Desert Isle Keeper Review

Your Scandalous Ways

Loretta Chase
June 2008, European Historical Romance (1820s Venice)
Avon, $6.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 006123124X

Grade: A
Sensuality: Hot

Writing reviews is normally pretty easy for me. But Iíve been putting off writing this one for days now and I think I finally figured out why. When a book is this good, itís a challenging task to make certain Iíve adequately conveyed that fact to readers.

To put my reaction to this book into perspective - and by that I mean to slot it into its place in the Loretta Chase Pantheon of Greatness - for me this one is easily the author's best since Mr. Impossible and, even more impressive, itís almost as incredible as Lord of Scoundrels. And in a year in which several of my favorite historical romances were written by newcomers, can I add that itís utterly fantastic to celebrate a veteran at the top of her game?

Francesca Bonnard is a courtesan Ė no ifs, ands, buts, or improbable plot twists about it. Disillusioned by her husband and spectacularly and publicly divorced, she left England behind and made a name and a place for herself on the Continent with few regrets or second thoughts. Second son James Cordier has spent years doing what he had to (including using his beautiful young body) as an undercover operative for the English government. Francesca and James collide in Venice when James Ė unbeknownst to our heroine, of course Ė is sent to steal from her a packet of potentially traitorous letters written by her ex-husband.

And here I am right back to my challenge again. While that paragraph quite adequately conveys the basic plot set-up, what it doesnít get across is what makes this book so charming which is Ė geez, Iíll just say come right out and say it Ė great writing. Simple as that. Youíre in the hands of a master craftsperson here, something I believe will be blazingly obvious to most any reader.

So, what's so great? First of all, it's funny. Very funny. Secondly, Ms. Chase creates two characters equally matched in wit and intelligence who are more than willing to embrace their sexual attraction, while fighting any notions of love with every fiber of their beings. Their romance is amusing, charming, touching, frank, and quite heartbreakingly romantic.

The author also ramps up the sexuality here and - hello - can I just spend a moment wondering what she was waiting for? There are sex scenes I read in detail and there are those I skim, and, holy moly, there was absolutely no skimming for me here. These are wonderful, perfect love scenes in which we never for one moment lose sight of the two people in them. And, that, fellow readers, is what makes some love scenes great and others oh-so-forgettable. Weíre talking over-the-moon great ones here.

Add in a cast of extraordinarily interesting secondary characters, a fresh Venetian setting, and Loretta Chase's assured and polished voice, and the result is an historical romance that's close to perfection. Really.

So, here I sit, a reviewer with nearly 300 reviews under my belt temporarily somewhat stumped for words. Great writers and great books can do that. This one qualifies.

-- Sandy Coleman

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