27 June, 2012

Review: Scandal Wears Satin by Loretta Chase

 Loretta Chase is a victim of high expectations. Scandal Wears Satin is a perfectly serviceable book with a few flaws. Unfortunately when you write like Loretta Chase does you end up being graded on a curve. This is my least favorite Chase book but it still beats most of the wallpaper historical authors working. I want to establish that I know this book would kill as a debut novel. As the second installment of The Dressmakers series it collapses under it's own weight.

Scandal Wears Satin wants to be too many things to too many characters. This keeps it from truly serving any. It also has a tic. I hate that. It can be J.D. Robb running an anal, it can be Jayne Castle and her coff-tea, it can be Loretta Chase and the surname Noriot. I don't care about the context, a tic drives me out of the story and up a wall. In Scandal Wears Satin the word Noirot is an all purpose wallpaper covering a multitude of plot needs.  Why does Sophy do that / think that / feel that? Because she is a Noirot. Often repeatedly. The problem is that while Chase understands enough of what being a Noirot means for the explanation to satisfy, the reader does not. It was her Noriot pride and her Noriot lack of morality and her Noriot style coupled with her Noriot wit that made Sophy a chore to hang out with. Sophy has what could be a fascinating backstory kept hidden from view by the gauzy hand wave of her surname. Sophy also has three sisters. What richer soil is there than the sibling relationship between women? It's never used. Occasionally her older sister (from the prior book) will comfort her or she will worry about the possible reaction of the third sister. (The third sister is nearly invisible.) We have Sophy, from a family of grifters who died of cholera in Paris. She sneaks around London in disguise, works as a columnist and is co-owner of a dress shop. Her sister has recently married a Duke. So of course we spend all our time with Longmore.

Longmore's family is even more fascinating than Sophy's fabled Noriot line. First of all, he's titled and rich. His sister is impulsive and somewhat spoiled. His mother dislikes Sophy. Ok, that's it, we're done. Of course the problems of the extended Longmore clan are the most interesting place to go with this story. It is obvious. Even a Noirot could see it. Or someone who isn't a Noirot. I get confused. Anyway, we also have a street kid with a host of nicknames and a few deft skills that is also just window dressing. His story doesn't go anywhere either. 90% of Scandal Wears Satin involves getting Longmore's incredibly boring sister out of the incredibly predictable problem she's gotten herself into. While there are some interesting side note (Love, love, love Hampton Court as a retirement home) most of the book is just waiting for a different book to happen. Why does Sophy even like Longmore? She thinks he's an idiot. Why does he feed her delusion that he's slow? He shows every sign of intelligence. Why does the rival shop from the prior book enter the picture at all? It doesn't affect the plot in any significant way. Everything about Scandal Wears Satin leads to why? Perhaps it all becomes clear in a third book, perhaps not. Either way I wanted more from the excellent start to this series than I received from Scandal Wears Satin. Maybe it's the Noirot in me.


  1. "He shows every sign of intelligence."

    This bothered me. I didn't want to have to figure out his IQ for myself. I felt like we were were supposed to think that a not-as bright guy would balance Sophie's brilliance. This concept irked me the more I thought about it. It seems undergirded by the "stupid" is really smart mentality that American culture occasionally trumpets. (This is why I hate "Forrest Gump."

  2. Right? And there was no evidence to support it. He follows all of Sophy's plans, outsmarts her a few times, and otherwise demonstrates he has a brain. He doesn't think the same way she does but he doesn't read as simple. If Sophy likes them big and stupid she will be disappointed.

    I am totally with you on the American obsession with ignorance as authenticity.

  3. And I think it's insulting that a smart woman needs to be balanced by a big not so smart guy whose good in bed. No. A smart woman needs a smart man whose great in bed!