The Heartbreaker

The Lover

 
The Seduction by Nicole Jordan
(Ivy, $6.50, NC-17) ISBN 0-449-00484-8
****
I do believe that this is the first NC-17 I have ever given to a book in over three years of reviewing. I realize that sensuality ratings are perhaps a bit idiosyncratic, depending as they do on the reviewer's taste. But I decided to award this rating when I checked TRR’s definition of an NC-17: “Ouch, don’t burn yourself. This book is hot, hot, hot.” Well, The Seduction certainly fits. But what led me to recommend this book is the fact that the high level of sensuality is intrinsic to a wholly convincing story of a rake ís redemption.

There is an old adage, “Begin as you intend to go on,” and Nicole Jordan certainly does. In the prologue, we find Damien Sinclair, bound by silken cords, “auditioning” one of London’s most famous courtesans for the position of mistress. I would have to say that actress Elise Swann passes the audition with flying colors, but her hopes for a more permanent relationship are dashed when Lord Sinclair’s secretary arrives with dire news. His lordship’s eighteen year old sister has been seriously injured in an accident.

Olivia Sinclair’s situation is indeed tragic. Wooed by young Viscount Rutherford, she had agreed to elope only to discover that the viscount had been trying to win a bet. As she fled, she tripped and fell down the steps. Now she is paralyzed and her reputation is in shreds.

Two months later Vanessa Wyndham reluctantly approaches Lord Sinclair. Damien had lured his sister’s betrayer into a card game and proceeded to ruin him. While Vanessa is appalled at her brother’s actions and certainly understands Sinclair’s desire for vengeance, the loss of the family’s estate will leave her mother and sisters homeless and penniless. She begs Lord Sinclair not to call in the debt.

Damien is determined on his revenge. He suggests that Vanessa become his mistress for the summer. If she does so, her family will not lose their home. Reluctantly, Vanessa agrees, but suggests that she also act as Olivia’s companion. She also warns Lord Sinclair that he may well regret his bargain; she had learned during her brief and unhappy marriage that she has no talent for “carnal relations.” Damien does not believe that the beautiful widow is cold, merely unawakened. And he is determined to awaken her passionate nature.

Vanessa and Damien travel to his country estate, Rosewood, where her good sense and warm nature begin to bring Olivia out of her depression. Damien also begins his seduction; he will not force Vanessa into his bed but will rather make her want him. Vanessa has little defense against his practiced ways.

The Seduction is a character driven novel and its success rests on the author’s ability to create sympathy for both her hero and heroine. This she succeeds in doing. Vanessa is a strong and intelligent woman, forced into an invidious position by family loyalty. One sympathizes with her plight, and one also understands why and how she falls under Damien’s sensuous spell.

Surprisingly, one also sympathizes with Damien. Jordan spares nothing in her effort to show why he deserves the title, “Lord Sin;” this is a man who has raised debauchery to an art form. Yet she also shows why he’s become the kind of man he is and suggests that there is more to him than he shows on the surface. Both his growing fascination with Vanessa and his determined resistance to understanding his feelings make eminent sense.

What I really appreciate about The Seduction is that the high level of sensuality and the depictions of the erotic underground of the Regency era are an important part of the story, rather than being included for their “shock” value, as often seems the case in some similar books I have read. This is clearly erotic romance, not erotica disguised as romance.

Sometimes when I read tales of a rake’s reform, I am unconvinced, but not in this case. The Seduction is, in the end, about the redemptive power of love and like all romance readers, there is nothing I enjoy more. A definite recommended read for those that like their love scenes hot, but who also like to close a book with a warm feeling of contentment.

--Jean Mason


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