by Lauren Royal, historical (2007)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-451-22245-9
The Art Of Temptation is a historical romance that is wisely released close to Christmas because this is a story that not only throws historical accuracy out of the window but also logic at times in favor of unabashed sentimentalism. It will be much easier to enjoy this one when one is rendered insensate from endless eggnogs and forced conversations with people you don't really like at company parties where everyone just wants to get drunk and rush to the nearest broom closet to have drunken sex that they will really regret when they are sober.
Ten years ago, eighteen-year old Sean Delaney was stunned when he realized that a distant uncle had died and left him ten thousand pounds. He planned to leave the village of Kilburton in Ireland to make something for himself in London. At the same time, his fifteen-year old sister Deirdre announced that she was with child and she would be marrying the father, John Hamilton.
Cut to ten years later. Sean is a self-made very rich bloke who is one of the richest men in England, if not the richest. Dierdre on the other hand has become the neglected wife of John, who has since become a very famous artist who maintains his mystique by becoming a recluse of sorts. Dierdre has found a new boyfriend. Sean feels that he should do all he can to help Dierdre get a divorce even when she doesn't really want it since she's happy to "live in sin" with her boyfriend. The opportunity arises when John is summoned to his dying uncle's side and John would rather go on a romantic/creative getaway with his latest mistress, so Sean will pose as John and visit this uncle in his place. That way, the uncle who is also the Earl of Lincolnshire will not get angry enough to disinherit John while John in return will grant Dierdre a divorce. This story takes place in 1817, mind you, so I really don't think divorces will be granted as easily as the author presents the situation in this story. If you are concerned about historical accuracy, needless to say this book may not amuse you much.
Because John is supposed to be a recluse and the Earl of Lincolnshire hasn't seen the man in a long time, I suppose it does make sense that Sean can pass himself off as John without much trouble. Our heroine is Corinna Chase, an aspiring artist who needs a model to pose for her "anatomy studies". I'm sure you can guess who will be her lucky model. The back blurb says that she is on to Sean's masquerade, but she actually doesn't have a clue, believing that Sean is indeed John, even when he tells her that he isn't John, until she realizes that he is color-blind and therefore she has to confront reality no matter how much she tries not to. Therefore, she is a bit of a dingbat when the back blurb has me initially thinking that she could be pretty sharp. Dang.
Lincolnshire turns out to be an unrealistically wonderful fellow, loved by all except John. He comes complete with scenes of children and women weeping over his goodness. Sean and Corinna fall under his magic ho-ho-ho goodwill and all as they fall in love. Secondary characters from the previous two books in the series gather around Sean and Corinna to add more cheerleading goodwill until this book is pretty much drenched with unabashed mawkishness. Corinna and Sean are willing to be martyrs for love - with Sean pretending to be John, surely society will ostracize him and therefore poor Corinna by marrying him will lose all chances of maintaining respectability (not for herself, of course, but for her family). Fortunately, Lincolnshire does everything but lead the choir in singing Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World here, so you can be assured that there is a happy ending for everyone in this story.
Throughout it all, Sean is so open with his real identity with Corinna and Corinna also tells everyone close to her about Sean's real identity that I wonder whether these two are crazy. Sean is supposed to be pretending to be John, so why are they letting so many people in on the secret? They are so concerned about the repercussions of Sean's deception yet at the same time they blab about the deception to so many people, I don't know what they are thinking.
The Art Of Temptation is a very readable book but this is one story where sugary sentimental moments are pushed forward sometimes even at the expense of logic. In other words, this is a Hallmark Christmas special equivalent. Load up on the gin, kick the creepy fellow from Accounting who is coming on to you in his balls, hide behind the couch, and enjoy this book.
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