July 7, 2014
Once again I believe I have landed in the minority. I am forced to ask if I read the same book as everyone else. It is at this point I must step back and wonder - did I have a problem with Vixen in Velvet because I hold Loretta Chase to a higher standard than I do other
authors? After all, Ms. Chase produced one of my absolute all time favorite books, Lord of Scoundrels. So yes, my expectations for Vixen in Velvet were high.
When my new books came this month, I jumped for joy - it was a squeal moment - and immediately opened Vixen in Velvet. And, yes I was disappointed, however, I would have had the same reaction if I had never read any of Ms. Chase's sublime stories before.
One of my biggest problems with this story was I just couldn't connect with the main couple, Leonie and Lisburne. When the story began I had the feeling I was missing something - it was as if I had stepped into a story without a beginning. I found myself wistfully comparing the main characters of Leonie and Lisburne to Dain and Jessica from Lord of Scoundrels and found the former lacking.
Whenever Leonie and Lisburne were together, even though the dialogue was witty, I never had a sense of the inner workings of their minds. Some of that was because of the space allotted in the book to the secondary romance between Swinton and Gladys. The other giant space user was the vivid descriptions of the fashion of the day.
Yes, I know our heroine is one of the owners of a house of fashion. She lives and breathes fashion. I'm also very much aware that historical romance books are filled with detailed description of clothing and hair styles. And, this author seems to be fond of the styles from this particular time period. While I admit to an appalling fascination with the over-sized sleeves and hats - the exaggerated hair of the 1830s, I often find myself asking: Would a man (say our hero) really find this overblown style lovely? Would one of our manly male heroes really find a woman dressed in feathers and giant sleeves attractive? Would our hero recall in vivid detail every stitch, tuck and color of every ensemble our heroine is wearing? I know if it were up to my husband we would all be wearing white blouses with ruffles or, as he says, those white puffy shirts. I found the never-ending fashion descriptions littered throughout this book a tad bit tiresome.
While I liked Leonie and thought she was a strong female character - her love of her dressmaking business was admirable - this story suffered from being an historical romance. As happens in most historicals, in the end she and her sisters will have to give up their business. Ms. Chase did find a way for the sisters to still be part of something they love, even if it isn't on the same level as it once was.
Incidentally, I always feel sorry for the superfluous people who populate romanceland. Once our heroine marries our hero, she drops her business, friends, servants, and any orphanages she may have funded. I've always felt sorry for all those dedicated servants who befriend all those disguised heroines who are on the lam only to be left behind when our heroine/princess/missing heiress finds her one true love. I digress.
Now let's talk about Swinton and Gladys. They are secondary characters, and they are the type of secondary characters who not only steal scenes but almost overwhelm the entire story. Actually, Swinton and Gladys deserved either their own book or a novella. They are fun, interesting characters: I actually found them more so than the main couple. I was more interested in what they were doing than Leonie and Lisburne. However, both couples suffered from my inability to feel what they were thinking.
Unlike most of Ms. Chase's books, it took me a long time to finish this story. In fact, I almost gave up, but I forced myself to finish. Vixen in Velvet is one of those novels which proves different stokes for different folks. Bottom line for me, I felt that too much time was devoted to fashion description and the secondary characters. In the process the main characters of Leonie and Lisburne were overshadowed and weakened. In the end the romance was lost in the shuffle.
Time/Place: 1830s England