The Bride Hunt

Bride of Windermere

The Perfect Seduction
by Margo Maguire
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-083732-2
What were they thinking when they titled this book The Perfect Seduction? There is no seduction here – there is thinly disguised illegitimate use of power, trickery, and stupidity. Oh, and two near-rapes in the first 20 pages. Charming.

Edric of Braxton Fell is the would-be seducer. A Saxon, he fought with the Norman conquerors and was awarded a property, and a Norman wife, of his own. In return, he’s to guard the northern border from raiding Scots. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t get a very good deal: the wife, Cecily, is a cold, cruel, heartless bitch who so despises the Saxons that she doesn’t try to learn their language and even attempts to rid herself of Edric’s child by throwing herself down a staircase.

The marauding Scots torched Braxton’s fields and stole their livestock, so his people are practically starving, and his appeals for assistance to his father-in-law and William the Conqueror have been denied. He and his party are out chasing down the raiding Ferguson family when they happen upon the Scots and their captive, a lovely Norman miss about to be raped. The Scots are killed or disbursed, and custody of the captive falls to the Saxons.

That captive is Kathryn de St. Marie, daughter of the Norman Baron of Kettwyck. Kathryn was newly arrived at Kettwyck from the Norman convent where she had been schooled. The Scots’ raid on her family home found her outside the keep and she was taken captive. Unfortunately, just about the last words she heard at Kettwyck were from the ladies discussing how the shame of a woman taken captive by the Scots should lead her to throw herself off a cliff rather than return to her home. Kathryn takes that message to heart and, when she and Edric get around to the introductions, she announces that she is, um…Kate, from, um…Rushton. There is no point in her going home in disgrace; she plans to ask Edric if his men could escort her to a nearby convent.

Conveniently, however, in Edric’s absence from Braxton Fell, the wretched Cecily has died in childbirth, and his newborn and slightly premature son is squirming, ignored, on his mother’s deathbed. Kate takes up the infant and gets him to take a bottle, a feat no other had managed, and it’s clear Edric’s going to keep her at Braxton for as long as it takes to get his son settled. No one at the keep is pleased with this state of affairs, as their only exposure to Norman women had been Cecily and the nasty witch of a former nursemaid who accompanied her. But Kate has such a way with the newborn, knows the Saxon’s language, and actually goes out of her way to get to know Edric’s people that soon it appears that Edric, his steward and priest – are the only ones left who can’t see her as an individual, but rather as a Norman wench, albeit a wench to whom Edric is unaccountably attracted. He has little trouble charming her into his bed. Unfortunately, he continues to be such a pig to her out of bed that the imbalance in their relationship is almost distasteful. She believes herself to be unable to return home, unfit to be a wife to any honorable man, and so is at more than a little disadvantage here.

This is where the story runs into serious trouble – Edric and Kathryn turn out to be too stupid, and too stubborn, to live. Alright, already: Cecily was a stone bitch, but the constant “Norman women this” and “Norman women that” gets old real quick. Everyone else can see beyond that label – why can’t the guy who is in bed with her, and whose son she is lovingly treating as if he were her own, see that too? And Kathryn: to base your decisions, in fact to shape your entire future, based on a few comments you overheard, is beyond idiotic. There is no reason whatsoever for her to put up with Edric’s piggish behavior – oh, aside from the captive and unworthy thing.

These characters made the book such a disappointment, as the historical information, while not painstakingly detailed, seemed accurate enough, the plot – aside from the major romance – was plausible enough, and the secondary romance, while largely off-screen, was sweet. An effort at a perfect seduction, rather than a pigheaded abuse of power and a mindless devotion to stupidity, would have been lovely as well.

--Laura Scott

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