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REVIEW: A Study in Seduction by Nina Rowan

Dear Ms. Rowan:

I admit passing this book over because lately historical romances have such a sameness to them, that I felt like I’ve read all the stories before.  However, the review at JenniferRNN’s site intrigued me and I found the book on NetGalley, allowing me to try the book out for free.

The heroine, Lydia Kellaway, is a math prodigy. She thinks of everything in terms of solvable math theorems, including the non rational concept of love. Because she can’t fathom how she allowed what she thought to be love to lead her so astray, Lydia tries to analyze it, solve the problem of it. But her working theorems are rattled when she meets Alexander, Lord Northwood.

The pleasure of being loved. R = Return.
The reaction to the partner’s appeal. I = Instinct.
The process of forgetting. O = Oblivion.
If she made certain assumptions on the behavior of the individuals and assigned variables to a positive linear system, and the linear model of x1(t) = –?1×1(t) + ?1×2(t)
The pleasure of being loved.

A Study in Seduction Nina RowanAlexander is fighting to regain respectability for his family.  His Russian mother doomed them when she ran off with a Russian lover. Two of his brothers are still in Russia and there are rumblings in Britain that the Russians pose a threat to Britain’s security.  Thus scandal and questionable alliances place Alexander’s family in jeopardy.  Alexander has two goals: marry his sister off well and pull off a magnificent display for the Society of Arts exhibition, one that he is funding largely himself.

Alexander is intrigued by Lydia whom he meets when she comes to retrieve a locket that had been pawned by her grandmother.  He hadn’t considered marriage for himself, but if he had to marry why not someone like Lydia whose intellect interests him as much as her pleasant form.

Lydia is presented as a socially awkward individual. She seeks refuge in her math at all time, often repeating math theorems in her head to calm herself. She has a limited social circle comprised primarily of her younger preteen sister, her grandmother, and a number of mathematics scholars.  Alexander challenges her but even when she would like to relent, she feels that she cannot.  Her past holds a scandal that would ruin all of Alexander’s plans.  There is a real impediment to the two of them being together so long as maintaining his position in society is important.  The barrier, however, is not revealed until late in the book and I felt that Lydia’s actions and behaviors would have been more understandable if we had been let in on the secret earlier.

A mystery subplot involving Lydia’s younger sister and an unnamed person (likely a male) adds an ominous tone to the story.  While it was resolved without harm to the young girl, I felt like the tension was forced when the reveal came about. Why now was a question that went unanswered.

The ending kind of unspooled rather quickly and while I liked the unconventional resolution, I felt more time could have been spent with both characters coming to terms with the reveal and conclusion.  There is a lot of familiar ground here, but Lydia’s character was different enough to engage my interest. I don’t know the first thing about math and I don’t think you need to understand it to appreciate the book.  B-

Best regards,

Jane

 

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

5 Comments

  1. Kim
    Sep 21, 2012 @ 12:25:35

    Although I thought it was a good story, there were a few weak spots. There was such a build-up with the villain and then his actions at the exhibit were over-the-top. Someone that smart became rather a caricature of the evil villain. Also, as I commented to you on Twitter, I thought more should have been made of the fact that Alexander and his brother participated in trade. The book takes place at the beginning of the Victorian Era, not at the end, so I think there would still have been a stigma. This seemed an important a point since Alexander wanted to be accepted back into Society. Finally, although I liked the older Lydia, I didn’t care for her 16 year old self. For me, her youth didn’t really excuse her actions and her confession had a rather contemporary feel to it. All that said, it was a promising debut.

  2. Sunita
    Sep 21, 2012 @ 14:09:46

    @Kim: Just a heads-up. Nina Rowan is not a debut author. She has published several other books under different names.

  3. Kim
    Sep 21, 2012 @ 14:55:42

    @Sunita: Now that you mention it, I think I heard that. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Dabney
    Sep 21, 2012 @ 16:30:21

    @Kim: I too felt this book was weaker than its rep. Alexander was not a consistent character for me–and his lust/love for Lydia didn’t quite work for me. I also found her big realization about the relationship of math to love to be a bit much. I loved the idea of a mathematical heroine, but Lydia didn’t quite work for me.

  5. cleo
    Sep 21, 2012 @ 17:58:07

    I swear I read a Lisa Kleypas novella with a mathematical genius heroine named Lydia (think her nickname was Lydia Logarithms). Not that there can’t be two of them, just strikes me as funny.

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