Never Seduce a Scoundrel
I am torn about this book and the grade it should receive. I really liked this book. And I really disliked this book. Unfortunately, I disliked it for a good hundred pages, and, if I wasn’t reviewing the book, I wouldn’t have bothered reading far enough to get to the good stuff.
Lady Amelia Plume, feisty, bold, somewhat reckless, is in her third boring Season. At a ball, she offers to smuggle a love letter into her host’s room for a friend. Instead she finds herself in Major Lucas Winter’s room. The dashing, dangerous American Marine Guard soldier is causing quite a stir in the ton and Amelia takes the opportunity to snoop. What she finds are papers – out in plain sight – with notes on his current assignment. He is in England to apprehend Theodore and Dorothy Frier, who embezzled thousands from the American Navy. Lucas believes Dorothy Frier is Amelia’s new stepmother, Dolly, who is in the country with Amelia’s father for her confinement.
When Amelia is caught by the major coming out of his room she puts on her Flighty Miss act, thinking that in this way, she can pump him for information about her innocent stepmother. Seeing what a Flighty Miss Lady Amelia is, Lucas decides to initiate a Fake Courtship, thinking that in this way, he can pump her for information about her guilty stepmother.
It’s such a clunky, contrived setup. What kind of investigator leaves his notes laying about in plain view in a houseful of people – people whom he, as an American soldier, still views as the enemy? Not terribly bright. But then, neither is the whole fake courtship idea, nor the heated kisses which precede it. This leads me to the next thing I didn’t like about this book.
The physical relationship between Amelia and Lucas is too much, too fast. On the second day of their acquaintance, only the second time they’ve been in each other’s company, they engage in – how shall I put it? – mutual, simultaneous, manual stimulation. Oh, let’s not gild the lily. They get each other off. They met at a ball last night, and they’re feeling each other up this afternoon. The scene is supposed to be hot, and if I thought they’d known anything about each other, if it had happened a bit later in their acquaintance, I would have thought it was hot too. But they didn’t know each other, so there was not the emotional connection that would have made a scene like this steamy. All I could think was, “slow down, ace!”
And, while I’m on what I didn’t like about the book, let’s talk about Lady Amelia’s chaperone – not a terribly vigilant one, as you can tell from the previous paragraph. Lady Amelia is being chaperoned by her former teacher, Charlotte Harris. Mrs. Harris’s school is informally dubbed “School for Heiresses” (and indeed, this new series by Jeffries is entitled the School for Heiresses series) and is anonymously funded by a “Cousin Michael” from her late husband’s side of the family, in reparation for what he knows was a miserable marriage. This funding comes with the stipulation that they never meet, but they do exchange a constant stream of letters.
All this information seemed to come out piecemeal and in odd moments, as were names of other young ladies and vague, unresolved, hinted-at plotlines that go nowhere, but, one assumes, will be delved into further in upcoming books. This is fast becoming a pet peeve of mine, this planting the seeds of future books in the present one. Please, just finish telling me this story before you start on the next, thank you.
Where, you might ask, is the stuff I really liked? I thought Lucas an interesting hero. Usually when there is an American in an English Regency setting, he is a long-lost relation inheriting a title. Not only is Lucas not inheriting anything, he loathes the English. During the late war, he was imprisoned and treated very badly by English soldiers. He suffers from nightmares and claustrophobia and it is a Big Deal when he realizes he’s falling in love with an Englishwoman.
I liked that, once Amelia and Lucas got past that initial sex scene, they took a step back and did get to know each other. When a hasty, Gretna Greene wedding is thrust upon them, the subterfuge comes to an end and they are now open about the investigation into Dolly’s activities. It still stands between them, but they are both committed to the marriage and to each other. And, once they are married and committed, the love scenes smoke. Sabrina Jeffries tends toward a Hot sensuality level anyway, but Never Seduce a Scoundrel, not counting the first sex scene, is her hottest yet.
So, there you have it. Never Seduce a Scoundrel is both really bad, and really good. I’ll split the difference and give it a C. If you can make it through the really bad stuff, which happens, for the most part, right up front, there is some fine storytelling to be found. But it is a slog getting there. Caveat Emptor!