Lady of Seduction is my first book by Laurel McKee and having read the summary, I was prepared to adore it. It had elements I love in a romance: a scarred and tortured hero, a bookish and loner-type heroine, and a secluded island in Ireland, which to me equaled character-driven plot and lots of quality one-on-one time. As my rating shows, it did not at all live up to my expectations and I ended up having trouble finishing it: I read four other books between starting and finishing this one – not a good sign.
The book is a semi-reunion romance between two people with à la Devil in Winter history between them. Lady Caroline Hartley has never forgotten Sir Grant Dunmore, the man who four years ago sought to kidnap her older sister and took her by mistake. Caught together in a burning warehouse, not knowing whether or not they would survive, a bond was formed between them. Caroline is now a 20-year-old widow and Grant has become a scarred recluse, yet they have continued to think of each other over the years. Caroline is an avid historian and decides to travel to the island of Muirin Inish for her research so that she can study a priceless and rare book Grant owns … and to see him again.
Growing up, Grant and his mother were shunned by her family and he had made it his goal in life to get back at those who had rejected them. This obsession pitted him against his cousin and drove him to the point of kidnapping a woman – the wrong one, as it turned out. Bearing burn scars and the guilt of his selfish past, he left the Dublin society that had once adored him and now hopes to atone for his actions. The last person Grant expects to find when he runs down to the shore to rescue a shipwrecked passenger is Caroline Blacknall, the very woman he wronged.
The minute they are together again, both Caroline and Grant once more feel the strong bond between them. Unfortunately, Caroline could not have picked a worse time to visit, as Grant is in the middle of espionage-related intrigue. As their relationship progresses and the passion between them explodes (did I really just write that?!), they must battle French spies, another possible rebellion, and the obstacles of their shared history.
So that’s the story – now for what I had problems with. Well, what didn’t I have a problem with? I actually enjoyed the beginning of the book. I was intrigued by Grant and Caroline’s past and curious as to how they would reconcile with it. I also liked the banter between them and the juxtaposition of his prickliness with her carefree manner. Plus, I was definitely feeling the oh-so-important chemistry.
After the first ~100 pages though, everything pretty much went downhill. The love scenes, though relatively frequent (nothing risqué), were completely lacking in spark and for the first time in my entire reading career, I was tempted to skip over them (gasp!). Grant and Caroline also completely lost their personalities, becoming boring and flat; it was like McKee couldn’t decide what she wanted to do with them. Caroline would have Grant up on a pedestal one minute, and then the next she was reminding herself of what he did to her family and doubting his trustworthiness. Grant, for his part, felt just as wishy-washy. There was no real internal conflict for either of them, or in their relationship. I was also bothered by the age issue: the kidnapping incident (and their first kiss) happened when Caroline was 16 and Grant was in his late-20s, if not early-30s.
The historical subplot wasn’t well-integrated and made the story feel choppy. We’re given mystery guests with differing intentions, a possible ghost, a dead maid, and a rebellion in the works. Then they’re traveling through the countryside together, trying to get to Dublin. It was very disjointed and, mixed with the lackluster romance, it made for a boring read.
This book is the last book in The Daughters of Erin trilogy. The first book, Countess of Scandal, focuses on Caroline’s oldest sister, and the second one, Duchess of Sin, features the romance between Grant’s cousin and Caroline’s other sister. Not having seen Grant’s prior “evilness” does perhaps detract from this book’s stand-alone potential, but since I don’t recommend you read Lady of Seduction in the first place, it seems pointless to say you should read the second book prior to this one.
“She baffled him, turning his careful world upside down. He wanted her body with a burning lust he had never felt for his elegant mistresses, and that was bad enough. But he also wanted to know her mind, her thoughts and opinions, her feelings. He wanted to lose himself in that calm brightness of hers and be clean again.” (p. 108)