Lessons From a Scarlet Lady

Seducing the Highlander
by Emma Wildes 
(Signet Eclipse, $14, R)  ISBN 978-0451229823
Long on sex and short on plot, this trio of stories about Scottish men who meet their match will appeal to readers who like more erotic stories. Seducing the Highlander is definitely a niche book.

In the first story, “Seducing Ian,” Ian McCray kidnaps Lady Leanna Arlington in order to gain revenge on her fiancé. Leanna will be used as a bargaining tool in order to free Ian’s uncle, who is falsely imprisoned in England.  To Ian’s surprise, Leanna is grateful for the rescue. It seems her loathsome fiancé locked her in a tower, and she’s only too happy to escape. In fact, Leanna hatches a plan to thwart her fiancé forever. If Ian will kindly take her virginity, the fiancé will no longer want her.

Ian is happy to oblige, and the two embark on a torrid affair. Neither thinks it will last, until Ian’s cousin Robbie indicates his interest in Leanna. Forced to examine his feelings, Ian might have to admit that this is more than a temporary fling.

“Seducing Robbie” is cousin Robbie’s story. He’s astonished when Lady Julia Cameron, the daughter of a family friend, proposes marriage in order to gain her inheritance. Julia thinks her cousin, Adain (or Aidan, if you look at the author’s website) murdered her father in order to gain control of her wealth. If Robbie marries her, she’ll give him the funds to replace two ships he’s lost, and they can part amicably.

If only sex didn’t complicate things. Robbie and Julia can’t keep their hands off each other, and by the time they find that Adain didn’t commit the crime at all, they’re well and truly ensnared.  Julia condemns Adain on flimsy evidence, making her a lot less sympathetic than she might have been, and a lot less smart, too.

The final story, “Seducing Adain,” finds Adain Cameron rescuing a woman from a gang of highwaymen. When he discovers that Lady Gillian Lorin is traveling to the home of her fiancé, a despicable man known for abusing women, he offers her sanctuary, first at an inn and then at his home. In order to protect her, Adain offers to marry Gillian, and she accepts. Since Adain is nursing a broken heart, he isn’t expecting much from this marriage. Love, of course, has other ideas, and when the opportunity to bed Gillian presents itself, Adain jumps at it.

The focus on these stories is explicit sex, and lots of it. The character development is minimal, and the plots are somewhat sketchy, as they really exist only to frame the sex. Having said that, all three men are likable characters who try to do the decent thing. Two of the plots were pretty similar – hero rescues heroine from evil fiancé – so no points for originality there. The heroines are fairly interchangeable, too. 

While I couldn’t remember much about any of the stories a week after reading them, they were entertaining in the moment. For a spicy summer read, Seducing the Highlander will appeal to readers who like historical novellas with a tinge of the erotic. 

--Cathy Sova

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