The Seductive One
by Susan Mallery, contemporary (2003)
Pocket, $6.49, ISBN 0-7434-4396-9

Third in Susan Mallery's "Make Me One (Bestselling Author)" trilogy, following The Sparkling One and The Sassy One. Unlike the previous two books, however, The Seductive One focuses on the couple instead of the annoying Marcelli clan and hence a much better book as a result. The story flows more naturally and the clichés integrate better into the story instead of clichés being clichés for the sake of, well, being clichés.

Brenna Marcelli (divorced, cheating ex, et cetera) has had enough of trying to cater to her grandfather's unreasonable misogyny. She is the best manager Marcelli Winery could have and she could have saved the winery from its financial woes, but the idiot grandfather's sole concern is that he has no male heir to pass the vineyards to. Very well, Brenna will start her out winery, so there! But she will need capital, and without her grandfather's backing, no financial institutions will loan her the money. She decides to ask Nicholas Giovanni, with whom she had a star-crossed love story with ten years ago, for a million dollar loan. He agrees, much to her surprise. Little does she suspect that Nic is planning a hostile takeover of Marcelli Winery to avenge his family in some stupid feud thing and Brenna is just a Plan B in his scheme of things.

Nic and Brenna's emotions from their teenaged love story still manages to survive the years but oh no, Brenna cannot sleep with the guy that has just loaned her a million dollar. (Don't ask me why she can't - let's just say it's one of those sticky "moral code" romance heroines tend to follow blindly). Nic on the hand debates on whether he should sleep with her and when he does, whether he should tell her what he is up to. Too bad there isn't a "moral code" for romance heroes to follow blindly, in this case. Their relationship is very predictable, right down to Brenna finding out what he is up to before he can tell her himself. Brenna is a decent heroine that starts out fully intending to sever her umbilical cord with an idiot grandfather only to band the women together to start to make some changes as to how the stupid patriarchy of the Marcelli clan will work in the future. Compared to her idiot sisters, she's a much better cliché. Nic is also a cliché, although he suffers greatly in comparison to Brenna because he is blindly plotting out a revenge plot based on a stupid family feud.

The feud is also a cliché - a star-crossed love thing. And yes, there's a Special and Convenient Diary in this story that will resolve problems two generations of Marcelli and Giovanni nincompoops can't work out. Since much fuss is made about the feud, the anticlimatic resolution to the feud as well as that to Nic and Brenna's conflict only drive home the fact that stereotypical Italian people sure don't do things, especially stupid things, halfway. The Seductive One is therefore a story about molehills made out to be mountains, where all conflicts turn out to be trivial and easily resolved at the end. Instead of making me go "Wow! I'm glad I read this book!", Ms Mallery instead has me going, "Gee, remind me again why I should care about these people?"

Rating: 75

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