VIXEN IN VELVET – Loretta Chase
The Dressmakers / The Noirot Sisters , Book 3
A disreputable French count and his wife from a branch of an otherwise respectable English family produced three lovely daughters, dark haired Marcelline, blond Sophia, and red-headed Leonie. The elder Noirot were, to put it mildly, charming swindlers and rather indifferent parents. When they died in Paris, the girls were lucky to be taken in by a cousin, an honest dressmaker with her own successful establishment, who taught the girls the trade. Then came a terrible time in Paris when their cousin succumbed during a raging cholera epidemic, and the girls fled to England. Through hard work, natural talent, and the family charm, the sisters established Maison Noirot in London. Marcelline and Sophia fell in love and married into the aristocracy, but they didn't totally abandon Maison Noirot. Leonie, the youngest and the one with the most business sense, keeps it going with design input from the creative Marcelline and with Sophia's flair for promotion. All three girls have presence and are their best advertisement for the shop. To this end, Leonie often goes about town dressed to be noticed.
On one such excursion to an art exhibit, Leonie becomes enraptured by a painting by Botticelli of a Greek god and goddess, Mars and Venus. So mesmerized is Leonie that she doesn't notice the man behind her when she steps back. It's as if the god came to life, Mars in the dress of a modern gentleman! No, not a god but Simon Blair, Marquess of Lisburne, recently returned to England after six years in Europe. The Botticelli is his, on loan for the exhibit. And who is the lovely young lady staring at it?
Thus our hero and heroine meet. The attraction is immediate, but surely it can't go anywhere, can it? Not with out heartbreak. Through a series of events, both amusing and serious, the two try to deny their hearts to follow their heads.
One of Lisburne's reasons for returning to England is to watch over his cousin and friend, Lord Swanton, a dreamy, sensitive poet whose poems bore the gentlemen but turn the ladies into avid followers…sometimes rabid ones.
Other persons of note are two other cousins of Lisburne's, Lady Gladys, a drab, outspoken miss whose first Season was a disaster, and Lady Clara, a declared beauty with a large following of gentlemen, none of whom stand a chance with her. The two ladies are good friends.
Leonie believes she and Maison Noirot could be the making of Lady Gladys with a wardrobe makeover to highlight her assets and some social guidance to give her confidence. This becomes the impetus for a wager between Leonie and Lisburne…a wager with a satisfying conclusion for all, except we must wait for the next tale to learn the fate of Lady Clara.
VIXEN IN VELVET is a worthy successor to Ms. Chase's highly enjoyable SILK IS FOR SEDUCTION and SCANDAL WEARS SATIN, all three about the Noirot sisters. They can be read separately, but reading them in order triples the fun.