Fiction: “Beyond Seduction” by Emma Holly

I make no apologies for my reading lately. Looking back over the past few months, I’ve read some heavy shit. Sometimes my brain just needs a little candy. In addition, I’m moving a couple of towns over at the end of this month, and I’m attempting to read as many books I own during this time because if I decide I hate them, then I don’t have to pack them.

(Unfortunately, so far, that theory isn’t working, because I really liked this book.)

Over the past five years, I have accumulated a lot of historical romances that I have not yet read. In fact, let me show you them, because this will accomplish two goals: a) I get to take a funny picture of my craziness, and b) they will all be in the same place and thus, make them easier to pack:

That’s forty books I’ve bought. Of those forty, I’ve read seven. So far, I’m keeping all but three (the two by Stephanie Laurens, and The Cove, which I need to return to my mother, rather than burn it, which is what I really want to do to it.) And guys? Some are missing. I purposely didn’t include the Book From Whence My Name Derived (I can’t make it that easy for you), and I have three copies of it now (all the harder to find it, my dear!). And I could have sworn that I had purchased another Stephanie Laurens title even after the awfulness that was Devil’s Bride. Because I? Am a masochist.

A lot of those titles, I picked up because the back cover’s plot sounded so ludicrous (see Barely a Lady for a great example of this). Some I bought because it was the first in a series and I wanted to give it a shot. And here’s the part where Alaina gets distracted from her main point and goes and reads the backs of all the novels she hasn’t read to figure out why she bought them.

Interestingly enough, the majority of them involve British Lady Spies! (This will make more sense in the entry following this one.) After that, it’s either Misbehaving Duchesses, Names Spelled With ‘Y’s instead of ‘I’s, Prince of FakeCountry, or the title alone (I can’t wait to find out what The Pirate and the Pagan is about!).

Haha … I have to share this one. I’m picking up the back of a book, and it has a generic title and normal plotline, and I’m thinking to myself, “Why did I buy this?” And then I see that the male character is named the Duke of Bradford. And then I went, “Oh. Right.” And then, my brain went, “Wait — why did you buy this book?” And then I remembered: this was a purchase I made on one of my late-night Wal-Mart runs, and I was clearly sleep-deprived enough to think that reading it would be funny. Because now, in the harsh light of 1 p.m, I’m thinking, “Do I really want to read a book where the heroine could be calling out ‘Oh Bradford’ mid-coitus?” No; no I do not. And so that title has been placed in the “To Sell Back” pile, without being read. Because, again: ick.

So after all that digression, I guess I was leading to why I bought Beyond Seduction. And really, the only reason I bought it was because I had read some of Emma Holly’s novels before, and I wanted to see if she was able to translate her Midwestern Philosophy … uh, philosophy into a Regency romance.

And uh, yeah; yeah she did.

(Oh, before I get into an even longer digression, not-apologizing for reading Midwestern Philosophy, like, get over it, guys, whatever, I want to make something perfectly clear: I am not planning on ever reading Fifty Shades of Gray. Ever. The fact that it’s published Twilight-BDSM fanfiction made legit with the names changed isn’t even the whole reason I hate it on principle; I also hate it because all the feedback I’ve gotten about it from trusted friends is that it’s written horribly. Like, worse than Twilight. So no, I am not going to — I was going to make a joke about my eyeballs being raped, but then I realized that’s probably a joke that’s not in the best of taste, especially in light of recent events — hurt my eyeballs by reading it. Ever. End of story.]

unless they cast Ian Somerhalder or Michael Fassbender in the movie.

ANYWAY. WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS BOOK ABOUT, ALAINA? Oh, right; I had an actual book to actually review.

Meredith (Merry) Vance is being bullied by her mother into marrying her milquetoast friend, Ernest. Merry doesn’t want to marry; she is too independent and headstrong. So she keeps refusing Ernest. Little does she know that her mother is being blackmailed by Ernest’s father, with whom she had an affair years ago. If Merry doesn’t marry Ernest, Merry’s mother will be in big trouble.

Merry figures out how to get out of having to marry Ernest. One night, after sneaking out to do … something, I honestly can’t remember what, but she almost gets assaulted in the street, and a stranger comes out to help her. The stranger is Nicolas Craven, renowned artist. He saves her, then comments that he’d love to paint her, because she is beautiful, even though she doesn’t see it. (Do beautiful women ever see their hotness?) So she decides to pretend to visit her friend in Wales, but actually pretends to be Mary Colfax, former housemaid, and goes to be a nude model for Nicolas, knowing that she will be shamed in society and therefore, will never have to marry.

Well, needless to say she ends up falling in love with Nic, who falls in love with her right back. Nic, a known rake, is surprised to find himself actually falling in love with a woman, especially after he had loved a woman when he was younger, only to have her die after she gave birth. (There’s more the story – his father was a disgraced marquis, and he was the one who impregnated Nic’s friend, and to cover up his father’s misdeeds, Nic agreed to act as the child’s father when he really wasn’t. Nic was messed up, let’s just leave it at that.)

After the painting’s done, Nic and Merry/Mary go to Venice for a romantic vacation. It’s there that Merry’s mother sends Merry’s brothers to rescue her, for Merry’s mother saw the painting and knew it was her reckless daughter. There’s the requisite “Oh God, what have we done/how could you have fooled me like that/I’ll never trust again” crap that always happens in romance novels of this type, but in the end, Nicolas returns to his marquis-ness and then asks for Merry’s hand in marriage, at which point she does agree to marry, because let’s face it, Nic’s awesome.

True to my knowledge of her, Ms. Holly doesn’t disappoint: no vagueness, no fade-to-black, and certainly no misogyny. Merry takes her pleasure just as much as Nic takes his. But also, Merry’s character is full-formed, with nervous tics and human desires and needs. Nic as well — neither of them are cardboard cutouts, given a different gloss and a different plotline to act out. It’s a nice change of pace.

And sadly, it means I won’t be trying to sell it back. Dammit.

Grade for Beyond Seduction: 3 stars

PS – I don’t know why that title was chosen. To me, they’re just words that an editor pulled out of a hat, put together, and said voila! C’est une title!.

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