Dance of Seduction
Most European Historicals begin in medias res, with some dramatic moment playing out throughout the rest of the book. Dance of Seduction seemingly starts out with such a scene, but what is revealed there is ultimately of little importance to the rest of the book. It’s as if Jeffries’s characters ran away with the action, leaving her to follow along as best she could. But all in all, Dance of Seduction is a breezy, funny, sexy book, and it is one that is heavy on romance but light on history.
Lady Clara Stanbourne is a do-gooder running a London home for reformed pickpockets. She is twenty-eight (ancient in Regency times), with no intention of ever marrying. She does not attend ton parties, nor does she have any particularly close friends. But even though her life is her work, Clara is not a prudish reformer; she has a passion for the stories of author Charles Perrault and thinks of herself and others in terms of how they fit into the fairy tales she loves. She is also frequently at odds with herself because she is descended from a line of blackguards on her mother’s side, and staid reformers on her father’s. Those warring passions enter full-fledged battle when Morgan Pryce enters her life.
Morgan Pryce is a Navy captain, an ex-Pirate, and a sometime British spy who grew up in Geneva with a mother who never revealed to him the identity of his father or the existence of his twin brother. Now reunited with the brother who holds the family title (and whose story is told in After the Abduction), Morgan has returned to England and resumed work for the government as an undercover agent. His task is to catch “The Specter,” a notorious fence for stolen goods with many nefarious deeds under his belt. In order to trap his prey, Morgan sets up a shop that he makes known will purchase stolen goods not far from Lady Clara’s Home.
Lady Clara takes one look at Morgan and knows she is in trouble: he is tall, broad-shouldered, with dark hair and a way of looking at her that make her insides all gooey. She immediately begins to question her attraction to him, but acknowledges it nonetheless, and her internal dialogue as she mulls over her problem is delightfully honest. Meanwhile, however, she desperately wants Morgan and his shop away from her Home and her vulnerable charges, and she tries to do everything to convince him to leave. He refuses, and the two engage in an escalating battle that finishes with him kissing her breathless. This action continues throughout the course of the book, but with one major difference from other similar books: after the first couple of kisses, Clara is a willing participant in the action, and it is a refreshing change to read about someone who wants to do what they end up doing even before she does it.
For his part, Morgan begins as a fairly one-dimensional character – the sexy renegade with a passion for justice – and changes throughout the course of the book so that it does make sense that he and Clara end up together. He gradually reveals his vulnerable side to Clara, without losing a speck of his renegade spirit and dominant sexuality, and his gradual character alteration was also a surprise. He has been carrying around a Big Secret that has shaped his personality, and only when he tells Clara, and she understands, can he begin to be more than a ball of passion.
Speaking of passion, the sex scenes in Dance of Seduction are quite fun and sexy, with Clara taking a surprisingly aggressive part. It’s no surprise that Morgan knows both what to do and how, the surprise is that Clara learns so quickly, causing Morgan to lose his cool when he is with her. At the same time, although their initial attraction is primarily physical, by the end of the book, the attraction is to each other’s minds, as well.
The secondary characters are not nearly as interesting as Carla and Morgan, and the identity of the Specter wasn’t a mystery to me. The entire plot was merely a conduit for Clara and Morgan to conduct their verbal sparring and sexual congress, which was actually fine. The author’s deft touch made the pages turn quickly, and it was nice not to have to plague my brain with too many details. Kudos are due to Jeffries for her judicious use of Capital Letters (as in referring to Morgan as the Wolf), her use of fairy tales as a plot device, and for Morgan’s not-overdone penchant for using French (he did grow up in Geneva, after all).
Dance of Seduction starts out as a standard wallpaper history romance book, but the author’s distinct touches make it more than a mediocre romance with some delicious sex. And while it is very standard in a lot of ways, the book was also a lot of fun to read. Would I recommend it to someone who had never read a romance before? Non! But if you are a fan of Julia Quinn, Amanda Quick, and Christina Dodd, you will definitely enjoy Sabrina Jeffries.