by Madeline Hunter, historical (2003)
Bantam, $5.99, ISBN 0-553-58589-4
Madeline Hunter's The Seducer is a fascinating read. The dynamic of the romance is similar to that in By Arrangement: an alpha male holding all the power and pulling all the strings in the relationship. Chances are, if you love By Arrangement, you'll love The Seducer. It's a personal bias of mine that I find relationships where the heroine is entirely dependent on the hero rather disturbing, to say the least, so as I turn the pages, I find myself more interested in the romance between the hero's notorious sister and the manservant.
Twenty-year old Diane Albret is brought out from the French nunnery she is cloistered at - although one can say she has no choice but to leave after she's incriminated by a French lesbian version of the Kamasutra in her possession - by her negligent guardian Daniel St John. She hopes that Daniel will take her back to England where she will discover all that she can about her family. Daniel also manages to get her to act as his "niece" so that she can help this self-professed man-of-affairs get some clients among the important men of the Ton. Unknown to her, Daniel is using her to bait out some bad guy.
The author does a good job with the history and the characters, and I enjoy reading this book. But frankly, Daniel creeps me out. From the scene where he demands that "sixteen-year old" Diane strip to prove to him her age to the fact that he withholds the very information Diane is looking up and down for, Daniel wins the Daddy Knows Best (Sit On My Lap, Little Girl) award for the most disturbing boyfriend. I'm not even sure why he wants Diane other than for hormone-driven reasons. Diane is a more sympathetic heroine - she's not stupid, but she's stymied from all directions in her quest by the man she is entirely dependent on. Daniel, should he turn abusive, will face very little resistance as Diane is a stranger in a strange land dependent on Daniel's kin. I don't like the idea that Diane needs this cold-hearted manipulative user this much. In another book, Diane's lashing out at Daniel - despite her knowing that Daniel is using her - when she learns the real extent of Daniel's deception will be an annoying plot contrivance to prolong a conflict, but in this book, I sympathize with her. If after all my efforts fail to turn up anything only to have me learn that the man I'm in love with knows everything all along, heck, I will scream too.
Since the romance never actually succeeds in engaging my emotions, I find myself more interested in the romance between Diane's sister, the infamous Jeanette who is unfortunately crippled, and the manservant Paul. Alas, there's never enough of them to whet my appetite for anything that can entertain me thoroughly in this book.
I won't deny that this book is well-written, but I just cannot get into the very unbalanced romance between the main characters. The hero has too much power and the potential for abuse of that power is always there. As the end of the day, I know The Seducer is a good book but my heart just isn't into the story at all, I'm afraid.
This book at Amazon.com
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