Lost in Temptation

Tempting Juliana


The Art of Temptation
by Lauren Royal
(Signet, $6.99, PG) ISBN 978-0-451-22245-9
In Regency-era England, women artists are not treated with the utmost respect. In fact, not only society, but male artists, are often completely derisive of them. Corinna Chase has no cares for what people think of her (to a certain extent; she is a lady of the best upbringing, after all), and she is determined to get a painting into the Summer Exhibition this year. Another mark against her, however, is that Corinna wants to submit a portrait. Since women are not allowed to study anatomy, however, she's having difficulties getting her people to look real.

Sean Delaney's got a problem of his own. A number of them, actually. His headstrong sister, Deirdre, is moving in with her lover. Before marrying him. Before even obtaining a divorce from her husband, John Hamilton. Of course, Deirdre would be more than happy to be divorced, but Hamilton - out of sheer obstinancy - won't allow her one. Hamilton proposes a compromise of sorts: if Sean will pose as Hamilton at Hamilton's uncle Lincolnshire's deathbed, Hamilton will give Deirdre her divorce. This idea doesn't make Sean happy - in the tradition of all good romantic heroes, he's honest to a fault - but Hamilton says if Sean refuses, he not only will refuse to divorce Deirdre, he will demand she return to his bed until she produces a boy baby to inherit Hamilton's soon-to-be title as Lincolnshire's heir. According to British law at the time, this was acceptable.

Corrina lives across the square from the earl of Lincolnshire, and like most of London, is very fond of him. It's not surprising that she and Sean cross paths. Once they have, though, Corrina is determined that they should do so more often. Corrina quickly discovers that Sean is not Hamilton - Hamilton is one of the foremost landscrape artists in the country, and it doesn't take the lady long to notice Sean's color-blindness. Unfortunately, Sean is introduced as Hamilton to all of London, courtesy of the kindly and proud uncle (who isn't dying nearly as quickly as assumed). So, Corrina, her somewhat meddlesome family, and Deirdre are all dragged into the farce. When Lincolnshire does eventually die, however, the truth is brought to light and Sean is driven from polite society. This wouldn't have disturbed him in the slightest before he met Corrina, but ... well, suffice it to say Corrina's had her anatomy lesson, albeit a fairly innocent one.

A bit of a not-so-surprising twist at the end brings things to the expected happy ending. This book is laden with characters, primarily Corrina's family.It's clear from the beginning that there are other stories involved with this family (indeed, this is the third book in the Sweet Temptations trilogy), but The Art of Temptation reads easily enough as a stand-alone.

There is a nice little secondary story about Corrina's somewhat patriarchal brother Griffin and her step-cousin Rachael that often is more interesting than the true plot. The characters are lovable because of their foibles: despite the unbelievable premise of the book, the characters have normal human failings of which the other characters are aware and accepting. The story does not move along very quickly, but thankfully the characters drive it along. With a little more suspense (as far as the earl, Corrina's chosen profession, or even her relationship with Sean are concerned), this would have deserved four hearts, and I will be picking up future reads by Lauren Royal.

--Sarrah Knight

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