TBR Challenge Review: Don't Tempt Me by Loretta Chase

Format: Mass market paperback
Pub Date: July 2009
Publisher: Avon
Length: 355 pages
FTC: Picked up at RT Convention '10 or '11

This month's TBR Challenge Theme is Lovely RITA. Meaning any book that has won an RWA Rita award or been nominated for one. I had a Rita winner all picked out, weeks ago, but my house ate it. Or I left it in my husband's pick up. Something. It's disappeared. And then, after scouring my TBR, I realized that it was the ONLY book that precisely fit the theme. Oh well.

I had dozens of books written by Rita winners, though. Most either written immediately before after the author's winning book. Figures. So I ended up picking out a Loretta Chase book. I'm a late-comer to Loretta Chase, having only read Lord of Scoundrels (a Rita winner) a year or so ago. And I wanted to see how she handled what can often to be a problematic theme in Regency stories: the Harem Girl.

Zoe Lexham has returned to England after escaping an Egyptian harem where she has lived for 12 years. Having been abducted while with her family was in Egypt, Zoe makes her way back to England. Lucien de Gray, the Duke of Marchmont, Zoe's old childhood friend, learns of yet another 'fake' Zoe impinging on the Lexham family and vows to remove her immediately. But upon seeing Zoe, he knows that this time, this is the real Zoe and not one of the many imposters who have tried to defraud the grieving family.

Meanwhile, Zoe is having a hard time adjusting. She's determined to reenter society, but most of the rules of propriety seem foreign and silly to someone who spent more than a decade in captivity. And the Lucien she knew is not the man she sees now. This man is a shallow, indifferent man who never laughs.

The book is still problematic, even with Chase's skill, but from my limited knowledge of Egypt (gleaned from my fanatical obsession with the Amelia Peabody series by Elizabeth Peters and subsequent inhalation of most popular archaeology books), Chase has at least incorporated a minimal amount of research. None of the Cairo descriptions felt off.

Part of this is a captivity narrative, which tend to have racist overtones. It's pretty much unavoidable, although part of the white slavery/kidnapping plots did happen and there is a historical record to support it. 19th century British mores being what they were, though, this may have some triggers for those who can't stand the subtle, and not so subtle, racism found in the narratives.

I had more problems with the fact that our heroine,  Zoe, managed to retain her virginity while in the harem. The entire plot was improbable, but that was pretty much the reality killer for me. I also had some problems with the hero, the Duke of Marchmont, because his characterization was somewhat inconsistent. I just didn't believe that he was that clueless about his feelings and motivations. And there was really very little tension or suspense about whether these two would fall in love. No real obstacles to overcome, which meant that the suspense plot thrown in at the end felt even more off than it might otherwise have been.

While the plot didn't always work for me, Chase's writing is still excellent. A confusing, unique blend of effervescent humor and gut-wrenching emotion.

Scenes like this one (where the couple is caught by Zoe's sister in an "embrace") had me laughing out loud...

"Stop it!"
"Stop it! Heaven help me, it's like trying to separate dogs!"
Thwack. "Get off!"
Something was hitting his back.
Thwack. "Now! Do you hear me?" Thwack. "Get off her this instant!" Thwack. "Get off!"
Definitely not the best Chase is capable of, but I enjoyed reading it. It just didn't stand up to any detailed scrutiny.

My Grade: C-

The Blurb:

Spunky English girl overcomes impossible odds and outsmarts heathen villains.
That's the headline when Zoe Lexham returns to England. After twelve years in the exotic east, she's shockingly adept in the sensual arts. She knows everything a young lady shouldn't and nothing she ought to know. She's a walking scandal, with no hope of a future . . . unless someone can civilize her.
Lucien de Grey, the Duke of Marchmont, is no knight in shining armor. He's cynical, easily bored, and dangerous to women. He charms, seduces, and leaves them—with parting gifts of expensive jewelry to dry their tears. But good looks, combined with money and rank, makes him welcome everywhere. The most popular bachelor in the Beau Monde can easily save Zoe's risqué reputation . . . if the wayward beauty doesn't lead him into temptation, and a passion that could ruin them both.


  1. I hate it when the Bat Cave eats books. It usually happens when I'm looking for something VERY specific in the TBR and it's just....gone.

    Yeah, the virginity aspect probably would have stopped me cold with this one....

    1. Of course, I found the missing book *today*. It had fallen under the seat in my car, then been buried by kid stuff. Sigh.

      The virginity aspect was explained (the guy she belonged to was impotent) but it was too much for my already strained suspension of disbelief.

  2. I have never read a "Harem Girl" storyline. Are there any titles you would recommend?

    1. I read one years ago that worked well, but as luck would have it, cannot remember the title. Most are historical sheik stories, but there are a few like this one.

  3. I haven't read this one by Loretta Chase, I loved her Lord of Scoundrels but found others I have read didn't live up to my love of that one. I must read another of hers, but think will give this one a miss.

    1. I think it's hard to recreate the wow you get upon reading Lord of Scoundrels because nothing else is going to have the same impact. I'm going to try a different Chase book and be more careful about the blurbs. :)