Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-345-46121-5
Historical Romance, 2005
It’s nice to see that Jillian Hunter is still writing and her silence all this while is due to publisher switch. However, The Seduction of an English Scoundrel suffers the same problems that inflict many three-books-in-three-months Regency historical romances out there: the finished product will be great if the author spends more time on polishing it. This book feels rushed, the plot comes off as ill thought-out, and it seems that as long as the plot has scenes that are faithful to the Clichéd Scenarios handbook, it’s okay if the plot is ill-executed.
Lady Jane Welsham is supposed to marry Nigel Boscastle but the bridegroom fails to show up on the big day. Jane isn’t heartbroken, however: she and Nigel don’t really want to marry each other. Nigel loves (and has impregnated) the woman that used to be his governess (why do I have a feeling that this would be an interesting story?) so Jane helps him elope with this woman while she generously faces the gossips and scandal that will be unleashed upon her. This is my first problem with the story: Jane says that she values her freedom, but it becomes very apparent that she has no idea what she is talking about. She has no true idea of what social ostracization means. The fact that this woman would pull off a stunt like this in a half-hearted manner with her never coming up with any Plan B means that I have a hard time believing other characters in this story when they praise Jane’s intelligence.
Nigel’s cousin Grayson Boscastle, the Marquess of Bancroft, was once a notorious rake now forced to be in a responsible position after he inherited the title from his late father through the now-common method of ascension for dissipated rakes destined for redemption by sleeping with a ninny virgin: the death of the eldest sibling. Thinking that he should try to keep the family’s good name by making amends with the Welshams, he offers to bring Jane about to Society to show people that Jane is still a marriageable woman despite being jilted at the altar. Alas, attraction between our two key players soon complicate what is supposed to be a simple charade.
I have another problem with the story when Grayson is left alone with Jane by her family after they have ranted and railed about what dissipated rakes the Boscastle men are – that’s a family, I tell you – where he then proceeds to move closer towards second base with Jane. Huh? That’s not taking into the fact that Jane keeps the secret of her role in Nigel’s elopement from Grayson and Grayson predictably learning of this before she can find the time or the courage to come clean to him. This leads to a very contrived “fake mistress” turn of event that does not make sense at all. What kind of father will agree to Grayson telling everyone that Jane is his mistress, even if this father wants to teach Jane a lesson for breaking her own wedding plans? The same father who was furious when Nigel went MIA on the wedding day and fretted that her daughter’s reputation is ruined irreparably, mind you!
While this book has many familiar elements about the characters and plot, they don’t fit together as well as they should. Like the examples I’ve mentioned, there are many things about the characters’ actions and motivations or the things they do that don’t make much sense and crop up just to keep the story going somehow. A predictable and formulaic book is one thing, but one that feels cobbled-together in the shortest time possible to meet some deadline is another thing altogether.
The one really good thing in this story is Grayson’s developing attraction to Jane. It is a joy to follow his amusing yet romantic thought processes as he lumbers from pure lust to deeper appreciation to the various facets of Jane’s character that make him appreciate her for everything she is. His views of Jane make Jane come off as someone more complex and fascinating than the stereotypical two-dimensional good girl Jane actually is. Another thing I like about this story is how Jane can feel lust, or at least appreciation, for Grayson’s physical appearance in a frank and upfront manner to herself. While she should ask for advice more often when it comes to making decisions about her life, Jane is honest to herself when it comes to why she is attracted to Grayson. She doesn’t try to pretend that his rakish reputation isn’t without appeal and neither does she pretend that she’s hanging out with Grayson out of duty or guilt. These two characters would make a fine couple in a better story.
There are some great chuckle-inducing scenes here and there are two likable main characters with great chemistry. Also, Grayson Boscastle is a memorable character who is rakish without being toxic or distastefully misogynistic in the process. His falling in love is one of the best things to read about in this book. However, the hastily clobbered-together plot and the contrived manner in which the author throws Grayson and Jane together do the characters a disservice. The Seduction of an English Scoundrel could have been so much more but it isn’t, so it’s inevitable that I have to feel disappointed instead of satisfied at the end of the day.