For those of you who tried Emma Holly’s first historical romance, Beyond Innocence, you will find that Merry Vance, a secondary character from that book, takes center stage in Beyond Seduction. If you haven’t tried Emma Holly but are looking for something spicier than your typical historical romance, this book might be what you’re looking for.
About to be forced to marry persistent suitor Ernest Althorp, Merry Vance, daughter of the Duke of Monmouth, finds herself saved from a violent situation by artist Nicolas Craven, who immediately thinks that Mary Colfax – the name Merry uses since she’s dressed as a maid when they meet – would make a wonderful subject for one of his paintings.
Not only is Merry intrigued by Nicolas, but she also knows that a great opportunity has just been given to her. Posing nude would make for a scandal that would definitely take her off the marriage market, for Nicholas is not only a sought-after painter, but he has the reputation of a rogue.
Merry manages to fool her parents into thinking she’s staying with her friend Isabel in Wales, but instead moves in with Nicolas so that he can paint her. Right away their working relationship begins to have erotic overtones, and Merry realizes that although she is in it for the scandal, she is also very much in danger of succumbing to Nic’s charms. And succumb she does, taking her plan to scandalize the ton to a far more personal level. For although Nicolas is a wonderful lover who delights in Merry as much as she delights in him, there is the ever-present thought, in Merry’s mind, of his reputation – the thought that he will end this dalliance as he has ended so many before.
There is a close call regarding Merry’s true identity once Nicolas finishes his masterpiece – a painting of his muse as Lady Godiva that is put on public display. However, through happenstance, Merry is able to keep the illusion going a bit longer and escape to Venice with Nic.
There is a convenient aspect to Nic that helps pave the way for the inevitable resolution to the separation (both physical and emotional) that takes place between them once Merry’s identity is revealed. Although the ending of the book is a given, I liked that not all of Merry’s family problems are neatly resolved, and a secondary character does not end up immaculately redeemed.
Merry’s plan for scandal is certainly over the top, but from the beginning I found her determination to escape the dreaded marriage to Althorp endearing rather than annoying, given the pressures exerted on her and the reasons for that pressure. Both Merry and Nic are likable, albeit familiar, characters, and their relationship moves along nicely, even if the reader already knows what the major plot points will be.
While I’ll probably give Ms. Holly’s next romance a try, it’s her erotica that I will keep on my auto-buy list.