Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-052946-6
Historical Romance, 2004
Lorraine Heath’s An Invitation to Seduction is the latest in her American heiresses in London series. It is just a little different from the usual “bluestocking needs to be pampered while making a martyr out of herself” story, but again, it’s also more of the same old thing.
Kitty Robertson is an American heiress prowling the ballrooms of Victorian London for a beau. She’s not the birth daughter of her millionaire parents though – her birth mother had her from an affair that went nowhere and ditched Kitty as soon as she could (or so Kitty’s foster parents tell her) and Kitty is now determined to be wedded before she is bedded. She takes this philosophy to irritating “I must never feel any passion – ever! Because passion is evil!” levels. But passion is what she feels when she kisses Richard Stansbury. The problem here is, she’s engaged to marry the marquess Nicholas Glenville, not Richard, her fiancé’s best friend. Oopsie.
Richard is supposed to be a serious sort, and he is surprised at the extent of his lust for Kitty. He decides to pursue her. My problem with this is that he is sure that he’s not pursuing her for romantic purposes but to “have” her. He tells himself that Kitty and Nicky aren’t meant to be and that’s not because “Kitty+Nicky=4eva” is seriously barfworthy but because… well, saying more will be a spoiler but it’s not too hard to guess, this reason. Nicky is a nicely drawn character but Ms Heath telegraphs his big secret early on in the story. Back to Richard, I like the fact that he can pull some romantic gestures out of his hat (the thousand roses that he grown himself are a really nice touch) but on the whole, I actually prefer charming Nicky to Richard’s more stereotypical arrogant, serious, want-want-want Duke of Stony-Faced Masculine Passion personality. He disdains the hoi polloi, he dislikes Americans, he is arrogant, controlling – gee, just what Kitty needs, if you ask me – but he is willing to poach on his best friend’s territory. Without him telling her why Nicky is not for her, of course.
The book’s main hurdle is Kitty. She often comes off as really immature. Her desire to live a respectable life is understandable, but her insistence on wanting to marry Nicky is not. She wants a “safe” man because she is afraid of strong passions. But is Nicky safe? She thinks of him as a best friend, but he is charming, debonair, and definitely not “safe” to me. Her insistence that Nicky makes her feel “safe” (Ms Heath really overuses that word in this story) comes off as a lame excuse to prolong my agony. There’s no reason to assume on her part that a besotted Duke (as opposed to her Viscount fiancé) who is also wealthy and good-looking (not to mention famous for being a cold-hearted freak that doesn’t believe in strong passions) is a less “safe” catch than Nicky. Kitty assumes that she has no control at all over her emotions or desires and therefore she has to find some emotional eunuch to marry. The author demonstrates that Kitty has indeed no control when she allows Richard some minor liberties with her self early in the story even before they barely know each other. This is what irritates me most about her. She’s not strong, she just has no restraint and instead a tendency to indulge without common sense and then beat herself up for her lapses later. She doesn’t need a husband, she is looking for someone to control her impulses for her. I’d suggest that she just get a lobotomy and be done with it.
There is a suspense twist involving Nicky later in the story as a plot device to force Kitty and Richard closer together. There is also an attempt to tie this book with one of Ms Heath’s early cowboy books for Avon with the introduction of Kitty’s birth mother, and let’s just say when I finally realize who Kitty’s mother is, I’m can see where Kitty gets her lack of genius from. All these external subplots are dealt with in a heavy-handed manner in which Ms Heath telegraphs obvious clues as if her readers are wide-eyed twits who need her guidance step-by-step in understanding her story. These subplots therefore don’t really add much to a story that relies on a hero and a heroine wanting each other but using all sorts of silly excuses to prolong the story instead of just being sensible and getting wedded on page fifty.