Seducing Mr. Heywood
by Jo Manning, regency (2002)
Five Star, $26.95, ISBN 0-7862-3400-8

Firstly, a memo to Five Star: it is insane - read my lips, I-N-S-A-N-E - to charge $26.95 for a book by an author who isn't a household name or one with a crazy cult-like status with zillions of crazy zealot fans (think, oh, Anne Rice, Jean M Auel, Laurell K Hamilton, Joss Whedon, okay maybe not Joss Whedon). You may as well take Jo Manning and send her to stand outside libraries with a beggar's bowl, because I don't think anybody but the Sultan of Brunei is going to buy this book on a lark.

Anyway, the book. I like it, but I'm not that fond of it. Maybe it's just me, because for me, when you redeem someone, you should redeem that person, and not blame her crap on a daddy, circumstances, toss a few brats on her knees, and watch her blossom into Mommy Materna. That's a testicle-free way of writing in my book, and in the end, while I enjoy Seducing Mr. Heywood, I won't be gushing through both ends of my mouth about it.

Sophia Rowley, the mistress in The Reluctant Guardian, is now a heroine. After her long time boyfriend ditch her for his virgin ward, she decides to flee to her country home. Maybe Mia Farrow can bond with Sophia and catch up on things and bitch about lech old men who sleep with lil' girls. Anyway, back in the country, Sophia bonds with her kiddies again and the vicar, Mr Heywood, shows her the Righteous Way To Live As A Good Woman (translation: pop my brats, feed 'em, feed me, give me pumpies, and oh, clean my shorts). Another vivacious, party-lovin', men-lovin' gal bites the Morality Meat and becomes yet another poster gal for Romance Novel Virtue Of The Hearth and Ovulation.

Redemption, people, is via putting on your nanny rags and loving him to bits.

Along the way, the blame is shifted. Her daddy is so nasty, one of her four late husbands was nastier, and now she has a silly wicked dumbass at her hindquarters, and then Daddy is back. The kiddies are so cute - oh, the swelling Muzak of Love is killing me, people, just killing me.

Never mind. I like Heywood, although his transformation from klutz to the Mahaguru of the Wise is a little too unreal for me. Sophia is okay, but I never see her as someone requiring redemption - a few parenting classes, maybe, but otherwise, a woman who has lovers and loves partying shouldn't be redeemed unless the author is telling me that parties and enjoying life are something we women shouldn't be doing. Still, those two have some fine moments together, but for too often, the author is heavy-handedly trying to redeem a woman that, in my eyes, just happens to be okay. (Maybe she's not okay according to those hysterical Libidoless Heroine Fan Club members, but who cares about what those crazy readers think?) Even then, the redemption seems more like a game of passing the buck to the most convenient target (the father, et cetera) rather than having Sophia being really, really bad and then having to face her own conscience for it.

Maybe in the dainty teacup and lil' monsoons in the teapot world of Regency England, a sexually active woman - gasp! - is a bad, bad woman who deserves the Maternal Superiority Smackdown. But books like this one only make me realize how little the regency subgenre and me actually get along. Seducing Mr. Heywood has its charms when it is not trying too hard to be the new Anvil of Enlightenment, but for too long, it's just a half-baked redemption tale that doesn't seem to dare to hit where it hurts the most.

Rating: 75

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