Sophy Noirot is busy. She's busy keeping Maison Noirot from closing. She's busy keeping their clients from taking their accounts elsewhere. She's busy doing damage control on the scandalous marriage of her sister to the Duke of Clevedon. She's busy sneaking into social events to get material for her column in the Spectacle.
To add to her problems, Maison Noirot's most important client, Lady Clara Fairfax has found herself embroiled in a ruinous scandal and must marry Lord Adderley, a man of questionable means and situation. (A man that the Noirot sisters do not want for Lady Clara, if they had a say in the situation -- as her dressmakers, they have decided they do have a say. ^_^)
Matters were already difficult enough for Sophy when Clara complicates them even more by running away. Sophy must seek the assistance of Clara's older brother, Harry, Lord Longmore to help her fix the situation.
Pragmatic Sophy has never had the time or the inclination to fall for a man's charms (business first!) but, Harry Fairfax might just be the man to change her mind.
Harry and Sophy don't have anything in common: he's a wealthy aristocrat and she's working class. He's not an intellectual and she's well-read. He likes things to be direct and straightforward and she enjoys subterfuge. He's all about action and she's about feelings and "talking things through" -- but, even in the first book of the series, Silk is for Seduction, one can already feel that there's something between Harry and Sophy. Every time they were together, electric.
And the same is true for this book.
From the onset, Chase builds Anticipation -- Harry doesn't want to see Sophy but he wonders about her. And she wonders about him. It was fun to see what they each thought of the other, which was an odd mix of attraction and circumspection. Of interest and a mild dislike.
The Earl of Longmore strolled into the breakfast room, a newspaper under his arm.
Sophy's pulse rate accelerated. It couldn't help itself.
Black hair and glittering eyes ... the noble nose that ought to have been broken a dozen times yet remained stubbornly straight and arrogant ... the hard, cynical mouth ... the six-foot-plus frame.
All that manly beauty.
If only he had a brain.
- pp. 9-10
I liked Harry -- he's not the most brilliant/scientific mind in the world and doesn't pretend to be. He speaks plainly about his "simpleness" and prefers to avoid the roundabout route of "talking" and get to the business of done through action.
One would think that Sophy would get impatient with him and have to explain everything to him -- and one would think he would tire of Sophy and her schemes and plans -- but, when the two of them talk to each other, they understand each other perfectly. And are so wonderfully in-tune with each other's humor.
This is one of my favorite exchanges:
(Harry has left Clara at Maison Noirot for her fitting.)
He looked up.
She stood at the top of the stairs, leaning over the handrail.
The view was excellent: He could see her silk shoes and the crisscrossing ribbons that called attention to the fine arch of her instep and her neat ankles. He saw the delicate silk stockings outlining the bit of foot and leg on view. His mind easily conjured what wasn't in view: the place above her knees where her garters were tied -- garters that, in his imagination, were red, embroidered with lascivious French phrases.
For a moment he said nothing, simply drank it in.
"That was a beautiful exit," she said.
"I thought so," he said.
"I hated to spoil it,"she said. "But I had an idea.
"You're a prodigy," he said. "First an alibi, then an idea. All in the same day."
- pp. 54-55
To pair a seamstress and a marquess together is a near-uninsurmountable challenge and our hero and heroine both know this.
She sat for a time, contemplating the hopelessness of the situation, even while a part of her mind hunted and hunted for a scheme, as was its nature to do. But no scheme existed that would make everything come out right.
She couldn't be his mistress: It was bad for the shop.
As to marriage ...
That was laughable. ...
- p. 315
But more is in the way of Harry and Sophy. First, Harry's mother hates the Noirots. Second, Sophy feels she is responsible for preserving their shop and their livelihood.
I think it takes a woman like Sophy and a man like Harry to make things work -- and they do -- in a spectacularly simple, yet heartwarming way. (See Chapter 18, which is probably one of the best endings I've read this year. ^_^)
Scandal Wears Satin is the second book in the Dressmakers series. Leonie's story is next and that should come out in 2013. To find out more about Loretta Chase and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facbeook.