So often, authors load their books with hot sex scenes that don’t seem to mesh with the rest of the story. But in The Seduction, Nicole Jordan deftly handles the tensions and emotions that such rampant sexuality can stir up without scrimping on sensuality.
Vanessa Wyndham’s younger brother Aubrey has incurred an enormous debt while gambling with the infamous Lord Damien Sinclair. But this debt is no accident. Lord Sinclair, known to London society as “Lord Sin,” lured a drunken Aubrey into making a ludicrous wager with every intention of decimating Aubrey’s meager family fortune. It seems Aubrey had wooed Sinclair’s younger sister Olivia into eloping with him as part of a cruel joke. When Olivia ran away to rendezvous with him at an inn, she found Aubrey and his cohorts laughing at her naivete. Humiliated, she tried to flee but took a tumble down a flight of stairs that paralyzed her from the waist down.
To remove her family’s debt and insure that her younger sisters will not have to marry for wealth as she once did, Vanessa throws herself on Sinclair’s mercy and offers herself as a companion to Olivia. Of course, Sinclair has a far steamier proposition in mind: Vanessa will serve as a companion to Olivia, but will also become Lord Sin’s mistress for the summer. The familiar premise gets the story gets off to a slow start and Jordan’s often purple, repetitive prose doesn’t help. She describes Lord Sin’s eyes as “heavy-lidded” so many times that it was a wonder he wasn’t always running into things. Vanessa also does a lot of annoying trembling and marveling at Lord Sin’s ultra-masculine presence. She even whimpers twice in one scene. But about a third of the way through the book, Vanessa realizes that just her proximity to the infamous Lord Sin has wrecked her reputation. To dower her sisters, she decides she will take advantage of Sinclair’s expertise and get him to train her to be the ultimate mistress. When Sinclair reluctantly agrees, the seduction heats up and the story takes off.
Jordan’s plot is character driven and she has done an excellent job of creating likable, believable characters. Vanessa is smart, perceptive, and strong-willed. She doesn’t do impetuous things for the sake of being “spirited.” Though young, she’s a widow and her unhappy first marriage has left her with an appealing practicality. Unlike so many “wounded” characters, Vanessa’s lingering sadness over her degenerate first husband never slips into self-pity or unreasoning stubbornness.
Jordan also does a nice job with the reformation of Lord Sin. Because she works overtime to make him the most decadent of the romance rakes, the reasoning behind his patient seduction of Vanessa is never particularly clear or convincing. However, his growing affection for her is both charming and thoroughly believable. And yet, it also seems that he teaches her more about how a man can please a woman than how a woman can please a man. (A pleasant pasttime, but hardly the best training for an expensive mistress-to-be.)
There’s also the matter of his complex relationship to his younger sister who he has sheltered from the outside world. Olivia is not content to see him in the role of protector and has a delightfully strong will. Her recovery and her friendship with Vanessa are surprisingly touching. Without giving away too much, it should also be said that Olivia gets her own romance that meshes seamlessly with the main plot. Jordan even manages to deal with birth control, an issue that so rarely seems to come up in historicals until the wide-eyed heroine finds herself counting the days since her last period.
The book’s final chapters are packed with activity and seem a bit rushed. It would have been nice to see the embarrassing first chapter cut or radically edited in favor of a more reasonably paced conclusion. Still, Jordan tells an erotically and emotionally satisfying tale and grants her readers the best kind of happy ending: one her characters not only have to work for, but that they also deserve.