Burning Tigress

White Tigress
Wicked Surrender

Wicked Seduction
by Jade Lee
(Berkley, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-425-24015-1
Wicked Seduction opens seven years after the conclusion of Lee’s last book, Wicked Surrender, in which young Kit Frazier was thrown aboard a ship bound for the Colonies to get him away from the woman he loved, Scher Martin. Scher married her lover, Kit’s cousin, and readers were left to wonder what happened to Kit.

Plenty, as it turns out. Kit ended up abducted by pirates and sold into slavery, where he spent several hellish years before escaping. Now he has made his way back to England with a young boy in tow whom he rescued from a similar fate. Kit’s family believes he is dead, and Kit has one thing on his mind: discovering why his family refused to pay his ransom when he was first captured.

Kit confronts his pompous cousin Michael, the head of the family, at a ladies’ tea, and is stunned when Michael admits he just didn’t bother to pay the ransom because, well, it was a lot of money and he figured if he stalled, the pirates would come down in price. The pain of this betrayal leads to a fistfight, broken up by a plainly dressed woman who is attending the tea as a chaperone.

Madeline Wilson is no stranger to hard times herself. She lives on the charity of her uncle and cousin, acting as their housekeeper, accountant, and chaperone to cousin Rose, who is a beautiful but brainless debutante. When Kit launches himself at Michael and proceeds to pound him into the carpet, Maddy impulsively enters the fray as the rest of the ladies swoon. Nobody is more surprised than Kit, and also intrigued.

Maddy is desperate to find a way out of her uncle’s house, as he’s started making improper advances toward her. Kit is very, very attractive, and they strike up an easy friendship, but he’s haunted by his years as a slave and is sure he’s not fit for any woman. Modern readers will recognize all the signs of post-traumatic stress, but to Maddy and Kit, his sudden lapses into a kind of catatonic shock are troubling. Maddy won’t give up on Kit, however, and he finds himself relying more and more on her steadiness and sensibility. Soon their thoughts turn toward a more physical relationship. But Maddy needs a husband, and Kit refuses to consider marriage.

Maddy and Kit are immensely likable characters. Her common sense and lack of vanity are refreshing; she has a clear understanding of her limitations in Society and is willing to settle for a kind man who will treat her decently. Feeling she has little to lose while she looks around for a likely man to marry, she gladly becomes Kit’s friend and confidant. Soon Kit finds he needs Maddy in his life, and while he believes it would be very wrong to marry her, he can’t let her go.

It would have been easy for the author to overplay the “I’ll never marry anyone” aspect of the story, but here it’s given sold ground on which to stand. Kit has some very real problems to confront, and until he can convince himself he’s not going insane, his refusal to trap Maddy seem noble, not contrived. He truly cares for her and doesn’t want to place her in harm’s way. True, they are physically attracted to each other, but the story rests on their growing friendship. These two are exactly right together.

The secondary cast added to the story without getting in the way. Maddy’s uncle is rather vile, and her cousin Rose is a twit, but she’s not vindictive, just immature and spoiled. Rose does care for Maddy and has a generous streak toward her at times. Her scheming is more comic relief than anything to be taken seriously, and Maddy can see through her in a heartbeat, which helps propel the story forward in a few places.

The story seemed to take a bit long to get where it needed to go, and I had to resist the urge to skip ahead in a few spots. Overall, Wicked Seduction is a satisfying follow up to Wicked Surrender, and readers who enjoyed the previous story are going to find this one just as entertaining. Jade Lee has a gift for creating unusual plots with unique characters. She’s definitely found a place on my bookshelf.

--Cathy Sova

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