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.”