by Nina Rowan, historical (2012)
Grand Central Publishing, $5.99, ISBN 978-1-455-50954-6
A Study In Seduction is the debut effort of Nina Rowan but the author has previously published erotic stories for Black Lace Books under the name Natasha Rostova. I have never read her books before, but I sincerely hope they are nowhere as irritating as this one. Every other page of this book is practically a "What the hell?" moment, and the characters, especially the heroine, are extra creepy on top of being obnoxious.
Lydia Kellaway is a mathematical prodigy, although this is just a trait pegged on her by Ms Rowan to give Lydia a thing to remember her by. Lydia babbles mathematical jargon a lot, claiming to be interested in solving mathematical equations and applying them to romance and what not, but her so-called analytical skill completely breaks down every time Lydia needs to think and make a sensible decision. When such a situation arises, Lydia's default knee-jerk reaction is to first flail her arms around helplessly and then find the first opportunity to be a martyr.
Okay, she has a twelve-year old sister Jane. Jane should be attending the best schools around, but Lydia and her grandmother do not have the money to do so. Lydia's grandmother pawns a locket belonging to Lydia's late daddy, and thus, the story begins when Lydia desperately throws herself at Alexander Hall, Viscount Northwood, in a not-whore-like-but-he-still-gets-to-kiss-her manner to get the locket back. Just when I think this is just a lapse of sanity on Lydia's part, she turns out to be utterly selfish when her grandmother pulls some strings and arranges for Jane to go to a good boarding school in Paris, only to have Lydia insist that she will never be parted with Jane. She will not agree even if Jane wants to go!
So, what does this crazy woman want for her sister? Lydia is just creepy in a "I gnaw at wire hangers" manner because she doesn't care what happens to Jane as long as she gets to keep Jane by her side. She actually claims here that she has suffered too much only to have Jane taken away from her. Alright then - she will deny Jane good education and make them all stay in genteel poverty because Lydia is too neurotic and stupid to form healthy emotional attachments to other people.
Luckily for Jane, she soon has Alexander to distract Lydia. And sure enough, after discovering that she'd rather intersect her Venn diagram with Alexander's instead of suffocating a sister to death, Lydia transfers her single-minded obsession to Alexander. From Mommy Dearest, we now have Pee-Pee Dearest. Who cares about Jane's future? Lydia would now rather have sex with Alexander, but no, she will never marry him! Let her remember the residues of his love for all time as she grabs Jane with her and fling themselves off the precipice of sanity forever because it's all about Lydia, and don't you people dare to forget that!
Naturally, she has a big secret, because there is no better way to live than to continue to act like the biggest martyr in the world. Jane needs money to go to a good school? And Alexander is bloody wealthy as well as a Viscount to boot? No, Lydia is not worthy of him so she must refuse to marry him! And on and on that stupid imbecile goes until I can only take a deep, steadying breath when this obnoxious behavior on the heroine's part ends up being part of her "virtue".
Alexander is also a selfish lummox who at first refuses to marry but has no qualms forcing his siblings, especially his sister, to do the thing he detests to reclaim the family honor after their mother decamped with a Russian soldier. But at least he's only a hypocrite who is doing things for the greater good of the family, while Lydia is doing things for the glory of self-immolation and masturbatory martyrdom. He's an asshole, but there is some method to his ways. Lydia is just a moron who gets off at imagining that she's the most tragic victim of love in the entire universe.
The romance in this story is, on Alexander's part, immediate rush from lust to love, while on Lydia's part it's a contest to see how many pages she can run wild without making me pull a Zangief and do a spinning pile-driver on her scrawny useless ass. Someone please make this wretch choke on a hypotenuse and die, thanks.
As you can probably tell, these characters have very melodramatic baggage, and things are spiced up by a cartoon villain who must have studied at the Snidely Whiplash University of Villainy. Yet, strangely enough, after Ms Rowan has built up these characters' problems to be some kind of giant blimp headed to Bollywood's glitziest movie production set, she has the problems resolved with ridiculous ease, in a "Okay, whatever, story's coming to close - see you all in the next book in the series!" manner. It's like getting ready for a hot shag, only to have that fellow spend three hours whining about atmosphere, the bedsheets, and everything else before abruptly falling asleep. I don't know whether to be relieved that it is over before I end up killing someone, or to be annoyed for having completely wasted my time.
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