Loretta Chase begins a new series about three dressmakers in London with Silk is for Seduction. The three Noirot sisters are a part of the charismatic, though shady, branch of the Dreadful DeLuceys, whom you may recall from Lord Perfect. Their DeLucey mother married into the French equivalent family, the Noirots, and so this particular pairing has been particularly dreadful.
The widowed Marcelline and her sisters have clawed their way up to be proprietors of an up-and-coming dress shop in London, based upon Marcelline's stunning creations and their, at times manipulative, charm. All they need is one spectacularly prominent client to make their fortunes, and the girls have their sights set on the future Duchess of Clevedon. To procure her, Marcelline travels to Paris where the duke is dragging his feet about returning to London and actually proposing, in order to garner his attention and patronage. Well, she gets a bit more of his attention than she'd planned and things become wildly complicated.
Marcelline will tell anyone who will listen that she is "the greatest modiste in all the world." She is obsessed with her shop, with her vision of fashion, and with providing for her daughter and sisters. She soon also becomes obsessed with Clevedon, though she knows any liaison would be catastrophic to her business. There is a line between those in trade and the aristocracy that cannot be crossed and she does her very best to stay on her side of it. However, Clevedon does not make it easy for her.
He is as obsessed as she, but without her discipline. He's a duke, and so not in the habit of denying himself anything he may wish to have. Complicating things is his genuine love, though of a brotherly nature, for his future betrothed, whom he has known since childhood. His guilt at chasing another woman when he should be proposing to her makes him more human and vulnerable. But he cannot stay away from Marcelline, and matters only turn more thorny when he becomes smitten with her daughter. Oh, those DeLucey women are charmers.
I zipped through this book in record speed, and have already read it again before writing this review. All the things you love about Loretta Chase - the humor, the depth of emotion, the complex characters - are all here with the addition of a fascinating, and little seen, setting. I really enjoyed getting a behind the scenes look at dress creation and historical fashion. As Marcelline tells Clevedon about her clients, "I can make them more than what they want," she said. "I can make them unforgettable." And so are Marcelline and Clevedon.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, May 29, 2011