My Fair Temptress
This is the seventh book featuring a heroine from The Distinguished Academy of Governesses. I have enjoyed Christina Dodd’s work in the past – Candle in the Window, That Scandalous Evening and Rules of Engagement are all on my Keeper Shelf. However, I stopped reading her several years ago when it seemed that her books were simply becoming rewrites of old movies. I really enjoyed her contribution (The Third Suitor) to the anthology Hero, Come Back earlier this year (more so than my AAR colleague) and so thought it was time to give her another try. Despite the title, I was relieved to find that My Fair Temptress is not a rewrite of My Fair Lady, though it does have at its heart a make-over theme. Unfortunately, it was also not a terribly good book.
While on a prolonged European Tour, Jude Durant was gravely injured and his elder brother Michael killed in the tiny principality of Moricadia. Jude is bent on revenge and is working for the government investigating the death and its connection to potential unrest between England and France. He is deadly serious in his pursuit of the men responsible, even though the method he uses has all believing him to be a fool.
He returned from Europe a preening peacock of a dandy. He flutters his handkerchief, wears eye-popping colors and shows a lack of interest in anything of substance. His father, the Duke of Nevett, disdainfully calls him “Frenchified” and worries about his ability to woo a woman and so continue the line, now that Jude is the heir. The duke is so worried that he hires a governess for his son, one whose purpose is teach him how to flirt and otherwise entice and pursue a woman.
If there is one thing that Caroline Ritter is good at, it is flirting. In fact, it could be said that it is her sole talent. And it got her into big trouble during her first Season, leading to scandal and being cast off by her father. She has worked at many jobs in the three years since, and while all of her employers loved her, she proved incompetent. But teaching someone to flirt is right up her alley. She is sure she can do a good job and receive the bonus the duke has promised her if Jude is betrothed by the end of the Season. This is important for Caroline wishes to rescue her younger sister from her father’s home and move to France to live with her late mother’s family.
So, Jude and Caroline begin their sessions, he playing the fool and she writing detailed lesson plans. As is inevitable, both become very attracted to the other and begin to indulge in a different kind of education.
Jude’s antics were funny – he is very good at hanky-waving – but they soon grew repetitious and old. I became annoyed when Caroline couldn’t figure out that he was putting on an act. She wonders, and she gets frustrated, when the sensible, if quirky, man she instructs every day suddenly becomes an over-the-top fop who offends every woman with whom he speaks when in company. Gee, Caroline, what could be the explanation for that?
Despite this, I found Caroline to be a generally likable character. She has fallen far and has had to contend with many trials, not the least of which is the fact that she is still being stalked by the man who caused her ruination in the first place. Jude was a bit less well-defined for me. His ruse, while providing many comic moments, has lasted several months and seems a singularly ineffective way to gather information. Surely the English Master Spy Network could have come up with a better plan than acting like a fool around the bad guys in the hopes that they will not take him seriously and so discuss their secrets in front of him. Seems a bit chancy to me.
One expects hot and inventive love scenes from Ms. Dodd and she delivers with two separate scenes of sexual domination, including the consummation scene where Caroline was the dominant partner. The action that precipitated her decision seemed a bit contrived to me, but it was an effective and interesting scene.
As intriguing as these scenes are, however, and despite some genuinely funny moments, they cannot make up for the overall lack of focus and believability of the story as a whole. While three of Dodd’s romances sit on my Keeper Shelf, this one won’t be joining them.