by Isobel Carr, historical (2012)
Grand Central Publishing, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-446-57274-3
Philip Carlow. the Earl of Arlington, is a widower who generally acts responsibly and follows politics more than the latest happenings in the Ton. Sure, he's had a few discreet affairs over the years, but he's not known for being a party animal. His daughter Olivia's new-found beau Roland is a different story, as that twit got so drunk one evening that he woke up to realize that he'd wagered with his League of Second Sons buddies that he'd be the first to get a close look at Livy's naughty bits.
Livy discovers the bet, but instead of getting mad, she decides to get down to business. You see, her marriage was dissolved when it was discovered that her husband was already married, and her reputation went the way of her marriage. She's back in town because her father wants to launch her back into Society, but she knows very well that she's not going to be let back into Society's good graces that easily. In fact, she'd rather try her hand at living life on her terms for once, but she'd have to find a way to let her father realize that she's never going to be welcomed back into Society despite the Earl's social prestige.
So, she would have Roland pose as her beau for the season. He can't refuse, because he knows that she has evidence of the bet and he doesn't want anyone else to know. That way, Roland would act as a shield to drive off all the horny losers that treat her like fair game for their base instincts and cruel sport (see: Roland Devere himself). When the time is right, Roland can dissolve the engagement, completing Livy's social ruination, and she'd be off to discover what is over the horizon, or something like that.
Philip doesn't know the full extent of his daughter's plot, but he's skeptical of this romance she supposedly has with Roland. Still, he'd give his blessings, as he still feels guilt for shoving Livy into marriage with that man who turned out to be a bigamist. On the bright side, he bumps into Roland's sister, Margo, who comes back to London after the death of her husband. Margo is the neighborhood honeypot - she happily takes lovers even when her husband was alive (she and her husband weren't exactly what you would call a loving couple), and she likes what she sees in Philip. Can these two polar opposites ever find a middle ground outside the bedroom to have some kind of happily ever after?
Sounds interesting, right? Unfortunately, the main couple of Ripe For Seduction is Livy and Roland. Philip and Margo make up the secondary couple, and while their relationship plays a pivotal role in advancing the plot involving a mercenary relative, they aren't the main focus of the story. And this is unfortunate, because Margo and Philip are the more interesting pairing. They are not cookie-cutter characters, and they approach sex and love with a refreshing type of perspective rarely found in romance heroes and especially romance heroines.
Livy and Roland are more cookie-cutter types. They aren't too bad on their own, as they are fleshed out enough to be characters in their own right. It's just that they are overshadowed by Margo and Philip. A big reason for this is that, when it comes to their story, this book becomes too easy to put down. One reason for this is because of those League of Second Sons people. Ripe For Seduction is only the third book in the series, but it feels like the seventy-ninth hundred book in Stephenie Laurens' He-Man and the Cynsters of the Universe series as there are way too many guys here that scream "Buy my book!" That won't be so bad if these guys weren't, because they are going to be romance heroes themselves, super capable, loyal, and all around amazing. In fact, there are times when I could swear that the League of Second Sons must be made up of people who were rejected membership in the Bastion Club...
Anyway, because of all these amazing men rallying around our hero, Roland has a very obvious support system. When Roland pursues Livy, this support system also includes her. Consequently, there is no suspense in this story - it's impossible that Livy will find love somewhere else (all those other guys have already signed up for their own books, or so it feels), just as there is very little doubt that these two would overcome the odds against them. The support system feels too strong, too obvious, for these two to fail. Roland and Livy are stuck in a boring story where Roland ends up doing something silly as a way to create some much-needed conflict between him and Livy. Even then, the conflict isn't anything major, so at the end of the day, their relationship feels so dull compared to that of Philip and Margo.
Ripe For Seduction, therefore, is an odd book in that, while some books suffer from a sagging middle, this one suffers from a sagging front and back. The middle parts are the best bits, because those parts have Philip and Margo being given ample screen time to steal the show completely from Livy and Roland. It would've been great if the author had given these two a full story and relegated Livy and Roland into a novella.
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