Series: The Dressmakers #1
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Avon on 28 June 2011
Reading Challenges: 2013 Zodiac Challenge
I was thoroughly charmed by the romance between the stylish dressmaker Madame Marcelline Noitot and the Duke of Clevedon. When Marcelline hears that the Duke of Clevedon is shortly to return to London in order to propose to Lady Clara, she travels to France to contrive a meeting. She wanted to charm Clevedon so his future Duchess would give her shop much needed patronage. Once they meet however sparks fly.
Marcelline doesn’t quite fit the classic 19th century heroine mold. She can pass herself off in society as ‘one of the ton’ if she chooses and yet she is a mere dressmaker. I found her cold and arrogant at the start, and was vaguely repelled by her mercenary nature. Then I started to think about the era in which it was set. There was no social security, no protection for widows with small children. Only the three sisters’ wits, their talents as dressmakers and ruthless pragmatism stand between them and abject poverty. The fact that they have been able to create a successful business and support so many seamstresses is phenomenal.
I felt sympathy for Clevedon rather than censure. Yes he was a bit of a rake for having an understanding of sorts with Clara and yet dallying with Marcelline but the arrangement with Clara had been basically sorted out by their respective parents. There are limits to ‘doing your duty’ and it was only when Clevedon met Marcelline that he realised he’d met them. He definitely botched things with Clara even when he tried to do the right thing but had the decency to try and make amends. His interactions with Lucie aka Erroll were charming even though she is a little schemer.
There are bits that should beggar belief but nothing that Marcelline doesn’t acknowledge herself. Both Clevedon and Marcelline are desperately trying to do the right thing but just can’t resist each other. There is no way a Duke of sound mind would want someone so beneath him socially to be anything but a mistress. The solution however was very neatly presented and ultimately as satisfying as the rest of the romance.
The plot was fairly simple but Chase’s writing drew me in so I was swept away by the drama, passion, intrigue, witty repartee and clothes. To be honest, fashion at this time was enough to make anyone bilious but the extensive references to dresses, styles and fabrics fascinated rather than repelled me.
I was enchanted by this novel and I suspect that if you are a fan of historical romances, you might be too.