The Secret of My Seduction
One of the things linking together the books in Caroline Linden’s recent Scandals series was Fifty Ways to Sin, the series of erotic pamphlets featuring the amorous adventures of the anonymous Lady Constance, a woman whose uninhibited pursuit of sexual pleasure captured the imagination of thousands of readers throughout England. The final book in the series, Six Degrees of Scandal, revealed the identity of the author, and saw the publication of the final instalments in the promised fifty stories, giving Lady Constance her own happy ending in the arms of a mystery lover and closing the book on the series.
But did it?
Bathsheba Crawford who, together with her brother, Daniel, had been responsible for printing the original pamphlets, was reluctant to say goodbye to their illicit enterprise. Not only had the money made from publishing Fifty Ways made them secure financially, she had, on occasion, edited the stories for publication, and had enjoyed being part of something that celebrated a woman’s sexuality and her search for love. So she decided to try her hand at writing something similar, and, when The Secret of My Seduction opens, has been writing a series of successful stories entitled Tales of Lady X for a number of months, now. Her brother knows nothing of this, however; Bathsheba’s publisher is Liam MacGregor – the owner and editor of the London Intelligencer, a popular news and gossip sheet – who appeared briefly in the final stages of Six Degrees when his presses helped meet the demand for the final issues of Fifty Ways to Sin.
But Bathsheba has a problem. While she has plenty of ideas for her stories, her writing is becoming stale, and she is becoming bored with writing the same thing over and over. She’s not a virgin, but her few sexual experiences were not exactly exciting and she has never experienced the sort of passion described by Lady Constance, which makes it difficult to write about in a believable way. So she comes up with the idea of asking Liam to make love to her in order to further her knowledge. After all, she tells him in her typically no-nonsense way, it will be to both their benefits – it will make her writing better and hopefully increase sales – and, she says, if the rumours about him and his prowess with the ladies are true, then she should certainly gain some useful experience in his bed.
Liam is stunned by her request, and his first instinct is dismissal – until Bathsheba suggests finding someone else to help her instead. At that point, of course, Liam’ protective instincts kick in, and he changes his mind, realising that perhaps seducing the plainly dressed, often overlooked, but very forthright Bathsheba Crawford won’t exactly be a hardship.
Okay, so this is a terribly contrived set up, but once the reader has rolled their eyes and moved on, The Secret of My Seduction is a very well-written, sexy novella that delivers more than just a hundred-page bonk-fest. Yes, there are several sex-scenes, but in this story that’s kind of the point, and I wasn’t expecting otherwise. More importantly, though, the author does a great job in those scenes of revealing more about the characters through their interactions under very intimate circumstances. Bathsheba knows that she has long harboured feelings for Liam and tells herself sternly that anything more than the physical release he is offering her is out of the question. And Liam is surprised to discover in Bathsheba a woman after his own heart – rational, logical, persistent and passionate – and begins to wonder if he really had not given any thought to seducing her before she asked him to, or if he’d secretly longed to all along.
Ms. Linden also fleshes out both characters quite well considering the limited page count, with Bathsheba probably being the more well-defined of the two. Life hasn’t been easy for her – following the death of her parents, the failure of the family printing business and her brother’s return from war unable to work, it was her sheer determination to grasp what opportunities she could that saw her and Daniel resurrecting their old printing press to print the first issue of Fifty Way to Sin. Liam is perhaps a little more of your stereotypical tall, dark, handsome sex-god of a hero, but his competitive relationship with his brother and his obvious fondness for his family adds some shading to his characterisation and rounds him out a little.
The sex scenes are steamy, intensely romantic and very well-written and the chemistry between Bathsheba and Liam is evident from their first scene together. This builds steadily throughout the story to culminate in an explosive wall-banger(!) which I think will make my personal “hottest of 2017” list. The story moves fairly quickly without feeling rushed, although I did think that Liam’s realisation of the truth of his feelings for Bathsheba was a little fast. That said though, I liked that he wasn’t afraid to admit it and was then ready to go after what he wanted and the final scene, wherein he answers all her questions about love, seduction and kissing is sweet and maybe just a little bit melty ;)
The Secret of My Seduction is a quick, sexy read that works both as a standalone and as a nice coda to the Scandals series.