Lord of Scoundrels (1995)

By Loretta Chase

They call him many names but Angelic isn't one of them...

Sebastian Ballister, the notorious Marquess of Dain, is big, bad, and dangerous to know. No respectable woman would have anything to do with the "Bane and Blight of the Ballisters"--and he wants nothing to do with respectable women. He's determined to continue doing what he does best--sin and sin again--and all that's going swimmingly, thank you...until the day a shop door opens and she walks in.

She's too intelligent to fall for the worst man in the world...

Jessica Trent is a determined young woman, and she's going to drag her imbecile brother off the road to ruin, no matter what it takes. If saving him--and with him, her family and future--means taking on the devil himself, she won't back down. The trouble is, the devil in question is so shockingly irresistible, and the person who needs the most saving is--herself!
It's one of the classics of romance, but I'd never read it. Eep! Since it's been reissued this year with a swanky new cover, I thought the time was right.

So what can I say about this book that hasn't been said--or viciously contested--in the last 13 years? Probably not much. I will agree that Jessica Trent is one of the most refreshing, engaging, and intelligent heroines in all of romance. Every other page seemed an opportunity for a Big Misunderstanding, but Jessica never let it get that far. I loved her relationship with her grandmother, in that when she had questions about sex, she had a woman there to give her answers. No squeamish virginal behavior. She found Dain attractive and acted on it. Bravo, my dear.

Ah, Dain. Some have rightly called him a bully. His character is the very definition of one. He lacks self-confidence, perspective, and a secure safety net of affection, all of which conspired to render him one foul dude. I can't say I liked him very much, mostly because I don't go for "high-strung"--give me Rupert any day. I was rooting for him, as a person, in that I hoped Jessica would be able to reach through and shoot some sense into him. But I didn't find him attractive.

Perhaps that's where this novel maintains its staying power. The key to a wonderful romance, one that sits happily on a keeper shelf, is the connection between the hero and heroine. They need to fit. They need to complement each other. And they need to leave the reader with the impression that no one, ever, could come between them. Their happy ending is inviolate. And that's most definitely the impression I got from Jessica and Dain. Crowbars and wild horses and scheming villains would never find the power to pull them apart. Loved it.

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