Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Secret to Seduction - Julie Anne Long



The Secret To Seduction
Julie Anne Long
Warner

Historical Romance/Regency England

As daughter to a vicar of a small village, Sabrina Farleigh’s days are largely spent collecting clothing for the poor and managing the vicarage for her father. She dreams of one day being able to do missionary work in some far-off place like Africa or India. To her delight, Geoffrey Gillray, her father’s curate for the past year, shares her dream. On one of their many afternoon walks, he tells Sabrina that he plans to ask his cousin, the wealthy Earl of Rawden, for enough money to finance a mission during a weekend house party.

Sabrina is more than slightly scandalized to learn that Geoffrey’s cousin is the notorious poet, known throughout London as The Libertine. His poetry, it is said, causes women to swoon. Grateful that she possesses the requisite self-control to avoid such inconvenient passions, Sabrina makes plans to attend the same house party. Lady Mary, wife of the local squire, invites her along as a traveling companion and tells her that many a house party ends with an engagement.

Meeting The Libertine is not quite as fearsome as Sabrina expected. In fact, he largely ignores her for most of her first day there. Things soon change, however, when the Earl, in an attempt to combat his overwhelming sense of boredom, manages to compromise her. After they marry, he fully intends to leave his new wife behind in the country while he resumes his usual activities around town. He’s soon called back to his country house, however, and the two are forced to confront a secret from the past that could destroy their fragile bond.

While at first glance, this might appear to be the timeworn tale of the country miss and the dashing rogue; there is a bit more substance to it. This is the last in a trilogy, following BEAUTY AND THE SPY and WAYS TO BE WICKED, and I’m happy to report that the author avoids dumping huge amounts of exposition into the story, yet still manages to bring new readers (like me) up to speed. I admit, I wish I’d read the first two installments before reading this one, since it’s very clear that there’s a lot of background untouched, but it still works well enough as a stand-alone novel.

There’s an overarching storyline in the trilogy that concerns the past; and the issue that divides husband and wife is a serious one. This is no silly misunderstanding that could be cleared up by a few straight questions; it’s enough to destroy a relationship. The two main characters are refreshingly straightforward in their dealings with each other. Despite the circumstances that began the marriage, and the huge obstacle that faces them later, both partners are fairly blunt with each other about their feelings and expectations, making this a cut above the average Regency romance.

Rating: 7 ½
May 2007
ISBN# 0-446-61688-5 (paperback)

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