Proof by Seduction
As debuts go, this is very, very good. As books go, I can recommend Proof by Seduction to you, but only with a few provisos.
Jenny Keeble is a fraud. She calls herself Madame Esmerelda and, with no hidden magic that resurfaces when she least expects and no slumbering telepathic gene that transmits itself at the eleventh hour, she uses her keen eye for human nature to tell people what they want to hear and bilk them of their money. For two years she’s been taking Ned Carhart’s money and providing him with moral and emotional support. But one day Ned arrives on her doorstep with his incredulous and suspecting cousin, the scientific Marquess of Blakely, who knows instinctively that she’s a fake. What follows is a wager: Jenny will point out Blakely’s future bride, with her credibility at stake.
I found the details of the wager utterly ridiculous and not as funny as it was intended to be, but thankfully, it is of relatively short duration and the book quickly gets to the business of telling a solid, character-driven romance. Jenny has an interesting past, one that she hides under her guise as a fortune-teller, and I liked that it was interesting enough to set her apart but not outlandish enough for disbelief. She is a product of her circumstances, and has become a complex, strong woman whom I liked.
Not so Gareth, Marquess of Blakely. Part of the problem is I am utterly weary of authors portraying cold, logical, unbending scientists who learn the emotional shades of grey with the help of flamboyant, troubled women. Hello, newsflash: Scientists did, and still do, come in many shapes and sizes, and not all are unaware of the subtleties in life. So while I appreciate that Gareth has reasons to be socially inept and that Jenny believably unbends him, and that, yes, there are people like him, I can’t help thinking that this is an overworked, blanketing cliché about as unfair as the dumb blonde.
But within the framework of the assumption of an emotionally rigid scientist, Gareth works. I enjoyed the gradual unfolding of his and Jenny’s relationship, and she learns as much from him as the reverse. So despite a beginning that made me roll my eyes and a hero who just made it worse, Ms. Milan has an assured prose and an instinct for nailing character that bodes well for her future.