Loretta Chase wrote the wonderful Lord of Scoundrels, a novel full of life, with great dialogue and original characters. She doesn't seem to have been able to write to the same level since, but I had hopes for Your Scandalous Ways with its Venetian setting and interesting characters.
Your Scandalous Ways is a good book but, unfortunately, not as good as
Lord of Scoundrels. Its main problem is a complete inability to like the heroine, Francesca Bonnard, a high-class courtesan and divorcee. We learn of Francesca's history
- that she was in love with her husband but had her heart broken by him - but throughout the novel she appears heartless and manipulative. I was never very sure why so many men liked her - she's clearly attractive, but she seems to have an almost super-human ability to make men act like idiots around her. This wasn't convincing to this reader and meant that I was never entirely carried away by the book.
The hero, James Cordier, is an English spy who is trying to find some treasonous letters that Francesca apparently stole from her husband. Cordier's attention from his task tends to waver in her presence, and he decides that the best way to get the letters is to seduce Francesca. It appears, however, that someone else may be after the letters - or perhaps may just be trying to kill Francesca. Can Cordier find the letters and keep Francesca safe?
The Venetian setting of Your Scandalous Ways is excellent, with descriptive passages where we follow high-society people as they travel around on gondolas, attend balls and other events, and hobnob with princes and diplomats. However, the underlying story
is a little thin, and the difficulty I had with Francesca's character, and partly also with Cordier's, means
that it wasn't an entirely satisfactory read.