Seducing Sir Oliver
I have all of Nicole Byrd’s books and very much enjoyed her writing previous to Seducing Sir Oliver, which I looked forward to reading. But when I went to the store to get it, I was taken aback by the terrible cover. (Note to Berkeley Sensation – get that artist a pair of decent glasses). Romance readers know that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case the cover and the book were equally bad. What a disappointment.
After tracking down his biological father, Lord Gabriel Sinclair is prepared to confront him, but is taken aback when Mr. Applegate turns out not to be the hearty, heedless squire he thought he’d be. Instead Mr. Applegate is poor, crippled by an accident – and he had truly loved Gabriel’s mother. Mr. Applegate is a widower with four daughters. When Gabriel sees how bad their circumstances really are, his tender heart kicks in and he offers to take one of them to London for a Season. The second oldest, Juliana accepts.
The plans go awry when Lord Gabriel’s wife writes to let him know that her sister, as well as several servants, all have the measles, so Gabriel’s friend Lady Sealey takes Juliana in till the Sinclair household recovers. Also staying with Lady Sealey is her godson Sir Oliver Ramsey. Oliver is a scholar – a zoologist assembling a private zoo. He is brilliant, but bumbling in the presence of ladies. Juliana hasn’t been around men very much, and despite Oliver’s bumbling and gruffness, she begins to enjoy his company.
The beginning of Seducing Sir Oliver promised an interesting book, but once the monkey showed up, it went downhill from there. Oliver has a monkey in a cage in his room at Lady Sealey’s home and has grown fond of the little beast. Eventually the monkey gets out of her cage and wreaks havoc for many, many pages, and while they are trying to catch her, Oliver and Juliana get thrown together – literally – and such close contact with a man causes Juliana to have inexpressible feelings. Lady Sealey, a woman of the world, explains these new feelings to the naive girl, and she begins to look on Oliver as more of a knight and less of a bumbler. Later in the book they move to Lady Sealey’s country home where Oliver unloads his latest animals – two leopards, an anteater, and a snake.
The conflict comes when Lady Sealey gets letters from an unknown person threatening her for incidents in the past. The threatening letters lead to an attempted poisoning, then actual violence, a very melodramatic ending, and finally a sweet and touching denouement. If only the rest of the book had been as good.
Seducing Sir Oliver was part serious and part slapstick – but mostly just plain silly. The part where Oliver and Juliana were chasing the monkey seemed to go on forever. Just when they’d catch it, the monkey would escape and they’d be found by a servant in some compromising position. So they had to swear or bribe the servant to secrecy and then they’d part and muse about the tingly feelings they were getting in their nether regions.
Neither Oliver nor Juliana are particularly interesting either separately or together and had no chemistry as a couple. I wanted to like Oliver since I was a biology major in college and still love animals and plants, but he was so dull I couldn’t warm up to him at all. Also, I counted several mistakes when it came to the science in the book. When the captain of the ship brings Oliver the anteater, two leopards and a snake, the anteater is described as covered with quills. Anteaters don’t have quills, they have long coarse hair Anteaters live in South America and leopards in Africa and it seems like it would have been a very long voyage to get both animals. The captain also said the anteater lived on the termites in the ship. That seems most unlikely – any ship infested with enough termites to feed an anteater for a month’s long voyage would probably have sunk long before it got to port. As for the snake, it disappears in the climax of the book. I hope it’s all right…I kind of like snakes.
Juliana has three sisters, and I am sure we’ll meet them in the future. Given Nicole Byrd’s track record, the possibility of their books being good is quite high. I’ll just chalk this one up as an aberration.