Silk Is for Seduction (Dressmakers Series #1)

Silk Is for Seduction (Dressmakers Series #1)

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by Loretta Chase
     
 

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“One of the finest romance authors of all time.”
—Julia Quinn

“[Loretta Chase has] a rare talent for creating crackling sexual tension and characters so fresh and compelling that readers won’t be able to forget them.”
—Susan Elizabeth Phillips

One of the most beloved authors in the field of historical romance, the

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Overview

“One of the finest romance authors of all time.”
—Julia Quinn

“[Loretta Chase has] a rare talent for creating crackling sexual tension and characters so fresh and compelling that readers won’t be able to forget them.”
—Susan Elizabeth Phillips

One of the most beloved authors in the field of historical romance, the remarkable Loretta Chase proves that Silk is For Seduction. The acclaimed New York Times bestselling author brings readers the first in a very sexy, emotionally rich new series in which sisters from a rather scandalous aristocratic family—the purveyors of the most fashionable shop in Regency London—discover passion and love as sumptuous as the exquisite gowns they create. Stephanie Laurens fans will adore this sensuous love story, as ambitious dressmaker Marcelline attempts to win the patronage of a future duchess…and ends up inadvertently enchanting the Duke!

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A saucy dressmaker ensnares a duke in this deliciously witty 1830s trilogy launch loosely tied to Chase's Carsington Brothers series (Last Night's Scandal, etc.). Born into a noble but ramshackle family, the three devious Noirot sisters start a London dress shop and are soon engaged in fierce competition for the business of society ladies. When the sisters discover that wealthy Gervase Angier, duke of Clevedon, is about to become betrothed to his childhood friend, Lady Clara Fairfax, Marcelline Noirot heads to Paris to catch Clevedon's eye and encourage him to send Lady Clara to her for a wedding dress. With a sharp eye for both upper-class society and the cutthroat world of high-class London mantua makers, Chase mixes snappy dialogue, erotic tension, and the fanciful styles of the era into a sparkling love story as Marcelline's strategy ensnares not only Clevedon's patronage but his heart. (July)
Library Journal
Knowing she and her siblings must attract more high-ranking clients to their new dressmaking establishment, fashion designer Marcelline Noirot, the eldest of three sisters, heads for Paris to convince the about-to-be-engaged Duke of Clevedon that she should be the one to dress his new duchess. Alluring, savvy, and determined, Marcelline succeeds beautifully. The only problem? The sizzling and totally unwanted attraction that develops between Marcelline and the duke! An outrageously direct, single-minded heroine with a scandalous heritage meets a caring, honorable hero who wants to do the right thing. Toss in a delectable cast of appealing characters (a charming, manipulative six-year-old is a standout), and this plot is off on a lively, emotionally compelling path to a marvelous story that is the first in a projected trilogy. VERDICT Carefully wrought personnae, beautifully handled sensuality, and lusciously seductive descriptions of the gowns—and everything else—make this another sparkling winner for the much-beloved, peerless Chase (Last Night's Scandal); she lives in Worcester, MA.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061632686
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/28/2011
Series:
Dressmakers Series, #1
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
727,383
Product dimensions:
4.20(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Silk is for Seduction


By Loretta Chase

Avon

Copyright © 2011 Loretta Chase
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061632686


Chapter One

THE LADIES' DRESS-MAKER. Under this head
we shall include not only the business of a Mantua
Maker, but also of a Milliner . . . In the Milliner,
taste and fancy are required; with a quickness
in discerning, imitating, and improving upon
various fashions, which are perpetually changing
among the higher circles.
The Book of English Trades,
and Library of the Useful Arts, 1818
London
March 1835
Marcelline, Sophia, and Leonie Noirot, sisters and
proprietresses of Maison Noirot, Fleet Street,
West Chancery Lane, were all present when Lady Renfrew,
wife of Sir Joseph Renfrew, dropped her bombshell.
Dark-haired Marcelline was shaping a papillon bow
meant to entice her ladyship into purchasing Marcelline's
latest creation. Fair-haired Sophia was restoring to order
one of the drawers ransacked earlier for one of their more
demanding customers. Leonie, the redhead, was adjusting
the hem of the lady's intimate friend, Mrs. Sharp.
Though it was merely a piece of gossip dropped casually
into the conversation, Mrs. Sharp shrieked—quite as
though a bomb had gone off—and stumbled and stepped
on Leonie's hand.
Leonie did not swear aloud, but Marcelline saw her
lips form a word she doubted their patrons were accustomed
to hearing.
Oblivious to any bodily injury done to insignificant
dressmakers, Mrs. Sharp said, "The Duke of Clevedon
is returning?"
"Yes," said Lady Renfrew, looking smug.
"To London?"
"Yes," said Lady Renfrew. "I have it on the very best
authority."
"What happened? Did Lord Longmore threaten to
shoot him?"
Any dressmaker aspiring to clothe ladies of the upper
orders stayed au courant with the latter's doings.
Consequently, Marcelline and her sisters were familiar with all
the details of this story. They knew that Gervaise Angier,
the seventh Duke of Clevedon, had once been the ward
of the Marquess of Warford, the Earl of Longmore's
father. They knew that Longmore and Clevedon were the
best of friends. They knew that Clevedon and Lady Clara
Fairfax, the eldest of Longmore's three sisters, had been
intended for each other since birth. Clevedon had doted
on her since they were children. He'd never shown any
inclination to court anyone else, though he'd certainly
had liaisons aplenty of the other sort, especially during
his three years on the Continent.
While the pair had never been officially engaged, that
was regarded as a mere technicality. All the world had
assumed the duke would marry her as soon as he returned
with Longmore from their Grand Tour. All the world had
been shocked when Longmore came back alone a year
ago, and Clevedon continued his life of dissipation on the
Continent.
Apparently, someone in the family had run out of
patience, because Lord Longmore had traveled to Paris a
fortnight ago. Rumor agreed he'd done so specifically to
confront his friend about the long-delayed nuptials.
"I believe he threatened to horsewhip him, but of that
one cannot be certain," said Lady Renfrew. "I was told
only that Lord Longmore went to Paris, that he said or
threatened something, with the result that his grace promised
to return to London before the King's Birthday."
Though His Majesty had been born in August, his birthday
was to be celebrated this year on the 28th of May.
Since none of the Noirot sisters did anything so
obvious as shriek or stumble or even raise an eyebrow, no
onlooker would have guessed they regarded this news as
momentous.
They went on about their business, attending to the
two ladies and the others who entered their establishment.
That evening, they sent the seamstresses home at
the usual hour and closed the shop. They went upstairs
to their snug lodgings and ate their usual light supper.
Marcelline told her six-year-old daughter, Lucie Cordelia,
a story before putting her to bed at her usual bedtime.
Lucie was sleeping the sleep of the innocent—or as
innocent as was possible for any child born into their
ramshackle family—when the three sisters crept down the
stairs to the workroom of their shop.
Everyday, a grubby little boy delivered the latest set
of scandal sheets as soon as they were printed—usually
before the ink was dry—to the shop's back door. Leonie
collected today's lot and spread them out on the work
table. The sisters began to scan the columns.
"Here it is," Marcelline said after a moment. " 'Earl
of L____ returned from Paris last night . . . We're
informed that a certain duke, currently residing in the
French capital, has been told in no uncertain terms
that Lady C_____ was done awaiting his pleasure . . .
his grace expected to return to London in time for the
King's Birthday . . . engagement to be announced at a
ball at Warford House at the end of the Season . . .
wedding before summer's end.' "
She passed the report to Leonie, who read, "'Should
the gentleman fail to keep his appointment, the lady will
consider their 'understanding' a misunderstanding.' " She
laughed. "Then follow some interesting surmises regarding
which gentleman will be favored in his place."
She pushed the periodical toward Sophia, who was
shaking her head. "She'd be a fool to give him up," she
said. "A dukedom, for heaven's sake. How many are
there? And an unmarried duke who's young, handsome,
and healthy? I can count them on one finger." She stabbed
her index finger at the column. "Him."
"I wonder what the hurry is about," Marcelline said.
"She's only one and twenty."
"And what's she got to do but go to plays, operas,
balls, dinners, routs, and so on?" said Leonie. "An aristocratic
girl who's got looks, rank, and a respectable dowry
wouldn't ever have to worry about attracting suitors. This
girl . . ."
She didn't have to complete the sentence.
They'd seen Lady Clara Fairfax on several occasions.
She was stunningly beautiful: fair-haired and blue-eyed
in the classic English rose mode. Since her numerous
endowments included high rank, impeccable lineage, and a
splendid dowry, men threw themselves at her, right and
left.
"Never again in her life will that girl wield so much
power over men," Marcelline said. "I say she might wait
until her late twenties to settle down."
"I reckon Lord Warford never expected the duke to
stay away for so long," said Sophy.
"He always was under the marquess's thumb, they
say," Leonie said. "Ever since his father drank himself to
death. One can't blame his grace for bolting."
"I wonder if Lady Clara was growing restless," Sophy
said. "No one seemed worried about Clevedon's absence,
even when Longmore came home without him."
"Why worry?" said Marcelline. "To all intents and
purposes, they're betrothed. Breaking with Lady Clara
would mean breaking with the whole family."
"Maybe another beau appeared on the scene—one
Lord Warford doesn't care for," said Leonie.
"More likely Lady Warford doesn't care for other
beaux," said Sophy. "She wouldn't want to let a dukedom
slip through her hands."
"I wonder what threat Longmore used," Sophy said.
"They're both reputed to be wild and violent. He couldn't
have threatened pistols at dawn. Killing the duke would
be antithetical to his purpose. Maybe he simply offered to
pummel his grace into oblivion."
"That I should like to see," Marcelline said.
"And I" said Sophy.
"And I" said Leonie.
"A pair of good-looking aristocratic men fighting,"
Marcelline said, grinning. Since Clevedon had left
London several weeks before she and her sisters had
arrived from Paris, they hadn't, to date, clapped eyes on
him. They were aware, though, that all the world deemed
him a handsome man. "There's a sight not to be missed.
Too bad we shan't see it."
"On the other hand, a duke's wedding doesn't happen
every day—and I'd begun to think this one wouldn't
happen in our lifetime," Sophy said.
"It'll be the wedding of the year, if not the decade,"
Leonie said. "The bridal dress is only the beginning.
She'll want a trousseau and a completely new wardrobe
befitting her position. Everything will be of superior quality.
Reams of blond lace. The finest silks. Muslin as light
as air. She'll spend thousands upon thousands."
For a moment, the three sisters sat quietly contemplating
this vision, in the way pious souls contemplated Paradise.
Marcelline knew Leonie was calculating those thousands
down to the last farthing. Under the untamable
mane of red hair was a hardheaded businesswoman. She
had a fierce love of money and all the machinations
involving it. She labored lovingly over her ledgers and
accounts and such. Marcelline would rather clean privies
than look at a column of figures.
But each sister had her strengths. Marcelline, the eldest,
was the only one who physically resembled her father. For
all she knew, she was the only one of them who truly was
his daughter. She had certainly inherited his fashion sense,
imagination, and skill in drawing. She'd inherited as well
his passion for fine things, but thanks to the years spent in
Paris learning the dressmaking trade from Cousin Emma,
hers and her sisters' feelings in this regard went deeper.
What had begun as drudgery—a trade learned in childhood,
purely for survival—had become Marcelline's life
and her love. She was not only Maison Noirot's designer
but its soul.
Sophia, meanwhile, had a flair for drama, which she
turned to profitable account. A fair-haired, blue-eyed
innocent on the outside and a shark on the inside, Sophy
could sell sand to Bedouins. She made stonyhearted
moneylenders weep and stingy matrons buy the shop's
most expensive creations.
"Only think of the prestige," Sophy said. "The Duchess
of Clevedon will be a leader of fashion. Where she
goes, everyone will follow."
"She'll be a leader of fashion in the right hands,"
Marcelline said. "At present . . ."
A chorus of sighs filled the pause.
"Her taste is unfortunate," said Leonie.
"Her mother," said Sophy.
"Her mother's dressmaker, to be precise," said Leonie.
"Hortense the Horrible," they said in grim unison.
Hortense Downes was the proprietress of Downes's,
the single greatest obstacle to their planned domination
of the London dressmaking trade.
At Maison Noirot, the hated rival's shop was known
as Dowdy's.
"Stealing her from Dowdy's would be an act of charity,
really," said Marcelline.
Silence followed while they dreamed their dreams.
Once they stole one customer, others would follow.
The women of the beau monde were sheep. That could
work to one's advantage, if only one could get the sheep
moving in the right direction. The trouble was, not nearly
enough high-ranking women patronized Maison Noirot
because none of their friends did. Very few were ready to
try something new.
In the course of the shop's nearly three-year existence,
they'd lured a number of ladies, like Lady Renfrew. But
she was merely the wife of a recently knighted gentleman,
and the others of their customers were, like her, gentry or
newly rich. The highest echelons of the ton—the
duchesses and marchionesses and countesses and such—still
went to more established shops like Dowdy's.
Though their work was superior to anything their
London rivals produced, Maison Noirot still lacked the
prestige to draw the ladies at the top of the list of precedence.
"It took ten months to pry Lady Renfrew out of
Dowdy's clutches," said Sophy.
They'd succeeded because her ladyship had overheard
Dowdy's forewoman, Miss Oakes, say the eldest daughter's
bodices were difficult to fit correctly, because her
breasts were shockingly mismatched.
An indignant Lady Renfrew had canceled a huge order
for mourning and come straight to Maison Noirot, which
her friend Lady Sharp had recommended.
During the fitting, Sophy had told the weeping eldest
daughter that no woman in the world had perfectly matching
breasts. She also told Miss Renfrew that her skin was
like satin, and half the ladies of the beau monde would envy
her décolleté. When the Noirot sisters were done dressing
the young lady, she nearly swooned with happiness. It was
reported that her handsomely displayed figure caused several
young men to exhibit signs of swooning, too.
"We don't have ten months this time," Leonie said.
"And we can't rely on that vicious cat at Dowdy's to insult
Lady Warford. She's a marchioness, after all, not the
lowly wife of a mere knight."
"We have to catch her quickly, or the chance is gone
forever," said Sophy. "If Dowdy's get the Duchess of
Clevedon's wedding dress, they'll get everything else."
"Not if I get there first," Marcelline said.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase Copyright © 2011 by Loretta Chase. Excerpted by permission of Avon. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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