A Seduction in Scarlet
Wallpaper is one thing, but when you plaster real historical characters right up against it, that crosses a line. No lesser personages than Victoria and Albert are depicted here with all the life and detail of your basic comic book. And I’m not talking the good ones either – think Archie and Veronica and you’re on the right track.
The plot involves a young widow enshrined by the queen, for whom she serves as a confidante, and the British people as the widow of the nation’s war hero. Far younger than her husband, Lady Portia Ellerslie seems to be expected to permanently wear her widow’s weeds to keep the memory of her husband alive.
But Portia is also a woman with a woman’s needs. So, in true wallpaper style, she decides to solve her problem by taking herself to the bordello run by the courtesan Aphrodite – the thread tying this series together – to seek her cooperation in finding a man with whom Portia can have a one night stand. Soon enough the heavily veiled Portia makes her choice from the men at Aphrodite’s bash and would you believe he just happens to be the young man on whom she once had a girlish crush? (I thought you would.)
Marcus Worthorne and Portia enjoy a hot one-nighter. And then another. But lickety-split Marcus wants more and, once he discovers Portia’s real identity, he begins a campaign to convince her of the same.
To be honest, I assigned a hot rating to this book because technically it is. However, it certainly didn’t feel hot to me. Lukewarm more accurately covers it since there is virtually no chemistry between two characters we’re supposed to believe are madly in lust. Maybe part of the problem is that Ms. Bennett seems to be one of those writers who does far more telling than showing. For example, on page 42, Portia says to her maid (and closest confidante since as we all know most Victorian ladies were BFFs with their servants): “It’s as if he’s awoken something inside me and I can’t banish it.” If all the preceding pages of angst didn’t get that obvious a point across, then the author clearly needs to try a little harder.
As for Victoria and Albert, they appear more as pencil sketches in this novel than actual characters. Victoria, it seems, was very attached to Portia’s husband and heavily pressures her to remain a widow – well, until she comes around in the end all nice and everything.
Bottom line? No matter what the title promises, A Seduction in Scarlet simply isn’t very seductive.