Archive for August 31st, 2011
Jennifer Haymore’s A SEASON OF SEDUCTION is a historical romance set just after the Regency Era in England that stars slightly-scarred Lady Rebecca “Becky” Fisk. Becky’s a wealthy young widow who’s sworn off marriage but not off men. As you might expect, her friend Lady Cecelia Devore, a slightly older and wiser widow, has helped Becky come up with the perfect solution — an assignation with thirtyish sailor Jack Fulton, a well-known rake, at a local hotel that promises the utmost in discretion.
With a premise like that, A SEASON OF SEDUCTION sounded like fun, especially as it’s set right around Christmastime; it sounded like the type of romance I’d like, something like Sherry Thomas’s excellent PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS (previously reviewed at SBR here) in that the heroine sounded atypical and more in control of her passions than the usual naïve ingenue.
But Becky is only twenty-two, and while she believes herself worldly and sophisticated, she obviously has a great deal of living and learning to do. This is something her love interest, Jack, takes advantage of as he starts to take advantage of Becky; the twist here is, Jack really doesn’t want to do this as he deeply respects Becky for her intellect, for her hidden passion, and rather than ruin her (even with her more-than-willing assistance), he’d much prefer to marry her instead.
Why would a rake, someone who is described straight-up as “fling material” rather than a steady, sober man, be Hell-bent on marriage? Well, finding that out was one of the two things I enjoyed about A SEASON OF SEDUCTION (the other being the cover), and I shouldn’t say much about it except that Jack’s reasons for marriage are, in a twisty way, honorable despite the fact that it looks like he solely wants Becky’s money.
At any rate, while there’s some good characterization here, particularly when it comes to the minor characters and Jack, there’s some really big problems with regards to the nature of the set-up to this romance.
First, Becky is way too young to pull off the sophisticated woman of the world premise. This is a woman who was understandably scarred by her first marriage — an affair that lasted a few months until her late husband’s timely and unlamented death — and hasn’t dated or looked at a man since. Yet now Becky is hard up to have a man, any man, especially if he’s as good looking as Jack? Which is why she’s willing to have an assignation with him, a man she barely knows, because she’s so hot for him that she can’t think straight?
Consider the milieu for a moment. It’s 1827. Becky is twenty-two years old. Her brother is the Duke of Calton, a high-placed, extremely wealthy man who is rich and powerful, so even if Becky herself weren’t wealthy — she is, of course — there would be many men out there looking to trap her into another loveless marriage. And if she doesn’t realize it, the much wiser and older people around her should; that they haven’t prepared Becky for the potential downside of her scheme makes absolutely no sense.
Next, there’s the major problem of this romance being mostly written on one level. There are very few ups and downs here, with most of those being due to the nature of how Becky is initially misled by Jack. That means the ups and downs seen were more plot-derived than flowing naturally from characterization. Which is a very bad thing, because you must care about the characters in a romance. If you don’t, why should you finish the book at all?
The last question here is, “Despite all that, is the nature of the romance between Becky and Jack somewhat realistic?” Well, if you can handle the contrived nature of it all, yes, some of what happens with the pair makes sense. I appreciated that the scarred-on-the-inside Jack bonded with the scarred-on-the-outside Becky (she has only one good, wholly usable arm) and thought that with only a bit more accurate set-up, this romance would’ve worked a whole lot better. I also thought the descriptions were both accurate and excellent, which proved that Ms. Haymore can indeed write well when the mood strikes her. But these pluses, good as they are, are not enough to outweigh the book’s minuses, and more to the point, they do not seduce the reader anywhere near enough in the bargain.
Because of all the problems I listed here, my recommendation is for you to read one of the many Regency or slightly-past Regency era historical romances that are better than A SEASON OF SEDUCTION instead. Find one of them in your public library (start with Georgette Heyer, then look to see if your library has any of Rosemary Edghill’s excellent Regencies, then go from there) and skip this book.
But if you really wish to read A SEASON OF SEDUCTION anyway, my advice is to treat it as the literary equivalent of a bon-bon. Something to be devoured and forgotten; certainly not anything to be seduced, savored or appreciated for any long-term merit as it just doesn’t measure up.
— reviewed by Barb