A Taste of Seduction
Bronwen Evans’ A Taste of Seduction has everything needed to make an excellent second chance romance. Young lovers fall madly in love but are cruelly tricked into ending their relationship leaving them both heartbroken. Years later they reunite, heal and reclaim their love. But where the story falls short is when Ms. Evans continues a mystery begun in earlier books in the series but fails to include the necessary background information to enable readers to understand the mystery. The story has a hole and the reader is left confused.
A Taste of Seduction is the fifth in the Disgraced Lords series. I’ve actually read the four previous books, but it has been two and half years since the first one was released and I’ve read a lot of books since then. I couldn’t readily remember the characters, the mysterious villain, the villain’s motivations or where the mystery left off. Ms. Evans does provide some of the backstory but not enough to adequately inform the reader, regardless of whether or not they have read the previous books. If you can accept the mystery at face value and feel comfortable not understanding the who, what and why, then you might enjoy this story. Otherwise, you should consider reading the four prior books and, if necessary, use the ebook search feature to refresh your memory.
Lady Evangeline Althrope is the daughter of an earl whose mother has gambled away the family fortune and left them destitute. Her mother seeks to marry Evangeline to a rich, titled gentleman to solve their financial problems, but instead, sixteen year-old Evangeline falls head over heels in love with the financially unstable second son of the Duke of Claymore, Lord Hadley Fullerton. Over the next three years, they write and see each other when Hadley visits his hunting lodge, which is near Evangeline’s home. They desperately want to marry but know their only option is to elope.
Evangeline and Hadley pledge their love, commit to an elopement plan and preemptively consummate their marriage, but Evangeline’s mother discovers their intentions and cruelly sabotages their plans. She orchestrates Evangeline’s abduction and sells her into an abusive marriage with a tyrant who possesses the requisite wealth and title. Evangeline is forced to live at her husband’s remote Scottish estate where she suffers both physically and emotionally. She tries to escape and sends pleas to Hadley imploring him to rescue her, but the letters are never sent and she believes Hadley has abandoned her. Self-conscious of his lack of title and fortune, Hadley easily falls victim to manipulation when he receives a forged letter from Evangeline, where she informs him she’s chosen to wed a wealthy viscount rather than him. Both Evangeline and Hadley are heartbroken each believing the other betrayed their love.
Fast forward five years, and Evangeline is now a widow with a young son returning to London to seek answers from Hadley and to – hopefully – find happiness with him. Given the sexual and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband and her mother’s betrayal, Evangeline’s view of love seems rather unrealistically optimistic, but I accepted this aspect of her character because she had suffered a lot and it was nice to see her maintain some of the innocence of her nineteen year old self. Yet while Evangeline still believes in love, Hadley has become a bitter man during their separation. He continues to question his value as a second son and decides to never risk his heart again. At least this was Hadley’s plan until he reunites with Evangeline and begins to understand the reality of their aborted elopement.
Our story now collides with the under-explained series mystery. Hadley is the member of a six man group, the Libertine Scholars. I could not recall why the Scholars were formed or their purpose; therefore, this was my first search subject. (They were friends at Eton who were studious womanizers.) In the past four books the men have fought a villainess named De Palma as she seeks revenge for a reason I also could not remember. I searched the prior books to refresh my memory, but in the end, I gave up and just accepted she had a bone to pick with the group. The Scholars and their wives arrange Hadley and Evangeline’s reunion, but in doing so, bring Evangeline to De Palma’s notice, enabling her to use Evangeline to harm Hadley. The couple must deal with that threat while also falling in love again.
Evangeline and Hadley’s love story is the best part of the book. Unlike some second chance romances where the characters spend half the story separated because of a misunderstanding, Hadley and Evangeline resolve their differences fairly early on. They also do not automatically fall back into love, which makes their reunion and relationship believable. They both realize they are different people due to the events of the last five years and agree to spend time together to discover if they have a future together. Both are likable characters who have great chemistry and the love scenes are nicely sensual, although Ms. Evans sometimes uses distracting words like “quivering,” “moisture” and “womanly core.”
Evangeline and Hadley’s story is a beautiful romance that is impaired by its placement in a series. If you have an excellent memory and have read the four previous books in the series or if you can accept a little confusion while reading the De Palma and Libertine Scholar portions of the story, then chances are you will find this a very enjoyable novel. But if, like me, you need to know or recall the details of the ongoing story, or you haven’t read the other books, then A Taste of Seduction is a slightly disappointing but solid romance.