Seduced at Sunset

Seduced at Sunset coverSeduced at Sunset, by Julianne MacLean, is a 2013 release, and the sixth of the Pembroke Palace series, a mix of novels, novellas, and shorts. Some, including this one, are self-published, but others are published by Avon. I haven’t read any others. This one was a freebie I picked up from the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada table at this year’s Word on the Street. Yes, another local author, which means I’m biased to be nice, because 1) Buy Local and 2) I might meet her in person at a future event.

This is a Regency romance, and when I hit the first sex scene I did a little online research. There is a variation known as Sensual Regency. This allows for the “casual sex leads to love” plot line in a Regency setting, and a more independent woman than I am used to seeing in these novels. I’m not sure if her sexual desire, and willingness to act upon it, is a modern sensibility or a more realistic one, but I suspect the latter.

Charlotte is in her thirties. Many years ago, her fiance died and she lost the child they had conceived. However, she’s fabulously rich, titled, and is also a successful author (under a pen name).  She’s more or less resigned to the single life, but occasionally misses, shall we say, a man’s touch. She meets Drake, also older, also fabulously rich, and also single. His wife died from an ectopic pregnancy. He’s home in London from America for the summer. Charlotte proposes an affair.

It’s a thin plot, and the story events are a series of clandestine meetings. Complicating and enriching the story is a subplot about Charlotte’s attempt to reconnect her widowed mother with an old lover.

I have mixed feelings about Seduced at Sunset. Not much is at stake for these characters, and there’s not a lot of character growth required for them to make the affair permanent. Their past losses explain their single status, but do not make them fear another commitment. Lack of character growth is a common problem in stories where character interaction takes place largely in bed. There are also a lot of coincidences. I can accept some – there have been some remarkable coincidences in my own love life – but they are easier to accept at the set up than at the climax.

On the other hand, I admire Charlotte’s independence and commitment, and Drake is as heroic as they come. There’s some great dialogue as they are setting up their initial encounters, and some fun details around how one conducts an affair in this time period – everything from undergarments that don’t require a maid’s help to birth control by withdrawal to secret passages.

I must award bonus points (metaphorically, since I don’t use a point scale) for a detail of Charlotte’s background. We learn at the beginning that she is an illegitimate child. Her father is the old lover that she is trying to set up with her mother, but he is courting another woman. The entire story takes place in a context where love is tricky. It sometimes disappoints, sometimes endures, and is sometimes misdirected. Although the focus of the story is lust, it acknowledges both teenage passion and the quiet love that lasts through frustrations and other relationships.

If I meet MacLean in person one day, I can honestly tell her I enjoyed this book, even though it was not quite to my taste. I’m planning to read at least one more of hers, to see how she handles plot and character in other stories.