After being disappointed with the latest historical romances I’ve read, I decided to reread some old Loretta Chase books. I’ve never been disappointed with her books, and this is one of my favorites. It’s book two in the Fallen Women series, where Ms Chase gives unconventional heroines their HEA.
Zoe Octavia Lexham was known as a bolter when she was child. She continually ran away and only Lucien de Grey, a ward of her father’s, was able to find her. Unfortunately, Lucien wasn’t with them in Egypt when she disappeared seemingly into thin air. Even though her family continued to search for her, after several years it seemed that she was gone for good. Lucien grew up to become the Duke of Marchmont and locked away the memory of her. He was charming and witty, but also easily bored and cynical; he and his group of friends were known to place bets on anything just to keep amused. So when word spreads that Zoe has returned home, he assumes that she is an imposter and wagers that he can prove it.
The press has dubbed Zoe The Harem Girl, and her reputation is rather in tatters due to the situation she had been in. While she’d been wed to the son of the pasha, the wedding was never consummated due to his impotence. Zoe had trained in all of the sensual arts in the harem, and she has no filter when it comes to mentioning what must not be mentioned in polite society. “Zoe had found out that one was not allowed to mention a great many subjects: certain body parts, pleasuring oneself, pleasuring another, desire, impotence, concubines, eunuchs…” Her sisters are in vapours over what society will think if Zoe remains in London and once Lucien realizes that it truly is her, he offers to launch her back into society and prove her innocence. Of course, he is soon regretting that decision as he finds out how much she affects him, both mentally and physically.
Zoe was a little irritating at times early in the book, as she comes off as a spoiled brat (which is one of the terms Lucien uses for her). But she was never TSTL, and I adored the relationship between the two of them. Lucien was determined not to lose his heart, as the people he’d loved in his life before all died (his parents and older brother). As he helps Zoe, their attraction grows steadily hotter until they are unable to resist it any longer. She has no doubt that while Lucien may not be the boy she remembers, there are still glimpses of his good heart from time to time, and she knows that he is the one she wants. When he does propose, she doesn’t have any hesitation.
One thing I liked about this book as well is that it deals with life after the wedding day, and how they both have to deal with the day to day challenges of married life. There weren’t any of the dreaded big misunderstandings, and any argument was dealt with quickly. Lucien soon lost his heart and became besotted with his wife, something he never expected. And I loved the ending and how they both grew in their relationship to work through the plotting of the villain. Your mileage may vary, of course, but this book enchanted me thoroughly.
(FYI – there’s a new Loretta Chase book to come out in December this year!)