In a time when the shelf-life a romance can be measured in weeks, it’s a rare book indeed that earns a lasting place on the shelves of both booksellers and readers alike. Lord of Scoundrels by Word Wench Loretta Chase is one of these magical books, a classic historical romance that’s just about perfect in every way. The list of awards Lord of Scoundrels has won tells the story: the Romance Writers of America Rita, a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, a repeat winner in the All About Romance Top 100 Romances Reader Poll (#1 in the 2000, 2004, and 2007 polls; here’s this year’s AAR Poll if you’d like to see the rest as well.) and for Romance Readers Anonymous Best All-Time Historical Romance and Best Romance Novel of All Time awards.
Avon Books agrees, and this month marks the reissue of Lord of Scoundrels in a new edition, ready to delight a whole new crop of readers. For our next two blogs, Loretta and I will chat about all things Scoundrel: Dain, Jessica, and pornographic French watches. . . .
Susan/Miranda: For those unfortunates who have yet to discover Lord of Scoundrels, could you tell us a bit about the story?
Loretta: Quite simply, this is my Beauty and the Beast story. The Marquess of Dain, the hero, is truly awful: rude, overbearing, and intimidating. This is the man he’s become in order to overcome a traumatic childhood. He consciously uses his monstrousness in the same way he uses his vast wealth and his social position: to control his world and protect himself. It’s sad, in a way, because he’s isolated, like the Beast of the fairy tale trapped in his castle. But Dain is not pitiful by any means: He’s smart, cynical, and sarcastic, with a sharp eye for the ridiculous. He has a sense of humor and is adept with clever comebacks and putdowns (or “setdowns” in the language of the time).
At story’s start, he thinks he has everything under control. He grew up as a misfit and an outcast but he now has everything he wants–or if he doesn’t have it, he can buy it. Then one day, into a shop walks Jessica Trent, a fashion plate with a brain under her ridiculous bonnet. She proceeds to turn his world upside down.
In my version, the Beauty of the tale is an unflappable young lady who enters the Beast’s lair of her own accord. And no matter what he does, no matter how awful he is–and he goes from bad to worse to unspeakable–she can handle it.
Susan/Miranda: When writers are especially blessed and all the creative stars align, a great book will go so smoothly that it almost seems to write itself. Was Lord of Scoundrels like this?
Loretta: It was the only book that came to me as a gift from the writing gods. Every other book is a struggle, some bloodier than others. This book was pure fun from start to finish.
Susan/Miranda: Dain and Jessica meet in a shop selling art and antiques. Two pieces are of special interest to them, and I’m sure there’s a research story behind each one of them. What can you tell us more about the Russian icon?
Loretta: This is one of the things people might think one makes up. In fact, there was a Stroganov School. The works were done in the 16th & 17th centuries, and by the time of my story were prized by collectors.
Susan/Miranda: And yes, I’m going to ask: was the pornographic French watch based on a real example?
Loretta: Oooh, watches. In that scene, Jessica mentions Breguet –Napoleon wore a Breguet and Marie Antoinette owned several (which she never paid for). They were famously accurate.
As to the naughty watches–they did exist. Unfortunately, the only illustrations I have on hand are unsatisfactory. I got the idea from a short entry and a tiny B&W picture in Eric Bruton’s The History of Clocks and Watches. It’s a carriage watch from the 1790s. The book offers a description but shows only the “decent” view. Here’s one, though rather primitive. Here are some more, but the pix are tiny. Here’s a larger pic though it’s not the type Jessica buys. I know I found a much better illustration, but the source is either on the shelves of one of the libraries I haunted, part of a museum exhibition I visited (here or in the UK), or buried in my basement. I think they’re even more fun than the erotic snuff boxes, because the scene can be manipulated.
Loretta: It goes deeper than a match, actually. He was born there during one of my infrequent trips to England. We were in Devon in late spring, and had left our hotel on a beautifully warm day. (The gigantic rhododendrons we encountered there and elsewhere, BTW, inspired the rhododendron love scene.) A few miles away, we were in Dartmoor, and another world, as I describe in the book:
Like Dain, Dartmoor is something apart: Lots of brooding atmosphere. It’s intimidating. Changeable. Harshly beautiful. The dangers (like the Grimspound Bog–which Conan Doyle calls the Grimpen Mire in The Hound of the Baskervilles) and the wild, desolate look of the place have given birth to many legends involving the Devil, pixies, and ghostly visitations. Dain’s harsh exterior, the stormy weather that’s his personality, the devil who seems to rule him, and the ghosts who haunt him–all of this is Dartmoor.
You can can get another angle on the locale at my blog at the Avon Romance Books site.
And for more about Dain & Jessica, please check out my blog at Romance B(u)y the Book on Thursday, November 15. This is a romance blog in conjunction with LifetimeTV.com — please join me! Here are the details for accessing it:
You can get to "Let’s Talk Romance" and Loretta’s "GuestBlog" through the blue "Blog Box" in the lower left-hand corner of "Romance: B(u)y the Book". Register in the blog comments area to take part in the discussion. (Tips: Leave no spaces in your UserName. Non-U.S. viewers, use CA/90210 as state/zip code).
Now it’s your turn. Your question or comment has a chance to win an autographed copy of the new Lord of Scoundrels. If you don’t win this time, you’ll get a second chance when Part II of the interview appears on 19 November.