|Sabrina Jeffries begins a new series, "The School for Heiresses", with this tale of a rather bored young socialite who is drawn to a rugged American. While the sex in Never Seduce a Scoundrel is spicy and rather explicit (hence the R rating, though a strong PG-13 might suffice as well), the central romance is lacking in emotional intensity. In short, while I believed these two might do fine in bed, I wasn't convinced they fell in love.
Lady Amelia Plume has quite a few admirers, though the twenty year old has accepted no offers of marriage. She would like to have a few exotic adventures, and most of her admirers seem more interested in her fortune. Middle-aged Lord Pomeroy is particularly persistent. Then she meets Major Lucas Winter at a ball one evening, and his dark good looks intrigue her. Later that night, while delivering a note for a friend, Amelia chances upon Lucas's room and can't resist nosing around. She discovers papers that implicate her beloved stepmother in a scandal. It appears that Lucas is in London to investigate Dolly, and Amelia decides to get close to Lucas and find out what he's up to.
Though she tries hard to play the empty-headed flirt, flashes of intelligence keep popping out, and Lucas is suspicious. At the same time, he's attracted to this girl, though she's of the English nobility that he despises. Lucas and Amelia spend some time together, and Amelia decides to sexually tease Lucas with references to his "sword." After all, she's read all about practices in a harem in an illicit book, and besides, Lucas makes her tingle all over. He's probably trying to distract her from her mission with his kisses, the cad. Therefore, he should pay.
This bit of self-absorbed, idiotic reasoning is answered when Lucas gets his revenge on a tour of a deserted ship, where he dares Amelia to experience sexual pleasure, and insists she please him as he pleases her. This mutual groping session leaves Amelia satisfied, but embarrassed. She decides to restrict their "courting" to more public places, and issues an ultimatum to Lucas: if he can't share his soul with her, she'll never introduce him to her parents.
Meanwhile, Amelia's former schoolmistress and current chaperone, Mrs. Charlotte Harris, has Lucas investigated. Amelia receives a report. Lucas is indeed on the hunt for one Thomas Frier, who embezzled a huge some of money from a Boston shipping company. Was the former "Dolly Smith" really "Dolly Frier?" And if she's really a criminal, what will happen to Amelia's dowry, which Dolly provided? Amelia, based on the irrefutable proof of "I just know so," decides Dolly is completely innocent and Lucas is a blackguard. When Lord Pomeroy kidnaps Amelia, however, determined to force her into marrying him, Lucas and Amelia must decide just how far to trust their emotions.
The sex was hot and well-written. The storyline was interesting, especially Lucas's backstory. As his motives are revealed, the reader's sympathy will build accordingly. Lucas is really a fine hero. He isn't looking for any romantic entanglement, but when the chips are down, he does the right thing and ends up losing his heart to Amelia anyway.
Amelia is another matter. Her arrogance is nearly insufferable, as she spends the book just sure that she is in the right about everything. Lucas is only interested in a sexual encounter. Lucas needs to open up about his feelings. Dolly can't possibly be involved in an embezzling plot. Lucas is a dastard. Amelia throws her opinion around frequently, but mostly comes across as spoiled and arrogant. I really couldn't see what Lucas found attractive in her, other than her looks. The romance didn't ring true.
Kudos to the author for wrapping a somewhat obscure historical event - a massacre at Broadmoor Prison - into her plot. This was interesting, and the footnote at the end of the story added more details. The secondary characters of Lady Venetia Campbell, a friend of Amelia's, and a highwayman called the Scottish Laird who apparently holds a grudge against Venetia's father looks promising for another tale in this series. Apparently Mrs. Charlotte Harris will also be a recurring character, tying her former charges together in this series.
Never Seduce a Scoundrel has its high points, namely the intriguing hero and the spicy physical relationship between the leads. While the heroine wasn't my cup of tea, I'd willingly pick up another in the series.