Courting Claudia
A Study in Scandal

 
Seduce Me
by Robyn De Hart
(Grand Central, $6.99, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0-446-54200-5
***
Robyn DeHart kicks off a series called "The Legend Hunters" with a story that focuses around Pandora’s Box. While the premise is intriguing, the somewhat predictable actions of the characters make this a story that doesn’t quite reach its potential.

Fielding Grey is a viscount, but he’s also a treasure hunter, seeking out antiquities to sell to wealthy clients. While on the trail of the Great Library of Alexandria, Fielding is approached by a representative of Solomon’s, an elite and ultra-secret London club of gentlemen with an interest in particular artifacts. Though reluctant to involve himself with Solomon’s, Fielding agrees (for a huge sum) to retrieve a box that may or may not be the fabled Pandora’s Box, since it may fall into the unsavory hands of a man called the Raven.

Esme Worthington is a bluestocking spinster who has been fascinated with the legend of Pandora’s Box since she was a child. Her father, a scholar, once gave her a key that he jokingly told her would open the box, and she has worn it around her neck ever since. One night two men break into her home, kidnap her, and take her to the dungeon of a ruined castle where they demand the key. To Esme’s astonishment, the men dig up an old box that looks like it could be Pandora’s Box. When the men find her key and decide to open the box, Greed and Disease are released, represented by a thin gold band on each man’s wrist that cannot be removed.

Fielding, hot on the trail of the box, rescues Esme. He decides to take Esme and the box to his family’s estate, though he has little use for Esme. Esme takes an immediate dislike to him, as well. And here is where the story descends into predictability. Esme, for all that she postures herself as a “scholar”, can’t wait to open the box. Soon she’s wearing a gold band of her own, and Fielding has to find a way to get all the gold bands back in the box. As he and Esme search for the two men who kidnapped her, they have to avoid the Raven, who will go to any length to get his own hands on the box. And Fielding has quite a tie to the Raven himself.

The adventure subplot of Seduce Me was much stronger than the romance. Fielding and Esme display little chemistry, for all that they are soon sharing some pretty hot sex. For much of the book, Fielding tries his best to stay distant from Esme, though he lusts after her body. And he can’t ever fall in love, no sir, because he’ll just leave on his next treasure hunt and no woman would put up with that. The fact that Esme is probably the only woman in England who’d not only put up with it, but want to come along for the ride never occurs to him. It wasn’t hard to predict his actions. 

Esme finds Fielding to be pretty annoying, but – no surprise - can’t say no to his efforts to seduce her. She styles herself as a serious scholar and researcher, but shows minimal evidence of either. These two displayed little connection other than in the physical sense. Being told they were falling in love just didn’t work; I wanted to see some evidence of friendship or emotion beyond lust.

The Pandora’s Box premise certainly got my attention, at least initially. To be honest, Fielding and Esme chasing around England looking for the missing bands was more interesting than Esme’s endless agonizing that Fielding only wanted her because she was now wearing a Lust band on her wrist and Fielding’s determination not to fall for Esme because he’d just have to leave her.

As a setup for a new series, Seduce Me only partly delivers. The idea is certainly fresh, but a stronger romance is going to be needed to make the next Legend Hunters story really shine.  

--Cathy Sova


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