I was quite intrigued by the setting of Kathryn Fox’s The Seduction. The majority of the novel takes place in the Yukon Territory in 1898. The story’s heroine, Samantha Wilder, wants to escape the life of a conventional San Francisco society wife and become a reporter for one of her uncle’s newspapers. Sam decides that if she can land a major story she will be able to prove to her uncle that she’s a worthy candidate for the job despite being a woman.
Because Sam has heard rumors of abuses by the Mounties guarding the gold dust, she decides to travel to the Yukon Territory to investigate. She convinces her childhood friend, Oscar, to accompany her to the territories. Oscar is a photographer and he and Sam pose as a married couple going to the mining town of Dawson City to set up shop taking pictures for the miners to send back home to loved ones.
At the beginning of the trip, Sam and Oscar meet Inspector Duncan McLeod of the North West Mounted Police. Duncan is there to help escort the latest band of miners and settlers over the pass and then will be moving on to his post in Dawson City. Duncan is immediately attracted to Sam, but he ignores the attraction – not only does he believe that she is a married woman, but he has been hurt by a woman in the past.
Unfortunately for the reader, The Seduction is an example of wallpaper history and bad characterization triumphing over an interesting time and place. Duncan, although a sympathetic character, does not have a very well-developed personality. He is the cookie-cutter “embittered but basically good man waiting to have his sense of joy and self worth restored by the love of the right woman” – we’ve all met him many times before. Sam is the classic TSTL heroine. The grandeur of the Yukon and any historical references to the Gold Rush became mere back round for Samantha’s ever more idiotic stunts.
The book’s plot moves forward by having Sam do one mind-bogglingly stupid thing after another. Almost get killed in an avalanche? Get rescued by Duncan. Lose all of your supplies and decide to steal what you need? Get rescued by another kindly inspector. Go out walking alone, in the middle of a mining camp surrounded by wilderness? Get rescued by Duncan. Decide to skip the boring cart ride around the river and go over the whitewater rapids when you do not know how to swim? Get rescued by Duncan. Become a dance hall girl in a brothel and think the men are going to treat you with respect? Get rescued by Duncan.
Most of the book moves along in this same vein. Towards the last part of the book Sam gets to prove to Duncan that she is kind as well as headstrong and stupid, but finding out that Sam is good with sick people and kids is not worth the two-thirds of the book you have to suffer through to learn this information. Also, Sam is amazingly forward for a virgin (hence the title) and manages to finally get her man. I found her behavior in the sensual scenes unbelievable for an inexperienced virgin, but by then, I have to admit, my suspension of disbelief had gone screaming over the hills and was not coming back.
And does Sam ever get her big story? Well, that would be giving the ending away. I can tell you that some of the information she uncovers does end up assisting Duncan, but only after Sam had been rescued from her investigative attempt by yet another kindly inspector.
The Seduction is part of a series of books called Men of Honor. I’ll be giving the other titles a pass and suggest you do the same.