Ripe for Seduction
Ripe for Seduction is almost – but not quite – a good book. Part of the ubiquitous series phenomenon (in this case it’s The League of Second Sons), it has a hero who begins courting the heroine because of a night of drunken revelry, and ends up falling in love with her. It also features a secondary romance between the heroine’s father and hero’s sister, a romance that ends up being much more interesting than the primary one.
Lady Olivia Carlow is in a tenuous position. Her proper society marriage disintegrated when her husband’s first wife turned up, still very much alive. She’s not a widow, not a maiden, and through no fault of her own, scandalous. While she’d prefer to ride the scandal out in the country – for a dozen years, if necessary – her family insists on heading to town for the season to face the gossip head on.
Roland Devere, part of the League of Second Sons (and therefore not exactly rolling in money), gets drunk with his friends one night and pens a scandalous offer to Olivia. When he goes to visit the next day, she calls his bluff and pretends that he has proposed marriage. It’s an offer she pretends to accept. She plans to spend the season ostensibly engaged to Roland, then dump him at the end so she can head off to the country and live her ruined life in peace. Roland has little choice in the matter, so he agrees to go along with it.
There are complications, of course. The most obvious is that Roland quickly falls in love with Olivia and wants to court her in earnest – or at the very least, sleep with her. She rebuffs his advances, but can’t help liking him. The other major complication is that Olivia’s father’s heir (and distant relation) Henry really wants to marry Olivia. Her father’s will is written in such a way that Henry will inherit the title, but Olivia will retain the bulk of the lands and fortune. He thought her un-marriage was a fortuitous circumstance that would allow him to ride in and save the day, but he’s obviously a jerk.
There’s another problem for Henry. even if he should manage to win Olivia’s heart, Olivia’s father Philip, who has been a content widower for years, is suddenly pursuing Roland’s sister Margo (a widow who has recently returned from many years abroad after her husband’s death). If Philip marries Margo, then there may well be a new heir.
For some reason, I had trouble warming to Roland and Olivia. It could be that my brain stubbornly insisted on picturing Roland like the only other Roland I’ve ever known, a guy in my high school classes who had a penchant for dressing like the Miami Vice characters (in his defense, it was the late eighties). Other than that, I found Roland fairly sympathetic and his friends rather interesting. It was harder to warm to Olivia, though. Roland’s a nice guy, and I wanted her to like him and believe in him – something that she does eventually, though a little slowly for my taste.
I had no such qualms about Philip and Margo, who are far more interesting. Maybe I’m just old (hence the Miami Vice reference), but I found Philip and his pursuit of Margo sexy as hell. He married and fathered Olivia in his twenties, and is apparently in his forties in this book. I loved that he was getting a second chance at love and thought the love scenes between him and Margo were absolutely fabulous.
I guess that’s both a blessing and a curse. I liked the secondary couple so much that I wish most of the book had been about them. when the action turned to Olivia and Roland, I kept wishing we could hear more about Philip and Margo. This was somewhat exacerbated by the book’s choppy and abrupt transitions. I would find myself merrily reading along, then abruptly jerked out of scenes in a way that didn’t feel either seamless or organic.
It is the somewhat choppy writing that edged my grade more into the C range. I don’t have a problem with two-couple books, and I very nearly gave this one a B- on the strength of the interesting secondary relationship. It ends up just short of that, but there really is potential here. I’m not adverse to trying Carr again in the future.