More or Less a Temptress
Anna Bradley’s More or Less a Temptress is an opposites-attract romance that wraps up her Somerset Sisters series. While the hero and heroine have their original sides, this potential is lost in a story that was too implausible for me to suspend disbelief.
Hyacinth Somerset, the youngest of five sisters, is treated like a helpless, fragile wisp by her family. This is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, so when Hyacinth is at social occasions, she hides, and if she has to speak to anyone, she stammers. But one night, when she and her grandmother are traveling, she witnesses what she believes is a murder—two men fighting, which results in one punching the other into a limp heap and then dragging the body off.
Hyacinth doesn’t tell anyone, since her family considers her overwrought already. Then, in a ballroom, her brother-in-law introduces her to his newly discovered brother from Scotland, Lachlan Ramsay, and it’s the victor of the fight. Hyacinth gasps that Lachlan is a murderer, then faints dead away.
As it turns out, the “victim” is fine, naturally, and he’s Lachlan’s brother Ciaran. They have the sort of relationship where they regularly hit each other, but this time Lachlan went too far and beat his brother into unconsciousness (don’t worry, it’s the kind of knockout that has no long-term effects). However, Hyacinth’s misinterpretation means the ton believes the worst of Lachlan. And since he has a younger sister who needs a Season, this is bad news all around.
Lachlan comes up with a solution. To make amends, Hyacinth will stay in London to complete the Season and support his sister. Meanwhile, he will keep an eye on this terrified mouse and protect her. But he’s hiding a dark secret, which is why he and his siblings fled Scotland.
So. Let’s start with Hyacinth. A fearful heroine could be interesting, and one reason I loved Lorraine Heath’s Texas Glory was because of its browbeaten heroine learning to stand up for herself. But Hyacinth comes off like a heroine being clumsy; her flaw is there to make her endearing, rather than causing any actual problems for her.
Plus, towards the end she does something unbelievable. Spoilers ahead, because this was so ridiculous I can’t be vague about it. Some lord tries to blackmail her with Lachlan’s secret, but when the lord pulls her into a clinch, she takes a lump of wax from his pocket without his realizing it. She believes he cheats at cards by marking them with wax. So during a ball, she decides to get him alone somewhere, make him take his waistcoat off, slip the wax into his pocket, be discovered by someone he cheated, and then hand his waistcoat back in such a way that the wax falls out.
Not only is this plan convoluted, it’s incredibly foolhardy. At one point, Hyacinth reflects that “she must be mad to consider embarking on such a risky scheme”, and I could only agree. Her brainless idea only succeeds because failure would torpedo the HEA.
As for Lachlan, I’m going to spoil his dark secret too. He saved his sister by punching a man trying to rape her, but the man fell, hit his head, and died. So Lachlan believes he’s a murderer. This is the fourth time I’ve come across the plot where a main character stops an assault, but the assailant falls, hits his head, and either dies or is presumed dead, after which the main character spends the rest of the book blaming themselves for being a murderer.
Of course, this changes nothing for Lachlan’s new family, but it seemed all the weirder that despite his being convinced that he’s a murderer, he continues to be physically aggressive with everyone from the blackmailer to his brother. And the romance is unremarkable. Hyacinth and Lachlan are turned on by each other, he calls her an angel because of her golden-haired beauty, and there were quite a few references to her “plump lips”. It all plays out as expected.
For all these reasons, More or Less a Temptress (less, definitely less) didn’t work for me. If you’re a fan of Anna Bradley’s Somerset Sisters series, the book might be worth reading, but otherwise I can’t recommend it.