Desert Isle Keeper
Some readers avoid Virginia Henley because they believe she uses too much purple prose. I’ve read all of her books and this one does not have that problem. In fact, this book has an exuberance about it, a sense of humor even, unlike any other Henley I’ve ever read. Seduced has a cross-dressing based plot wherein the hero believes the heroine is a young man, his ward, for most of the book.
Anthony and Antonia are twins. When Anthony drowns in a boating mishap, Antonia pretends to be him so that she and her family won’t be thrown off their estate. Anthony’s title will pass to their ghastly cousin if it is known Anthony is dead. Meanwhile, their new guardian, Adam Savage, who had been living in Ceylon, where he made an enormous fortune, is making his way back to England. He’s coming home not only to prove his success, but to take over guardianship of the twins. Adam, therefore, is the man Antonia has to fool into believing she is Anthony.
When Adam meets “Lord Anthony”, he thinks he’s a nice young man but that he’s too effeminate. He also believes he’s been wallowing in grief over his twin’s death too long. Adam, a real man’s man, who’s made it in the rugged jungle, vows to turn Tony into a man. He will spare him nothing in his quest to introduce him to the real world, he vows. He will do right by his appointment as guardian. Thus begins their hilarious adventures as “men about town” in Regency London.
This book doesn’t pull any punches. One of Tony’s first experiences is to see what men really do after the women leave them to their port. They all use chamber pots which are stored throughout the dining room! And so Tony gets a real eyeful of the male sex! In another escapade, Adam takes Tony to a gambling hell. Tony makes friends with other young lords his age and gets so caught up in the action that he gets drunk as a skunk. Adam has to rescue him in the wee hours of the morning.
Adam eventually gives Tony some capital to work with so he can start investing in a business and build up his fortune. He’s leery about Tony’s choices of goods to deal in, however, because Tony turns out to be a wonderful interior decorator. Though half convinced his charge is homosexual, that doesn’t stop Adam from asking Tony to furnish his new mansion. Later, in an effort to have Tony become “a man,” Adam first takes him to a brothel, and later lends him the Kama Sutra so he can learn the various positions. Tony is having the time of her life as a man.
These adventures continue, but Tony is beginning to fall for Adam. As such, her male disguise is becoming a problem. One night, while they’re in Venice (they had to flee England after Tony’s first duel), she again disguises herself, this time as a woman, and spends the night with Adam.
Just when you think the book is going to run out of steam, Adam discovers Tony is really Antonia and goes berserk, realizing all the wild things he’s done with her as his male companion. He goes even more berserk when he realizes she’s the woman he spent the night with in Venice. Then the sparks really begin to fly between the two. While he’s trying to convince her that now she has to act like a lady, she asks him why anyone in that society would want to go back to being a woman when men have all of the fun? He’s hard pressed for an answer.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I suppose the only serious point the book has to make is that the only way to get any power or fun in that era in that society was to be male. That message aside, however, this is an incredible romp on every level. It’s packed with humor, emotion, sex and is an outright fantasy escape from real life.