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First Comes Marriage

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The Last Waltz

More Than a Mistress

No Man's Mistress

One Night for Love

A Regency Christmas Carol

The Secret Pearl

Slightly Dangerous

Silent Melody

Simply Magic

Slightly Married

Slightly Scandalous

Slightly Sinful

Slightly Tempted

Slightly Tempted

Slightly Wicked

A Summer to Remember

The Temporary Wife

Thief of Dreams


Under the Mistletoe

Then Comes Seduction
by Mary Balogh
(Dell, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN  978-0-440-24423-3
In the first novel of Balogh's new series, First Come Marriage, Katherine Huxtable seemed the least interesting of the four Huxtable siblings.  In her own novel, April's Then Comes Seduction, this proves to be true.  During their very limited number of appearances, her brother and eldest sister both outshine the heroine.

When a drunken birthday wager drives Jasper Finley, Baron Montford, to seduce the bordering-on-spinster sister of the earl of Merton, Monty - as he's called by friends - is certain to win.  In fact, Katherine Huxtable makes it exceedingly easy on him.  Driven by some unknown emotion that even by the end of the novel still puzzles him, Jasper tells Katherine the truth, thereby earning her ire and the endless hounding of his likewise immature assortment of friends.

Three years later, the two run into one another again, though each had been much more reclusive in the ensuing years.  Jasper makes another wild wager - that he can make Katherine fall in love with him.  Though she doesn't rise to his bait, Katherine knows that she does little to dissuade him.  Unfortunately, this lack of discretion is soon reflected by the gossip about their torrid affair, which is closely followed by the emerging news of the long-ago bet. Though Jasper stopped it then from being the ruination of her reputation, there is little he can do in the wake of his relatives' horrible gossip but propose.

Katherine and her siblings are all determined that she should refuse.  However, Jasper, with a tongue apparently as silver as his own reputation is tarnished, wins her over and escorts her to his country estate, Cedarhurst, where Katherine quickly becomes a beloved mistress and eager wife.  Together, the two plan improvements, an eighteenth birthday party for Jasper's sister, and the revival of many traditions that had fallen out of favor upon the death of the previous baron.

The early demise of said baron provides much reason for introspection on Jasper's part, though he claims over and over to be the shallow sort.  Katherine, for her part, is inclined to go into lengthy soliloquies describing the virtues of love and family and does her level best to bring her husband to terms with his "troubled" childhood.

Periodically, the subjects of both nasty wagers come up and Katherine gets bent out of shape, but really the two, for all of the whining and moaning done beforehand, get along famously. Katherine settles right in to her new environment and flourishes, and all of the so-called rakehell ways Jasper boasts of so frequently seem to disappear the minute he sets foot on Cedarhurst land.

Honestly, one would have expected such settling from Kate (despite her inability to focus on one particular suitor in the previous novel), but readers expect more pluck from a guy who was supposedly such a bad boy.  He doesn't even really get even with his step-family.  On the flip side of that, there is never a proper reconciliation between him and the Huxtable family, although he came within inches of "ruining" their sister.

Unfortunately, Then Came Seduction is the occasional unpolished stone in Balogh's collection of novels.  Kate and Jasper's interactions are often rigid - not in a period sense, but in a way that indicates even the author couldn't make the two of them click.  Jasper is a charming character for the most part, but, as he often points out, not too deep.  His bride, with the exception of her dull sermons on love and cheap philosophy, is even more so.  Nonetheless, this is a Balogh novel and therefore more than readable especially considering it is the middle of a series - it just isn't exceptional in any way.

--Sarrah Knight

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