This is a re-read for me while I await the newest Loretta Chase book, “Dukes Prefer Blondes” from the library. I thought it would be a good idea to read the start of the Dressmaker Series again to refresh my memory of the characters. I remembered enjoying this book when I read it originally, and it held up as being as good as the first time. Loretta Chase has maintained the thrill of romance more so than many others.
In this book, Marcelline Noirot and her sisters are the descendants of the dreadful Deluceys, a family who have not always been on the right side of the law. The sisters have created a business of dressmaking, and they all have their talents to maintain this. Marcelline is the one who has the creative vision, and she wants to expand the business. To do this, she wants to get the soon to be wife of the Duke of Clevedon as a customer. This means she needs to captivate said Duke with the fashions she can create. She goes to Paris to find the man, who has been away from England for a few years to sow his wild oats.
The Duke of Clevedon has been raised as a ward of the Marquess of Warford, and it was expected that he would marry the marquess’ daughter, Clara. Still, he has been enjoying the life of a libertine in Europe, finally settling in Paris before he has to return home. Once he spots Marcelline, he is captivated with her and oh how the sparks fly between them. Ms Chase is one of those authors that can write the sexy encounters that make you want to be the heroine.
It was as stormy a kiss as the last time, but different. He was angry with her;she was angry with him. But far more than anger was at work between them. This time she wasn’t in control. She was drowning in feeling, in the taste of him, and the scent of his skin and the feel of his hard body under hers, and his hand so tight in her hair, possessive.
A lifetime had passed since a man had held her like this.
She knew – a part of her mind knew – she needed to break away from him. But first…oh, a little more.
The story flies along, with Marcelline racing to return to England, but he manages to get onto the same ship. During a wicked storm at sea, she comes down with a terrible bout of seasickness, and he nurses her through this. While she realizes that it’s nice to have someone take care of her for a change, she continues to resist his charms. She wants his business, really, nothing more…at least that what she tells herself!
”Stop taking care of me!”
He turned back to look at her. “Stop being childish,” he said. “Are you afraid I’ll ply you with food in order to seduce you? Think again. Have you looked in a mirror lately? And may I remind you that I was the one holding your head while you were sick last night. Not exactly the most arousing sight I’ve ever seen. In fact, I can’t remember what I ever saw in you. I only want to feed you so you’ll be well and get out of my cabin and out of my life.”
“I want to be out of your life, too,” she said.
“Right,” he said. “Until it’s time to pay my duchess’s dressmaking bills.”
“Yes,” she said. “Exactly.”
So of course, this doesn’t work out the way she planned! Back in London, they are constantly thrown together, and their encounters are filled with sexual tension and witty banter, with both characters knowing that the lust that simmers between them is reaching dangerous levels. While Clevedon isn’t formally betrothed to Clara, he knows that her family expects it soon. Still, his sense of duty wars constantly with his desire for Marcelline, while everyone around them can see what’s going on, including Clara. Marcelline has convinced Clara to wear more fashionable clothing, and it gives Clara a boost of confidence to deal with the situation. She matures a lot in this story, and I’m looking forward to reading about her life in the new book.
There’s a lot more going on in the story, including Marcelline’s daughter Lucy (who is very precocious for her age), and a plot with a rival dressmaker. But in the end, it comes down to the romance. Marcelline may have originally been taken with Clevedon’s good looks and sexy masculine appeal of him, but she finds herself seduced by his confidence and falls in love with the side of him that others don’t know. In other words, he just gets her in a way that no one else has.
I loved this book! I loved that Marcelline was independent and intelligent and passionate; she was a perfect match for Clevedon in every way. I loved the humor, the passion, and the happy feeling I was left with at the end of it all.