One of the loveliest stories I've read in recent times, Mary Balogh's Seducing an Angel (416p, Dell, Isbn - 0440244277) is a heartfelt, tender story of two unlikely individuals falling in love against all odds. I can honestly say, it seduced me!
Warning - Spoilers ahead
Her reputation as an axe murderer preceding her, Cassandra, the recently widowed Lady Paget, arrives in London to scandalous whispers and a rapidly dwindling purse. When her only family member refuses to help her and given her violent dislike toward getting married again, a world-weary Cass decides her only option is to use her beauty and become a rich man's mistress which will gain her the funds needed to care for the motley crew of servants and pets who're her bedrock of sanity as well as a pseudo-family.
She sets her eyes on Stephen, the rich, young and incredibly attractive and angelic looking Earl of Merton. A good man, inside and out, as well as being highly eligible, Stephen is enjoying being a bachelor and isn't in the market for either a wife or a mistress. Fueled by desperation, Cass begins a bold, unsubtle campaign of seduction, starting by crashing a party thrown by Stephen's sister which Stephen is sure to attend. Stunned by Cass' bold advances, Stephen is nevertheless intrigued. He accepts her offer, but soon comes to realize he craves to unlock her secrets and give her true happiness.
What results next is a tender, romantic tale of two people falling in love against all odds.
The book deals with a lot of emotional issues like abuse, societal pressure, breaking the conventions, the process of inheritance etc. It is indicative of those times that a beautiful widow like Cassandra is forced to take up (semi-)prostitution when faced with a dismal lack of funds, instead of working. And even her governess/friend is considered ancient and not employable, all because she's in her forties. And how society swings its opinion of Cass when she's courted by an wealthy and highly-eligible suitor shows how fickle public opinion is and how easily its swayed.
What I liked is that Cassandra is actually older than Stephen, making it sort of a cougar-style romance (although I really truly hate that word 'cougar'). I especially liked that the sex scenes in the book were a part of the story and not the whole of it. They were also beautifully written and felt very natural. As is the developing romance between the lead characters. The secondary romances were also interesting. The way Stephen's family (who, I gather, have starred in their own books previously) gather around and support each other is heartwarming.
The one thing that didn't quite gel with me is the way Cassandra's scandalous past / her husband's death is finally explained away. That just didn't fit in with the image of a rich, abusive husband that we are given to expect. And the romance between her step-son and her maid - too far fetched, in my opinion, for those times, especially given his devotion and their subsequent marriage.
That apart, I'll fondly cherish this book and this romance as one of the loveliest ones I've had the pleasure of reading.
This book was received for review/feature consideration.
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