Alden Granville-Strachan, Viscount Gracechurch, finds himself abnormally befuddled and completely destitute at the end of a night of gaming. The new owner of all his assets, Lord Edward Vane, offers once last bet: his IOUs plus £5,000 if Alden succeeds in seducing the widow Juliet Seton within the week, bringing back her locket as proof. Alden, a noted rake, readily agrees to the wager.
Juliet is a no-nonsense kind of woman. She has lived in her small village for five years and has a reputation in the town for being very private and standoffish. Alden enters her garden and deliberately induces a bee sting, though he almost died from a sting as a child. Almost against her will, Juliet nurses him and even agrees to a game of chess when he is feeling better and a thunderstorm delays his departure later that afternoon.
During the game, Alden offers a wager of his own; if he wins, he and Juliet will play one game a day for the rest of the week. She loses, and though she is very wary of Alden and suspicious of his motives, she is also starved for intellectual stimulation, her companion having died the previous year. Thus begins Alden and Juliet's dance of seduction, but just who is seducing whom is sometimes in question.
Unknown to Alden, he is merely a pawn in a much bigger game of revenge plotted by lord Edward, a revenge which had its beginnings long before Alden sat down to the card table.
These are two very complex and interesting characters. They are not at all perfect people, each are flawed in very realistic ways. Alden is hedonistic and vain; Juliet is bitter and resentful.
Juliet is a mystery to Alden, one he is determined to solve. She is obviously a lady, but she lives alone, keeping her own house. Juliet quickly sizes Alden up as a rake, though not an ordinary one. He is almost foppish in appearance, favoring the exotic satins and high heels of the Georgian era. Alden's particular affectation is lace. Lots of lace. Lace garnered from his previous conquests. Lace foams and spills over his wrists and neck. It is to Julia Ross' credit that he still manages to be a very masculine and sexy character despite it.
The first half of the book is very character driven, as we get to know Alden and Juliet and their motivations. The second half is plot driven, with wheels within wheels and plots and counterplots spinning in abundance. But because the first half of the book is so character-centered, and we have gotten to know Alden and Juliet so well, we are not overwhelmed by the second half and all its machinations.
It's been a long time since I've read a Georgian set romance I enjoyed as much. I highly recommend The Seduction.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, August 18, 2002