My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In Brenda Joyce’s latest novel, Seduction, Julianne Greystone is the youngest daughter of an impoverished aristocratic English family. She is also a passionate supporter of The Jacobin Club, one of the most famous and radical political clubs of the French Revolution. It is no surprise then that Julianne immediately falls for the handsome freedom fighter, Charles Maurice, after her older brothers deposit the wounded man at the Greystone mansion for Julianne to nurse back to health.
What the naive Julianne doesn’t know is that her patient is really Dominic Paget, the Earl of Bedford, who is leading a double life as a French printer in Paris while spying for England. Paget wakes up from his near-death injury without remembering how he got to Greystone and unsure how much of his identity he should reveal to his gorgeous nurse. As an Earl, Paget would never impose himself upon an innocent like Julianne. However, as a French rebel, Paget is swept up by Julianne’s passionate heart and loses himself to the fantasy that the two can have a brief affair.
The French Revolution is an interesting setting for this novel. As Seduction is published, the world is acknowledging the one year anniversary of the 2011 revolutions in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries. While Facebook and Twitter trumpet sensational war stories about the birth of freedom in country after country, Joyce’s novel quietly reminds us that while freedom is always a worthy goal, revolution ALWAYS comes with a price and human flaws. War is brutal; regardless of the cause. Paget’s role on both sides of the French Revolution provides a looking-glass perspective at war and those caught up in movement of causes. Julianne is the narrow innocent binoculars that expects only good to come from standing up for a cause. Ultimately, Paget has to turn the looking-glass on himself and Julianne has to expand her view of the world if these two lovers want to find a way to stay together.
When Joyce stays focused on her characters and the romance plot the story is gripping. As only Joyce can, readers will immediately find themselves standing in each character’s shoes contemplating each decision made as if it were their own. Where Seduction lost me was whenever Joyce tried to map out the history of the French Revolution within her story. Not having a great understanding of the battlefields and conflicts of the revolution myself, I found the few specific war references scattered in the second half of the novel more confusing than educational.
Battlefield Chess Board
As this is Joyce’s first installment in her series, The Spymaster’s Men, I hope that the subsequent books provide an educational approach to French Revolution battles and provide the significance of the locations in French geography. Maybe the Preface should include a map of France with the battle locations identified for those of us who are geographically challenged. Much like I can’t understand the chessboard moves listed in the newspaper, coming into a war in the middle and not understanding the geography puts me and most readers at a big disadvantage that no author can overcome with a few sentences about who moved where.
If these battles truly have no impact on the particular story, I pray that Joyce avoids the trap that Seduction fell into and leaves the specifics of the war to the history books. I’d prefer to find a scene simply set in a generic battlefield without trying to understand the two or three moves by the government and the rebels that led to that confrontation. Those movements become red herrings that take me out of the fantasy of the story. I prefer to focus on Joyce’s talents which shine the most when focused on characters and plot conflict.
Seduction and Spymasters
Establishing a new series isn’t always easy. Authors have to balance the weight of the individual story with a foundation for future work. Seduction is a well-crafted story that provides Joyce with a wide variety of launching points for future work. Julianne has older brothers and an older sister that readers only meet in Seduction as necessary to ground Julianne’s story. However any long time fan of Joyce can see that she is planting seeds that are going to grow into fascinating stories of their own. I’m already looking forward to the next installment in this series as the plots and characters can only get more complicated.
Appropriately titled, Seduction will pull you in immediately and not let you go until you are satisfied. Joyce is a master of romance as she first sketches the characters and their desires and then she sets the match to a wood pile of passion that she has stored up. Readers will discover a greater understanding for our world and the challenges that we all face in life within this enjoyable story.
- Persuasion by Brenda Joyce (book #2)
- Surrender (book#3)
- Joyce, Brenda. Seduction, Mass Market Paperback. January 31, 2012. ISBN13: 9780373776559
- Official Brenda Joyce website