Friday, September 9, 2022

Loretta Chase - Your Scandalous Ways

James Cordier is all blue blood and entirely dangerous. He's a master of disguise, a brilliant thief, a first-class lover--all for King and Country--and, by gad, he's so weary of it. His last mission is to acquire a packet of incriminating letters from one notorious woman. Then he can return to London and meet sweet-natured heiresses--not adventuresses and fallen women.Francesca Bonnard has weathered heartbreak, scorn, and scandal. She's independent, happy, and definitely fallen; and she's learned that gentlemen are more trouble than they're worth. She can also see that her wildly attractive new neighbor is bad news.But as bad as James is, there are others far worse also searching for Francesca's letters. And suddenly nothing is simple--especially the nearly incendiary chemistry between the two most jaded, sinful souls in Europe. And just as suddenly, risking everything may be worth the prize.

Comment: This is the first story in the duology "Fallen Women" by Loretta Chase and the 10th book total that I have read by her. By now I'm used to her style and vibe, so I was looking for to enjoy this one as well, but it turned out I didn't find this one as great.

In this book we meet James Cordier, the younger son in an aristocratic family who also happens to be a spy for the Crown. In his latest mission he has to apprehend a set of letters owned by the infamous courtesan Francesca Bonnard, who used to be married to an English peer but after their divorce she went to the Continent and has had quite a successful career there. Currently in Venice, in the company of princes and the demimonde too, James must get the letters for Bonnard is rumored to be a traitor and those letters his ex wife has could prove it. However, neither James nor Francesca would ever guess their personalities could be such a perfect match and James didn't think it would be this hard to go through one more job...

The simple idea of this novel has all the ingredients to be a good one, especially for those who like the adventures and larger than life characters in the author's work. Sadly, for me, I wasn't as delighted as I'd have liked because call me puritan, but Francesca's courtesan life was of no appeal to me whatsoever. Of course she doesn't remain so after she meets James and falls for him and vice-versa, but the vibe just wasn't there from the start and I couldn't concentrate on the plot, not being a fan of her occupation...

I might be unfair, after all Francesca chose her profession and she likes the current freedom provided by it but even though I don't wish she were an innocent, I just didn't find much to connect with her and her feelings for James as the story develop happen too quickly -she says so herself. Everything was happening in a flamboyant style, from the characters' actions to their lifestyle to how they would interact. The romance, which I always look for to see how it develops also felt too quick and convenient, considering how they met and the fact James was, at first, playing a role.

Some details were good, I liked the fact both James and Francesca were clever and had morals, even if those didn't pertain to what they saw as a job or as an entitlement to their position in life. James is a younger son but his family is well and at the end he even shares some information on some of them to Francesca, so apart from a sense of duty and adventure, I probably didn't pay attention as to why he had to be a spy.
As for Francesca, she is still a woman with dreams at heart and she is sensitive still despite her disappointing marriage, this obviously endeared her to me quite well, otherwise I might not have enjoyed the story at all, but I didn't like her as much as I imagined.

The romance could have been better, to me. I don't feel as interested in James and Francesca as individuals, so their relationship didn't feel as special either, compared with couples from other books. There were moments they felt like a caricature and not a possible real person. Of course this is fiction, that is the point, but for me part of the fun is to imagine them and what they do in my head and with these two it just felt like they were exaggerated versions of whom they wanted to embody.

Still, the banter between them provides good moments, some scenes were amusing and fun to imagine and the author's style is visible in practically every page. 
I wasn't too fond of the villain's POV, though. 
The descriptions of Venice and the places the characters saw or attended seemed realistic enough and as a whole, the elements surrounding the main characters felt as I'd expect from a book by this author.

All things considered, I feel a little sad this wasn't as magical to me as the ones I've loved by this author. I'll keep on reading her work, and hopefully it's just a one time impression.
Grade: 5/10

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