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Seducing Mr. Knightly
by Maya Rodale
(Avon, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0062088949
Seducing Mr. Knightly is the concluding novel in Maya Rodale's "Writing Girl" series, and while the premise had potential, the lead characters are ultimately too bland to be memorable.

Annabelle Swift is the advice columnist for The London Weekly and has had a crush on her boss, handsome Derek Knightly, for years. Derek treats Annabelle with complete indifference; other than a vague awareness of her as one of his lady writers, she might as well be a potted plant for all the notice he takes of her. Frustrated, Annabelle decides to turn the tables and ask her readers for advice on how to capture the attention of a man.

Soon the advice comes pouring in. Bat your eyes. Wear lower-cut bodices. Stage a faint and fall into his arms. Annabelle tries all of these, with carrying degrees of success. Derek begins to notice that there's something different about Miss Swift, and she's looking a bit more attractive. Dash it all, it looks like she's trying to attract some man's attention. So why does that make him rather uneasy?

That's about the sum total of the plot. Annabelle keeps collecting advice and trying various feminine wiles on Knightly, and seems to have absolutely no ideas of her own. He becomes uneasy, then jealous, though the idea of actually getting to know her doesn't seem to cross his mind. By the third scene of Annabelle attempting to seduce Knightly, I was growing impatient.

I had problems from the start with Annabelle's "crush" on Knightly, as she'd never even so much as held a conversation with him. He's not even particularly nice to her, so her infatuation is based solely on his good looks, which is never a believable setup for a romance. She lives with her brother and his obnoxious, demanding wife, and is a standard doormat heroine looking for a backbone. Unfortunately, she doesn't get one. There isn't even a good set-down of the sister-in-law. Instead, she spends the entire book mooning over Knightly, thrilled when he pays the least attention to her, and suddenly they are in love = or so we are told.

Knightly is the illegitimate son of a nobleman, and was spurned by his half-brother at their father's funeral when he dared to show up to pay his respects. He has spent his entire adult life amassing a fortune in an attempt to get back at the family, which doesn't exactly make him sympathetic. His vague awareness of Annabelle becomes less vague as he notices she's looking much prettier, though this progression is based on her looks and not on any understanding of her character. Frankly, I found Knightly to be shallow and rather boring. And the romance was about as unconvincing as it could get.

Oh, how I wanted Annabelle to stumble across another man who would find her fascinating, and for Knightly to go on his oblivious way. Finding out that the real man didn't live up to the schoolgirl crush would have made for a far more interesting story, and maybe allowed Annabelle to come into her own. For readers who have enjoyed the rest of the "Writing Girl" series, Seducing Mr. Knightly might be a must-read conclusion, but it didn't work for me.

--Cathy Sova

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