|Cathy Maxwell has written an interesting tale set in 1816 England, on the fringes of society. The Seduction of an English Lady is the tale of a man with ambitions who marries a lady with ambitions, neither of whom really knows what they want. The story is a bit uneven but ultimately enjoyable.
Colonel Colin Mandland has just recently left the Army. He is highly ambitious and was disappointed that he was not given a knighthood despite his background. He is the son of a cobbler, raised in the Ribble Valley area of England. His brother, Matt is a country minister, who gave up the chance at entering the hierarchy of the church for the love of his wife. Colin could never understand this…he wants more.
He purchases an estate in the Valley called Maiden Hill, from a fop of an Earl who needs the money. Maiden Hill is the only estate that is not entailed. What the Earl fails to tell Colin is that Maiden Hill is inhabited by his cousin, the former Earl’s daughter, and her friends.
Rosalyn Wellborne loves Maiden Hill. It is the closest thing she has ever had to a home. Her parents divorced when her mother ran off with a riding instructor, and her father drunk himself to death when she was only eight. She was foisted off from relative to relative and never felt wanted until she arrived at Maiden Hill. Here she has made a name for herself in the local gentry, actually wielding a lot of influence.
Colin is given an opportunity by the local landowner, Lord Loftus, to marry Rosalyn and get the seat in the House of Commons which Loftus controls. This will also allow Rosalyn to stay and not have to find her way to another maiden aunt who doesn’t want her. He agrees, only to have Rosalyn decline. She wants only to marry if her spouse loves her, as she doesn’t want to end up like her parents. Colin uses his influence and his kisses to convince Rosalyn to elope with him. Now he must convince her to love him and he must learn to love himself as well as her.
This story tries to be so much that the end result is a little muddled. Rosalyn is at times, stubborn, vastly intelligent, whiny and delightful. She has little self-esteem, yet on the surface is bold and knows what she wants. She is a beauty, who thinks she is not. She is vulnerable and then turns around and decides she must hide her emotions. While I liked who she became when with Colin, I never got a sense of her true personality.
Colin is a similar contrast in character. He is headstrong and a war hero. Yet there is some reason why he was snubbed for the knighthood, which is only revealed at the end, and even then, the reader needs to read carefully or they will miss it. He loves his brother and children, yet acts very noble and unemotional. He wants to protect a fox from being hunted in a foxhunt, yet is a war-hardened veteran. Only when he is with Rosalyn does he allow himself to love and show his loving nature. And then he denies it.
There are several plot twists here that leave me sighing with the predictability of them and yet are written in an enjoyable manner. There is mistrust between the two leads that is the main conflict in their loving each other. There is the whole issue of gaining the seat in the House of Commons, which ends up being a little history lesson on the change in England to less peer influenced government. There is the discovery of life’s lessons and personal discoveries for both Colin and Rosalyn, with the help of Colin’s brother and Rosalyn’s friend. And finally there is the resolution and finding of love.
Nothing new here, except for the history lesson. I found myself able to put down the book without angst – a sign that I am not truly engaged. Yet, I did enjoy it while reading.
Predictability and two decent but unremarkable characters leave Seduction of an English Lady in that middle of the road category of Acceptable. Cathy Maxwell has written better.