The Abduction of Julia

A Belated Bride

The Seduction of Sara
by Karen Hawkins
(Avon, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-380-81526-5
Although Ms. Hawkins’ prose is very enjoyable, this book reads like it was written in a hurry. The action is repetitive, the plot is almost non-existent, and the characters never achieve any real depth.

Saraphina Lawrence married for love at 17 but was widowed at 20 when her faithless husband died, rather publicly, and in an extremely compromising, ahem, position. Since then, Sara has been hell-bent for scandal with her wild behavior. At his wit’s end, her brother banishes her to Bath while he pays her gambling debts and looks for a husband to take her in hand.

Not interested in being controlled, Sara decides to find her own husband; someone who will give her his name, then go his own way and leave her be.

With the London Season in full swing, the pickings in Bath are lean, with the exception of Nicholas Montrose, the Earl of Bridgeton. Nick was forced to leave England by his family some years ago and has been making a fortune gambling on the Continent. Having won Hibberton Hall in a card game, he’s back in England to rebuild the estate and his reputation.

Nick suffers from periodic blinding headaches. In addition, as a boy, he watched his mother descend into the hell of laudanum dependency. Based on this - and apparently without benefit of medical advice - Nick has decided that he’ll probably die young, a raving drug addict. Certainly a wife is out of the question.

He does think Sara would make a nifty mistress, though. When she turns him down - only a husband will do for her - he offers to teach her some better methods to entrap one.

Ms. Hawkins has a very nice way with dialogue and description, so it took me some time to realize that nothing much happens. I give points for readability - there are too many books where plenty is going on but the language is too turgid and unnatural to wade through. But a book needs a plot, not just a premise.

Part of the problem is that the author places the heroine in Bath at a time when the good men are in London. Not one of the inept swains she approaches is a match for the naive, immature Sara, much less for an experienced rake like Nick. The result is that none of the encounters adds any real tension and, since none of them is a challenge, neither Sara nor the reader learns anything new and the story goes in circles.

About halfway through the book, Nick and Sara are forced to do what they really wanted all along, and there’s a rather nice defiant elopement. Unfortunately this high spot also underscores the almost complete lack of meaningful action in the rest of the book. After they get together, Sara stops repeating “I must find a husband” and Nick starts chanting “I can never love you.”

This is also one of those stories where the hero tells us he’s attracted to the heroine because of her intelligence - but all her actions say otherwise. But then, Nick suffers from enormous failures of logic. He clings to the notion that his illness must be hidden from Sara, even after she’s seen him in the throes several times, apparently with no damage to her feelings for or attraction to him. Since the illness doesn’t repel her, and he hasn’t the strength to leave her, naturally his only option is to treat her so badly she’ll hate him and go.

It’s not only one of the least appealing of the old romance chestnuts, it’s also an awful lot of work for someone supposedly too wracked with pain to do anything except lie still in a dark room. Oh yes, and ravish Sara any time she wanders by. Clearly Ms. Hawkins has never even spoken to a migraine sufferer much less experienced it herself. Anyone who has ever had an incapacitating headache will tell you that, during one, sex has about as much appeal as a root canal.

The Seduction of Sara manages to be both entertaining and disappointing in equal measure. The style is nice, but the substance is definitely lacking.

--Judi McKee

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