Seduce Me By Christmas
by Deborah Raleigh, historical (2009)
Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-8217-8046-6

Deborah Raleigh's Seduce Me By Christmas is actually a pretty familiar story of a rake and a country spinster. It won't win any award for innovation or originality, but it is a very fun read all the same. This one is related to two author's previous two historical romances but it can be easily read as a standalone story.

Raoul Charlebois has always thought that he is the illegitimate son of the Lord Merriot and a French woman. There is no love lost between him and his sire, seeing that his sire dumped him when Raoul was a kid at the doorstep of one Mr Dunnington who runs a home/school for unwanted by-blows of the Ton. Since graduating from his school, Raoul had reinvented himself as a dashing French actor who had taken the English stage by storm. When the story opens, he has since retired from the stage and is feeling rather restless at the moment.

When his father figure and former guardian of sorts passed away a while back, Raoul was shocked to learn that the man had successfully blackmailed Lord Merriot for £20,000. What did Dunnington know about his father that would compel his rotten sire to fork out that much money? Since he has nothing better to do, and since he really wants to know the answer, heh, Raoul decides to take a trip to Surrey, taking up residence in the cottage of his sire's neighbor and telling everyone that he is planning to unearth all the naughty details in his family for an upcoming juicy memoir. He doesn't count on his father taking this problem very seriously and taking drastic steps to ensure that Raoul will never learn of those naughty secrets.

Raoul also doesn't expect to meet and fall for the daughter of his father's late gamekeeper. Sarah Jefferson is sensible, practical, and certain that she will be a spinster, not that she is unhappy about being one. She has taken in two young boys who had been abandoned by their mother, so her life is actually pretty busy as it is. The arrival of the handsome and scandalous actor can only complicate her life, she knows, although if she is honest to herself, he is so, so attractive.

Seduce Me By Christmas reminds me a lot of Amanda Quick's early historical romances. I mean this in a good way. Raoul and Sarah have discernible, charming, and entertaining chemistry here. They are attracted to each other, but as the story progresses, they also become friends who understand each other very well as well as lovers. The very different aspects of their personalities complement each other very nicely even as there are many things they share in common. This story takes place over a time period of about two weeks, but I find the romance pretty believable.

The plot and the characters are quite predictable, but Ms Raleigh manages to put them together in a way that I find refreshing. Raoul is charming, rakish, and debonair. He's not as bad as the gossips made him out to be, for as he tells Sarah, part of playing the celebrity game is to deliberately seed the gossip mill with rumors and innuendos that enhance one's popularity. Sarah pulls her version of the Avon Romantic Boyfriend Test, where she refuses to marry him despite having put out to him because she's convinced that he doesn't love her, but on the whole, she comes off as a sensible if rather sheltered country miss who will be good for Raoul because she often keeps him grounded even as she believes in him.

Seduce Me By Christmas is a most lovely kind of romantic read, with plenty of humor and emotional drama coexisting very nicely within the pages. Not that I want to come off as too corny here, but reading this most charming book has me believing for a moment that Christmas has indeed arrived a little earlier than usual.

Rating: 88

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