A Rake's Guide to Seduction

Caroline Linden
June 2008, European Historical Romance (1820s England)
Zebra, $5.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0821780514

Grade: C+
Sensuality: Warm

The title of this one – A Rake’s Guide to Seduction – is a bit misleading since, instead of the racy historical romance the title proclaims, what you get is actually a classic Regency in Disguise. Still, while I enjoyed it well enough, the prose in particular, neither the story nor the characters ever really took off for me.

Four years before the start of the bulk of this story, Celia Reece and Anthony Hamilton were very fond of each other. Their affection, however, doesn't manage to get off the ground since the so-called "dangerous rake" Anthony suffers from a severe case of She's Too Good for Me Syndrome while young miss Celia is quickly persuaded by her mother to focus her attentions on a more suitable suitor. Soon after her marriage, her husband proves not to be the man she thought he was and Celia is widowed in short order.

Now 22 and away from Society following both the disappointment of her marriage and widowhood, Celia and Anthony meet again at a country house party designed to cheer her and ease her return back into the social world. During the party, Celia discovers that she is still attracted to the “dangerous” Anthony and he to her.

While my tolerance level for Regency spies is getting ever lower, if you’re not going to include some kind of subplot, the characters have to be interesting enough to carry the story. For me, that didn’t really happen here. For that matter, not much happens in this book either. Celia gets anonymous letters. People eat dinner and talk and do things they reportedly did at those house parties. Celia and Anthony eventually have sex. There is a rather dramatic event very late in the story, but to me it felt tacked on as if to build some kind of artificial excitement for the book’s conclusion.

Along the way, we discover that Fake Rake Anthony really wasn’t the “dangerous” man we were lead to believe (duh) and Celia – well, I’m not quite sure what we learned about Celia other than that at age 22, she is still a very, very young woman. She seems to spend a lot of time in this book being persuaded to act in a certain way – either by her mother or by Anthony. Sadly, she never really interested me as a character.

Add to that the fact that the dialogue never really sparkles the way it must in a book this quiet in order to keep the reader engaged and it takes this book even further into slightly-above-average-land.

Bottom line? Ms. Linden has a deft hand with prose, but I just wasn't engaged to any real degree by either the story or the characters.

-- Sandy Coleman

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