The Secret to Seduction
This final installment in the Holt Sister trilogy offers some interesting resolutions, but more frustrations.
Sabrina Fairleigh is the daughter of a country vicar in love with her father’s curate, the handsome Geoffrey Gillray. When he speaks of being a missionary in Africa, she daydreams of marrying and accompanying him. Geoffrey leaves to visit his cousin who is currently conducting a house party and whom he hopes to convince to finance his mission. Sabrina finds it ironic and a bit alarming that the cousin is none other than Rhys Gillray, the Earl of Rawden, a scandalous rake infamous for his racy poetry about seduction. She decides to accompany her friend Mary and her husband to the house party to surprise and lend support to Geoffrey.
Rhys is rusticating in the country after a particularly nasty scandal which resulted in a duel with an irate husband. He is used to scandal and has fought any number of duels but there was something different about this one. As he stood there in the field, pistol aimed at him, he felt nothing but boredom – very dangerous and very unnerving. As bad, or even worse, is that he has been unable to write in weeks.
Sabrina is stunningly beautiful and so captures the attention of Rhys right away. During a chat, he finds her to be clever but a bit self-righteous. She claims that she cannot be seduced, that she has control over her animal passions, unlike some people who can only be pitied. Rhys decides that the perfect way to relieve his boredom is to prove her wrong. He plans to relieve her of a bit of her innocence, though not her virtue.
So, we have the tried and true “bored rake that can’t resist the prudish vicar’s daughter who suddenly turns into a passionate wanton” scenario. And, of course, it isn’t long before they are found in a compromising situation and quickly married.
This is the final book in the Holt Sisters trilogy. The girls were separated and sent into hiding when their father was murdered and their mother accused of the deed. The murder was solved and two sisters recovered in the two preceding books. Those two sisters are now looking for Sabrina and following clues to her whereabouts. However, after several scenes on their progress and with a reunion seeming imminent, that storyline is dropped. There are at least 150 pages before we see the sisters again or the topic is even brought up.
Instead what we get scenes of Sabrina and Rhys not adjusting to marriage. Rhys leaves for London without a word the morning after the wedding night. He returns in a couple of weeks on some pretext, “services” the wife and again leaves the next morning without a word. Heaven forbid that he should come to need her or – gasp! – fall in love. This happens several times and was incredibly eye roll-inducing.
There are some good aspects to the book. Long has a very readable writing style and she has written some sexy love scenes. And I liked Sabrina – she is a genuinely kind person who needs to be busy and useful, struggling with the notion that she must be idle now that she is a countess. The story features some interesting twists and turns regarding the Greentree sisters’ father’s death and mother’s whereabouts, and Rhys has deep secrets he is rightly afraid to share with Sabrina.
But I’m afraid that I spent too much of my time reading The Secret to Seduction being frustrated with the formulaic and repetitious aspects to the plot and wishing to slap Rhys upside the head, to actually recommend the book. In the end it’s simply an average read.