Silk is For Seduction  - Loretta Chase My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

Hmm, I’ve had Silk Is For Seduction in my TBR from before it was published. I don’t know, for some reason, I kept pushing it down my reading list. I’ve been trying to write a review for the last couple of days but I’m not sure how to go about it because the book was neatly divided into two parts for me; one I absolutely hated, the other I really enjoyed. Trust me, my issue isn’t with LC’s writing, it never was because I love the way she likes to play with words and her almost always witty dialogues. But there has been a few of her other books I wasn’t impressed with, mostly because of the plot and really annoying characters. I was afraid it was going to be another of those books by her. Thankfully, I ended up enjoying it so much that I heaved a sigh of relief! Also, this will be my first detailed review of LC’s books, though I’ve read her full backlist.

First a little note: This series is somewhat connected to the Carsington Brothers series, especially Lord Perfect (excellent series, highly recommended from me!). You’ll see some of the recurring characters or have some mentions of them, i.e. the Earl of Hargate and his sons, who are the Hs of the series. His heir, Rathbourne, married Bathsheba, who comes from the Dreadful DeLuceys. I just learned bits of them from Lord Perfect where Bathsheba was concerned because this family is known for their criminal ways, all sorts of it. They are divided into two branches, one is slightly better than the other, more dreadful bunch. I don’t clearly remember but Bathsheba was from the better bunch I believe. Since I didn’t know the exact kind of mayhem a DeLucey, one from the said ‘dreadful’ bunch can cause, the workings of Marcelline’s mind took me by surprise. Will explain as I go with my review.

In the beginning of the story, you get a gist of how Mercelline’s parents got married. Her mother was from the Dreadful DeLucey bunch and her father from the Noirots. Now, Noirots aren’t any better than the DeLuceys but the opposite side of the same coin. I can only say that they met their match in each-other and swindled their way through their vagabond life. Neither Marcelline, nor her two sisters, Sophy and Leonie, knew a stable life full of love and security and so, while they were residing with their parents, they learn all sorts of tricks to make a living. It was kinda impossible when you learn the depth of their poverty and how they lived, it was hard not to believe that one of them didn’t end up as prostitutes. After their parents died, the three sisters were taken in by a cousin’s wife, who was hard working and had a strong grip on them. She shaped much of Marcelline, Sophy and Leonie’s life but blood is always thicker than water, and so both DeLucey and Noirot’s impulsive and irresponsible urges were there in them. They certainly tried to live a better life but couldn’t temper down everything.

Now, I didn’t know about their past when the story began and having no idea about the DeLuceys, except that they’re called Dreadful, I was annoyed. Marcelline is a gifted dressmaker and designer, while Sophy knows how to charm her way through everything. Leonie is the mathematical genius who takes care of the accounts of their little shop. In the cholera that swept through Paris 3 yrs ago, Marcelline lost most of her family, including her husband and Cousin Emma, their guardian. Her only daughter, an infant then, Lucy, fell very ill but survived somehow. After coming to London, she played in the gaming-hells and earned enough money to start this milliner’s shop called Maison Noirot. This was unbelievable to me, as were a lot of the things that happens when the story starts. I was so pissed that I actually took notes of the things that bugged me about the characters! When I first encountered the sisters, the only word that came to my mind was- Sharks! They were so rabid and insane about their business and how they would ‘dupe’ the customers (in a good way, since they didn’t compromise their standard of dressmaking, which their ancestors would’ve) to sell the clothing, it left me agape. Someone called Marcelline ‘mercenary’ and I wholeheartedly agreed. I took an instant dislike to her which persisted for a long, long time. Then, she hears of the upcoming marriage of the Duke of Clevedon from a client and takes up this crazy plan to hunt him down in Paris to ‘convince him’ (in the DeLucey/Noirot way) that future Duchess of Clevedon becomes their patroness and in the process, make them the best milliner’s shop in London... er, in The World. *eyeroll* Yes, Marcelline thinks they’re the best in the world. Oh, the unfailing confidence of the DeLuceys, even when the world is crumbling down around them, they can still keep a façade of cheerful disregard. But I digress... To keep that promise to self, Mercelline goes to Paris, which she does at least once a year to view the fashion since according to her Parisians wear the best. Also, according to Marcelline, the ladies of London/England, have a dreadful sense of clothing, (which I found snobbish at best), something she aims to change through Maison Noirot.

Now I have to talk about Clevedon, who was christened as Gervaise. But we get to hear his name only twice throughout the novel; once introduction to us, the readers, another when he finally tells Marcelline his name almost at the end (yes, just before epilogue... don’t look at me, it was!). The rest of the times, he was simply Clevedon. Even Marcelline was Noirot to him for the most part, making me think again and again WTF??! I can’t think of him anything other than Clevedon, something doesn’t often happen to me. So, after Clevedon’s parents passed away, his father’s friend, the Earl of Warford took him in as his ward. Clevedon became good friends with the Earl’s son, Harry, who is close to him in age. It was also established from his childhood that he’d marry Warford daughter, Clara. Clevedon had no objection too... Actually, he never took Clara seriously, ever. Clevedon sow his wild oats in the meantime with a vengeance. But in the last three years, it was just no holds barred, as Harry also was with him, until very recently. Let me tell you that when he decided to have a ‘jaunt’ in the Continent, Clara was mourning her beloved grandmother’s death. He still left and had no guilty conscience whatsoever about his numerous affairs. He would write friendly letters to her, that’s all. But recently, since Clara’s mother started throwing her usual temper tantrums about the marriage (and Clara’s advancing age), Harry paid Clevedon a visit and reminded him about his job. When the story starts, Clevedon was enjoying his last days of skirt-chasing-full-throttle before settling down, when he sees Marcelline for the first time in an Opera. Immediately Clevedon decides to ‘sample’ her charms instead of one of the French countesses he targeted and was thinking about this instant. So, no I didn’t care for Clevedon, really and he kinda reminded me of Dane from Lord of Scoundrels who, for me, equals to YUK!

From Mercelline, the whole thing was as expected deliberate. She dressed in her finery and ‘dazzled’ the menfolk as usual, including Clevedon... like she does more often than not throughout the first part. Men would knock their heads together watching her passing by... Unbelievable and weird! And in that first part, she tries her ‘utmost best’ to provoke and ‘convince’ Clevedon that her World Class millinery is the best thing for his future Duchess, who frequents a shop the Noirot sisters call as the Dowdy’s as they specialize in more traditional British fashion. Not that Clara had any choice, her mother liked Downes’ shop and so she had to follow or hear about it for the rest of her life! I was annoyed by Marcelline’s antics and wanted to gag and strangle her. I wanted to kick Clevedon for thinking with his d*ck and treating Clara like a milestone around his neck. I was PISSED, did I mention it???!pissed I kept thinking what if Clara was the h of the story, while Mercelline the OW? I hate cheater heroes and Clevedon would be a prime example of that! Through her insane flirting and some dirty fondling, Marcelline manages to ‘convince’ Clevedon about the dress thingy. But when she finds out that this might go too far, which can’t be good for the reputation of their shop, she manages to get fake passport and tries to run back to London one night. But Clevedon figures out her ploy somehow and follows.

Back to London, Clevedon escorts Marcelline to her shop and is really surprised to find that she is (or was) married and has a daughter. Her daughter, who likes to act like a 36 yrs old, even though she’s only 6 (nothing uncommon in LC’s fictional children... makes one wonder, really), has taken a new name, not sure how that happened. It’s a name I didn’t think women used, Erroll. And she won’t be called by Lucy but Erroll. This kid threw annoying temper tantrums when she couldn’t have her way and would give slit-eyed stares to her nursemaid before throwing one. DeLucey blood showing no doubt! I wasn’t interested in how Leonie or Sophy’s minds worked, at all because I was too overburdened with Marcelline’s and pissed at Clevedon’s! Anyway, so Clevedon finds a way to convince a sweet Clara to come to Maison Noirot, letting Marcelline win her over. Lucy (not gonna call her Erroll, nah-uh!) had already became obsessed over the Duke, aka Clevedon, from the first sight. When Clara sees the kid, she thinks could this be his daughter. Now, Clara knew of Clevedon’s affairs and she also knew the meaning of the eyes Marcelline and he gave to each-other. I would’ve loved to see her fight over Clevedon had I not known what a jerkface he was. I thought Clevedon didn’t deserve Clara but he and Ms. World Class Dressmaker deserved one another! ugh!!

Note that I’m still in the first part and expressing myself just as I saw the characters then. But even then, I began to get intrigued by Clevedon’s obsession over Marcelline and it reached the part where he was also beginning to get obsessed over dresses, reading fashion plates in secret, learning to have the eye for it. I thought WTF again and kept reading... Now there was this sneaky plot with the owner of Downes who wanted the Noirots go down and paid one of their less devoted employees to sell her Noirots’ patterns in secret. I didn’t particularly think it was anything brilliant but the woman was caught soon when the sisters became suspicious and set a trap. But before that, Clevedon and Marcelline’s flirtation took the ultimate turn. Both were thinking of giving into the moment and not think about the future consequences. I was PISSED that Marcelline was helping Clevedon cheat on Clara and Clevedon gave any particular thought on this... It was bad, so bad that I could feel myself tearing my hair out!hairpull I mean if Clara was a cold b*tch who made Clevedon’s life hell, I would understand. If I thought Marcelline was a particularly impressive anything, I would understand... Then WHY?? WHY??? And they f*cked (I won’t call it ‘love making’) in a shadowy corner of Marcelline’s shop just like that, to ‘get each-other out of their system’. F*ck that DeLucey/Noirot bloodline!hairpull Anyway, just afterwards, when they were coming out from their tryst, they find the thief has swallowed the trap and now trying to escape. In the scuffle, the shop caught on fire.

Just about then starts the second part of the book (for me) which I enjoyed. I know I sound loco since you can see my utter dislike for the characters just about... in the above paragraphs. Clevedon does something heroic, something I wasn’t expecting from him. He saves Lucy, who was trapped in the fire. But the shop couldn’t be saved and the sisters are in the street again... This got to me you know. I mean whatever they did, they were doing a respectable living and working hard no doubt. I never doubted their hard works, even though the means made me mad. I saw a very different, vulnerable Marcelline being paralyzed with fear for her daughter, the only thing apart from her sisters that she had in the world. It occurred to me that there is a mother’s heart that beats in that mercenary body! This said a lot about the woman herself, who loved her daughter and never saw her as an inconvenience like her own parents did, a thought even the jerkface Clevedon had later on and is fascinated. On his insistence, Marcelline and her family are temporarily settled in the huge Ducal mansion which is always empty, save the servants. Clevedon insists on helping them, even setting up a temporary workplace for them, along with lending (otherwise the sisters won’t take it) them money to buy necessary materials for immediate orders, which includes one from Lady Clara. He finds them another bigger place to set up their shop, paying the real owners a hefty sum to leave the place. He even goes with Marcelline to shop for the new Maison Noirot, and he, who doesn’t like anything that’s tagged as shopping. So I was seeing something developing here, though I wasn’t sure if it was for the better or for the worse. They make love again the new shop when everyone, who was helping to make the shop ready for opening, out for the evening.

Still, I began enjoying this part of the story because I saw a different face of Clevedon too. The death of his own parents, and only young sister has had a deep impact and a sense of guilt in Clevedon. He had a lonely life so far no doubt and his big house sort of lit up with the Noirot sisters and little Lucy in it. I found their interactions really enjoyable here, his affections for Lucy very sweet. Yes, Lucy could be adorable on occasion, when the whim caught her, just as she could be annoying. She even won the strict servants of the Clevedon house over. I felt that he wanted his big, empty house to be full of life when the Noirot sisters finally moved into the new shop, which also had upper stories to use as living apartments, among other usage. Yet again, Harry’s interruption (he loves, just LOVES to barge in and beat people up) in Clevedon’s life, when the sisters where in his house, reminded me of the fact that he was cheating on Clara. I must say that their whole affair was sort of a bittersweet read for me. It would help if Clara was a b*tch but that wasn’t the case as I’ve already mentioned. Clevedon finally decides to come up to the scratches and propose to her... and fails horribly. I wanted to kick him when he asks for Macelline’s help in this. What a douchebag! She helped him with some advises, though it hurt her no less. Yes, I also saw that she wanted love, even though she tried very hard to put up that bold and damn-care façade of her, which made me soften towards her even more. So, Clevedon tries one last time to propose to Clara at a ball but she denies him with an amazing tirade and I only thought Brava! yes! This is the kind of fire I want to see, though she wasn’t the h of the novel. Although, I didn’t think Clevedon and Clara really belonged together, it still grated to see that afterwards Clevedon felt stark relief, the kind you feel after a big, heavy thing is lifted off your shoulders. So, it was true, as Marcelline pointed out, that he’d, subconsciously or not, always viewed Clara as a younger sister. By that time, he was determined to get the only woman he wanted in his life. Afterwards Clevedon did write Clara an excellent letter asking for her forgiveness for treating her so shabbily. I thought his remorse was very honest.

Marcelline wasn’t expecting Clevedon to come to her, but the news of his impending nuptials. It tore at my heart (honest to God, it did!) that she would try to convince herself that this is what she had wanted from the very first moment, and she IS HAPPY the way all turned out. She knew she can’t be Clevedon’s mistress; no it’s not self-restrain for she has no moral code as a Noirot/De Lucey but because of the reputation of their shop. This must not be compromised at any cost... But when Clevedon turns up and proposes, she denies him outright... Ok, that was just... CRAZY!!!! I was screaming in frustration again and planned to torture Marcelline for hurting the lovesick puppy. But she soon realizes her fault (thank God for small favors!) and makes amend the very next day. Throughout the book I did think why is Marcelline’s past not revealed, especially her first marriage. It is here that we get to learn about it all since Marcelline decided to come clean to Clevedon about her convoluted but scheming bloodlines. She was scared that after hearing her confession, Clevedon would turn away. Well, he didn’t of course, which was good. I was pretty happy and forgave them for annoying the hell outta me for the first half of the book. Speaks volume, trust me.

Next book, Scandal Wears Satin is of Harry and Sophy’s. Let’s see how that turns up. 4 stars for Silk Is For Seduction... Once again, applauds for LC to have squeezed that rating out of me. Only a brilliant writer can do that, mind you!

I didn’t save quotes from this book but there were plenty of times I laughed like crazy. To give you some hints, look for any paragraph that has the phrase ‘Ducal phallus’ in it and thank me for the laugh.heehee