels.  I tried not to, but I couldn’t help comparing it to Captives of the Night or Lord of Scoundrels, two of my favorite books eva. 

    I thought the whore thing would bother me before I started reading the book.  It’s not conservative Christian thing or anything like that—I just don’t consider having sex for money to be terribly romantic.  But Chase took care of that problem by making Francesca’s most recent “protector” not really her protector, and we don’t meet, see, or hear about any of her other clients, so there wasn’t that ick factor in the book.

    One of the things I found fascinating about Your Scandalous Ways was the focus on jewelry (actually, I wrote a whole essay about it for my blog, but we don’t need to go there).  It’s interesting because two of the female characters in the book are obsessed with gems, and English women in the 18th and early 19th centuries couldn’t own jewelry—unless of course they’d foresaken all ties with their family and respectable society, i.e. became courtesans.  So you could say the gemstones in the book are a symbol of financial independence and freedom from society and the control of men.  Just an idea… I’m probably over thinking it.  :)

  30. 30
    SusanL says:

    Please remember I’m saving this book for my vacation, so I have not yet read it.

    I thought the whore thing would bother me before I started reading the book.  It’s not conservative Christian thing or anything like that—I just don’t consider having sex for money to be terribly romantic.  But Chase took care of that problem by making Francesca’s most recent “protector” not really her protector, and we don’t meet, see, or hear about any of her other clients, so there wasn’t that ick factor in the book.

    Maybe this is why the book seems so rushed to a lot of people?  If the book had taken place over a longer period of time,  wouldn’t Francesca have had to spend more time with clients?

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