Marcelline Noirot and her two sisters own a dress shop, a moderately successful one, having only one larger, more prestigious client. Marcelline lives and breathes this shop. It not only supports her family, but designing is in her soul. It is her passion. But they know they need someone big, someone who will get all the ton pointed in their direction so they can wipe out all of their competition. When they read in a gossip paper that the Duke of Clevedon, may finally be coming home from Paris to claim his bride Clara, Marcelline knows they need this future duchess as a client. But instead of wooing Clara, Marcelline heads for Paris to go on a hunt.
Clevedon and Clara have been intended for each other for years. Clevedon is actually her father's former ward. Growing up together, they are great friends, and actually have love for each other. But over the past couple years, Clara has needed to time to mourn the passing of her grandmother, and Clevedon has needed time to go abroad and sow his oats. They write letters every week to each other, and are fond of one another. But Marcelline storming into Paris, with her amazing gowns and vibrant personality, may just be enough to throw Clevedon off track. After seeing her at the opera, and getting an introduction, Clevedon starts to become a bit obsessed. Marcelline knows exactly what she wants from Clevedon - his future bride. But as she plays this game with Clevedon to win over his money, she also starts to fall for him.
Meanwhile, Marcelline's dressmaker competition, Downes, will do anything to steal her designs, but the sisters are not dumb, and they are ready for a battle.
Silk is for Seduction is one of my favorite books I have read this year.There is so much that stands out in this book. Marcelline is just a shopkeeper with no title. For her, her appearance is everything. It is what gets her noticed or when she doesn't want to be noticed, just part of the crowd. She must look and play the part - so at first we must focus on her outside beauty, and how she portrays herself. Of course, she wouldn't last long in upper society if she didn't have an internal strength and smarts about her. She can curtsey like no other. She can flirt with the best of them. She is witty, sly, and never loud or obvious. She is a mystery to Clevedon. Her beauty is what draws him to her at first. But then who she is intrigues him. Just as he slowly unravels the real Marcelline, Loretta Chase does the same for the reader. She drops in small (and sometimes large) tidbits very nonchalantly. You feel surprised and a bit baffled right along with Clevedon.
Clevedon has long been intended to Clara. They have never been lovers, but they are good friends. Both are not dreading this impending betrothal, but both are not rushing towards the alter either. My first thought was - how am I going to feel about Clevedon on such good terms with Clara, falling for another woman? And while he doesn't necessarily hide the fact that he met and spent time with Marcelline, he never comes clean with the actual emotional attachment he has with her at first. Of course when they all end up in London together, Clara catches on quick. And I love that she doesn't hide. She confronts Marcelline. She may be a little naïve, but I give her credit for not sitting in the shadows. Is Clara hurt? Sure. But I don't think she is ever betrayed. And I like that we get to see the journey Clara goes on, and she is better off for it.
The Clevedon we come to know is such a sweet, good guy. There are a few parts towards the end, where Marcelline needs help and what he does for her made me smile so big and I might even have wiped away a tear. We not only get these lovely warm moments, but the banter between Clevedon and Marcelline is so entertaining and well done.
And before I go, I must mention the smexy parts - while there is wonderful tension in this book, the love scenes are intense and filled with as much passion as these two characters. And there is carriage smex, does it get better?
"It was as stormy a kiss as the last time, but different. He was angry with her;she was angry with him. But far more than anger was at work between them. This time she wasn't in control. She was drowning in feeling, in the taste of him, and the scent of his skin and the feel of his hard body under hers, and his hand so tight in her hair, possessive.
A lifetime had passed since a man had held her like this.
She knew - a part of her mind knew - she needed to break away from him. But first...oh, a little more."
Most importantly, this book is so romantic. The looks between the Clevedon and Marcelline. The witty banter. The tension. The heartbreak and angst. The warmth and humor. Oh - all done so well. One of the best books I have read this year.