Loretta Chase's novels seem to be rather variable but always interesting. I loved "Lord Of Scoundrels" which has a dreadful cover but is a great story; "Captives Of The Night" was a very different read (although with some characters in common with "Lord Of Scoundrels"), with far more mystique and secrecy in the plot and characters, but it was still very good. I didn't like "Miss Wonderful" at all, one of her more recent books and far more in the traditional regency romance vein. So, what's "The Lion's Daughter" like?
This book is also related to characters in "Captives Of The Night" and "Lord Of Scoundrels" and is, in fact, chronologically before them - by about ten years. Not that it seems to matter which order you read the books in, although the central character in "Captives Of The Night" features in this book as a villain, which makes for interesting reading.
What's so fascinating about this book is the setting; there's no jaunting around London at balls and routs, most of the action takes place in Albania. It's very clear that Loretta Chase knows an awful lot about Albanian life and society in the 1820s as the descriptions are excellent, not just of places but of manners, behaviour and expectations. Although the story ends up in England it still has a rather wild and different flavour than the traditional Regency with a look at a failing estate and how that might be turned around.
The story focuses on Esme Brentmor, daughter of Jason, an Englishman, and of an Albanian woman; Jason has lived in Albania for 20 years and his daughter has grown up strongly part of that culture although also being aware of her English side. She is in danger of kidnap from Ismal who wants to use her as a hostage against her father so, when her father dies, she vows revenge. However her plans are somewhat upset when she finds herself looking after her cousin Percival, 12 years old, and a man who has been travelling with Percival, Varian St George, a dissolute and penniless aristocratic rake.
Varian and Esme soon find themselves fencing verbally and sometimes struggling physically (Esme is rather a wildcat). Her plan to get revenge on Ismal isn't compatible with Varian's plan to return her and Percival to Percival's father in Corfu, thus the two main characters are continually scheming against each other. Somewhere in the middle of this they find they are attached to each other and yet neither really understands what's going on most of the time, plus there is still danger to them - a piece is missing from a very valuable chess set and everyone is looking for that piece.
There are some twists and turns in the plot, of course, and the usual subterfuge; Esme's character doesn't change particularly but Varian is very much improved by the love of a good woman; he was a difficult hero to like initially, being a wastrel gaming rake, but the reader is left pretty confident that all will go well for them.
Although I did enjoy this book I didn't find it that gripping - I read several other novels over the time I was reading this - and although the setting was fun being so different the love story aspect wasn't as satisfying as some might wish for in a historical romance. Still, setting and historicity seemed very good and the Albanian angle was a real change. A book to read and enjoy when in the right frame of mind.