Plot Summary (from B&N): From the Journals of Sophia Noirot: A dress is a weapon. It must dazzle his eye, raise his temperature . . . and empty his purse.
A blue-eyed innocent on the outside and a shark on the inside, dressmaker Sophy Noirot could sell sand to Bedouins. Selling Maison Noirot’s beautiful designs to aristocratic ladies is a little harder, especially since a recent family scandal has made an enemy of one of society’s fashion leaders. Turning scandal to the shop’s advantage requires every iota of Sophy’s skills, leaving her little patience for a big, reckless rake like the Earl of Longmore. The gorgeous lummox can’t keep more than one idea in his head at a time, and his idea is taking off all of Sophy’s clothes.
But when Longmore’s sister, Noirot’s wealthiest, favorite customer, runs away, Sophy can’t let him bumble after her on his own. In hot pursuit with the one man who tempts her beyond reason, she finds desire has never slipped on so smoothly . . .
This book hit me with a double whammy: gorgeous cover art (it’s been nominated for an award, in fact…though I see one of Amy’s current reads, Tiger Lily, is in direct competition!) and the author is Loretta Chase, whose books I will always read because her writing is fabulous and fun and her heroines are generally determined, fiery, and smart. How, in short, could I not read it? Onto the e-reader it went. I even started reading it knowing that it’s the second in the series (I’m reading the first in the series, Silk is for Seduction, now, so my reviews will be out of order. But the cover art on the first book wasn’t as pretty as this one–yep, I said it).
In general, reading Scandal Wears Satin was like putting on a comfortable robe and sitting down with a hot chai latte (well, for me, considering I like chai; replace with your beverage of choice as needed): it’s a familiar, comfortable read. Sophy, the heroine, is a savvy businesswoman–she is not a gently-bred lady, but instead co-owns a dress shop with her two sisters, and they have ambitious plans, as they wish to be the modiste for the trend-setting ladies of the upper orders. Coming, as she does, from a sketchy background, Sophy has also learned the arts of deception, which she uses to further her business interests and in which the hero, Longmore, becomes ensnared on occasion. He, by contrast, is drawn as an overprotective brother, having little regard for the niceties of his social circle except as they concern his sister Clara, and having a rather adventurous, if not particularly intelligent, disposition. The story moves along nicely; the characters are together often enough to have some entertaining dialogue, and with the frequent changes of scenery I had enough to keep me interested. For a fun, light, underdog-gets-her-happily-ever-after read, Scandal Wears Satin is a perfectly acceptable choice.
I was, however, left a little lukewarm by this novel, which I didn’t expect (see: Loretta Chase fangirl-ism). I think I had this reaction for three reasons. First, I felt like I was being hit over the head with the main characters’ defining traits. I didn’t keep count, but I felt like the book constantly mentioned that Sophy was wily and came from a scandalous/dangerous family. For his part, Longmore was described as (I’m paraphrasing here) harmlessly dim-witted so incessantly, even after I thought the events of the story had proven otherwise, that I started skipping over those bits of exposition because they began to irritate me. Second, I am all for suspension of disbelief, but I thought the “high-born earl and merchant dressmaker” match was a little bit of a stretch. I might have been better with this pairing if Chase had devoted more time to working through the obvious objections that the pair would meet; as it was, that plot thread seemed to be resolved too quickly and painlessly to be believable. Finally, I could not wrap my head around one of the central conflicts of the story. Clara, Longmore’s sister and the source of the “scandal” in the title, runs away to escape her misfortune, and Longmore, of course, goes after her. Sophy joins him, and while her motivations make some sense in light of Clara’s importance to her business, Sophy seemed pretty over-committed to the cause, considering the text doesn’t indicate that Clara was her friend, or anything to her beyond her most important customer (and Clara wasn’t regarded so much for her own qualities as for her title and her influence). I couldn’t really believe that Sophy would have so much concern for, and be so invested in helping, a woman on so impersonal a basis.
The Verdict: read Scandal Wears Satin if you’re looking for a warm and fuzzy pick-me-up, but try not to analyze the details too much because, in my opinion, some of them don’t hold up to scrutiny. Instead, enjoy the “love conquers all” storyline and the thrill of the chase. I give Scandal Wears Satin three out of five daringly-cut ballgowns.