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REVIEW: The Rules of Seduction by Madeline Hunter

Dear Ms Hunter,

It was with reluctance that I tried to follow you to Regency era books. Your medievals were so good and (though I hate to admit it) the few Regency ones I tried just didn’t seem to cut it. I was disheartened. Then “The Rules of Seduction” started getting rave reviews. Jane suggested it for one of our dueling reviews and I thought, WTF, why not. So here goes.

Miss Alexia Welborne and Lord Hayden Rothwell don’t start out on the best foot. When Alexia’s father was ruined through bad investments, her cousins took her in. For a while, she had hopes that the eldest, Ben, would offer for her when he returned from fighting the Turks in Greece but when Ben was lost at sea on the way back, she abandoned those dreams. Now she finds her life about to be overturned again. Unknown to his family, cousin Tim has been stealing from the accounts of the family bank which looks like it might fail as have several others around the country. Hayden’s family has kept their massive holdings there despite rumors that it’s about to fail but when Hayden discovers the truth, he forces Tim’s hand. Tim can either sell almost everything the family owns and pay back those he swindled or Hayden will reveal his actions which could lead to Tim hanging for his crimes.

Tim takes the cowardly way out and tells his sisters and Alexia that the reason behind them losing everything they own is that Hayden did remove his family holdings from the bank. Hayden had given his word to Tim not to reveal the truth and has to endure the scorn of Alexia, her female cousins and several of his friends. With Tim out of the way, Hayden and his fellow bank manager begin to try and secretly repair the damage Tim has done. His first thoughts on meeting Alexia aren’t true love either but something about her catches Hayden’s interest. He decides to offer her a position helping to finish one of his cousins for her London Season and also to be a companion to her mother (Hayden’s aunt). Alexia wants to throw the offer in Hayden’s face but the practicality forced on her by the misfortunes of her life compels her to accept.

As the Season begins, Alexia takes up her new duties and finds herself trying to avoid Hayden while Hayden finds himself trying to see her. Their meetings usually lead to sparks and Hayden slowly sees that there is something different about this woman. She’s not the most beautiful woman of his acquaintance but she’s got depth and intelligence and for some reason, he wants her. This baffles the man who usually views the world through cool, mathmatical precision. When he finds himself comforting Alexia after she discovers some unpalatable truths, he gets his chance. Afterwards he finds himself offering her marriage. Now Alexia is really torn. Does she accept his offer and secure for herself a wealthy future free of the financial fears she’s lived under for 8 years but at the price of losing her cousins, the only family she has left? Or does she turn him down and try to carve out a precarious livelihood but one which is free of the man who ruined her cousins?

Brava for “The Rules of Seduction” which features an eminently practical heroine. One who is (Thank God) free of coyness and who doesn’t deny her sexuality. She’s practical enough not to turn down marriage just because “he doesn’t love me!” Well, as she tells him to his face, she doesn’t love him either so why let that stand in the way?

Some people might piffle about hero telling heroine what to do and not to do but the way you write it, it sounds realistic to me. Men in those days expected to take control of their wives, or at least major things like money or traveling alone around the country. Hayden allows a lot of freedoms but still will put his foot down when he feels it’s needed. And Alexia is smart enough and wise enough to figure out how to manage Hayden to get what she wants.

I enjoyed Hayden slowly discovering the fact that the logical precision involved with his beloved mathematics has no place in the feelings he’s beginning to have for his wife. And I also like the fact that though both start their marriage with the realization that they’re not in love, the love that does follow is based not just on the satisfying physical aspects they share but also on the emotional ties that slowly form. Theirs is a love I have more belief in and a future I have more faith in.

I do have one quibble though. Why do so many English villains end up shipping off for America? They wreak havoc in England then at the end of the book, the English characters satisfyingly send them off to us. Thanks but you can keep your own bank swindlers and other assorted criminals. B+ for “The Rules of Seduction.”

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

15 Comments

  1. TaraMarie
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 09:06:23

    Jayne, I’m curious to see what Jane has to say about this book. Like you I enjoyed it. Found it very character driven. It seems to me Ms. Hunter has finally found her Regency niche. Sophisticated, smart, character driven stories.

    Though I did find the name Hayden distracting (kept thinking of Craig T. Nelson’s Coach. And I found Ms. Hunter a little heavy handed with Hayden’s honor at all cost attitude.

  2. Avaron Dale
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 09:42:26

    I hate regency set books for just this reason. Many authors forget that by the Regency period, the US had establshed a set of immigration laws prohibiting the immigration of convits and ‘undesireables’ to the country. Part of why Australia was settled – it became the new ‘convict dumping ground’ after the US became an independant nation.

    Okay – History lesson over. :wink: This is also why I don’t read many pieces of historical fiction. Being a trained historian, I end up bitching about all the factual errors that are occuring.

    Avaron

  3. Jane
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 10:12:59

    This isn’t a Regency. It’s set in early Victorian England against the backdrop the bank crisis. I don’t know whether immigration laws were in place at that time or not.

  4. Jayne
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 10:18:19

    The closest I could pin the date to was 1828. I can’t remember what gave me the 1820 date but Hunter sets the events here 8 years past around then.

    Avaron, I’m totally with you. Diana Norman does this in Catch of Consequence and it drove me nuts, even though America was still the Colonies then. I just hate the thought of villains being dumped somewhere (anywhere) else and not having to face the consequences of their actions.

    Ok, rant over too. ;)

  5. Jayne
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 10:20:34

    I found Ms. Hunter a little heavy handed with Hayden’s honor at all cost attitude.

    Well, I could live with it. So many books have the hero spouting on about his honor yet ending up doing things I find slightly dishonorable. Especially the “revenge” plot books.

  6. Avaron Dale
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 10:26:51

    [quote comment="16927"]This isn’t a Regency. It’s set in early Victorian England against the backdrop the bank crisis. I don’t know whether immigration laws were in place at that time or not.[/quote]

    They were – the earliest were passed just after the War of 1812 (which for the record occured in 1814. :wink: ) continuning every few years until the modern ‘quota system’ was set in place in 1924, which was reconfirmed in the fifties.

    [quote comment="16932"]Avaron, I’m totally with you. Diana Norman does this in Catch of Consequence and it drove me nuts, even though America was still the Colonies then. I just hate the thought of villains being dumped somewhere (anywhere) else and not having to face the consequences of their actions.[/quote]

    You can be a bit reassured by the fact that historically those transported were completely exiled… no chance at returning home to familiar things and family. In the earliest times, when the Americas were still The Colonies, this was to rugged wilderness with no supplies and no support, they had to rough it. I guess to the English it was the equilivant of a death sentence without them actually having to kill anyone. :wink:

    Avaron

  7. Jane
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 10:47:17

    Especially the “revenge" plot books.

    Did you feel like this was a revenge plot book because I totally missed on that.

  8. TaraMarie
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 11:24:39

    So many books have the hero spouting on about his honor yet ending up doing things I find slightly dishonorable.

    You’re probably right. Maybe the problem was more that Alexia took so long to figure it out.

    Jane, no this one wasn’t a revenge story, I think maybe Jayne meant revenge stories in general.

    Isn’t it funny the things that bug us. I knew the shipping of villains to America was inaccurate, but it didn’t bother me.

  9. Jane
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 11:28:53

    Maybe if I knew that it was illegal, it would bother me, but alas, it didn’t.

  10. Jayne
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 13:22:42

    TaraMarie is correct. I was refering to revenge plots in general and not to this book. Sorry about the miscommunication.

  11. Keishon
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 15:53:56

    WeLLLLLLL,

    I haven’t really read much by Ms. Hunter and I did enjoy one book by her that I just loved which was BY DESIGN, some eons ago. I remember having to skim a copule of pages of her love scenes because they went on forEVER.

  12. Keishon
    Dec 28, 2006 @ 15:56:48

    copule of pages

    Ack! Typo. My bad. Sorry. That should read “couple”.

  13. Shay
    Dec 29, 2006 @ 06:42:02

    Ah…I don’t know if I can handle Hunter anymore. The way the plot is just so drawn out in her books irks me, and the internal analyzation of the characters makes me fall asleep. There’s just something so plodding about her prose and despite the “slow burn” between the h/h, the way they leap into those long-ass love scenes always came across as contrived to me. I’ve read her entire “Seducer” series and her last Medieval(that made me so mad!! *g*), but something about the way she writes exhausts me.

  14. Jane
    Dec 29, 2006 @ 10:47:46

    Shay – I think you would want to skip this one because there is ALOT of internal analysis. I love it when it is done right, but can see some people’s problems with it.

  15. Suburbanbushbabe
    May 01, 2007 @ 02:59:49

    I haven’t read a truly satisfying Hunter since The Charmer, but I loved this one just as much.

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