The Seduction of Lady Phoebe
by Ella Quinn
(Kensington, $15, PG-13) ISBN 978-1601832139
***
The Seduction of Lady Phoebe is author Ella Quinn’s first book, and there are definite rays of talent showing. The rather creative premise only works, however, by making the heroine inconsistent to the point of annoyance.

Lord Marcus Finley, indolent second son, is about to be sent to the West Indies by his exasperated father in an attempt to keep him out of trouble and help him to grow up. Attending one final house party, Marcus is instantly besotted by pretty, young Phoebe Stanhope, who romanticizes their budding friendship. When he corners her in a drunken haze and attempts to kiss her, Phoebe is thoroughly disillusioned. She punches him in the face and breaks his nose before fleeing to her room. Devastated, Marcus departs.

Phoebe, whose progressive parents have raised their daughters to ride, fence, shoot, and even carry knives to defend themselves, finds “her innocence shattered” by this encounter, yet she confides in no one but her maid. Given that she’s all of fifteen, readers will likely forgive this bit of teenaged drama.

Fast-forward eight years, and Marcus is back in England, older and a lot wiser. He’s never forgotten Phoebe, and hopes to make her acquaintance again, beg her forgiveness, and get her to marry him. The fact that he knew her for only a few days, has been away from her for eight years, and still plans to marry her may be a bit hard for readers to accept, but I went along with it. Phoebe, however, was so traumatized by their encounter that she has basically sworn off men completely. Now 23, she’s such a renowned driver that men seek her out to sell her their horses. She can ride, shoot, fence, etc. but one unwanted attempt at a kiss eight years earlier has marked her for life. She will never forgive Marcus; he’s a despicable cad, bounder, and all-around scoundrel! At this point, Phoebe is happy to describe their previous encounter to anyone who will listen.

So there’s the setup. The story only moves forward because Phoebe, portrayed as strong and self-reliant enough to carry weapons, break a man’s nose, and expertly drive her own high-perch phaeton, is determined to nurse a grudge for a minor injustice done her years before. Marcus will spend three-quarters of the book attempting to prove he’s trustworthy, while Phoebe alternately lusts after him and pushes him away. To flesh out this rather thin plot, the author introduces a villain, but his moves are telegraphed in advance so there is little tension built by his appearance.

I enjoyed some of the secondary characters; at least one of Phoebe’s friends is destined to get her own story, and I’m looking forward to it. And Ms. Quinn includes a lot of obscure Regency cant, which was a novelty. Marcus and Phoebe, however, didn’t enthrall me. He was too saintly in his pursuit of her, and she was just plain annoying. I kept hoping he’d get fed up with her histrionics and walk away, thereby making her have to chase him. It was no more than she deserved.

That said, I encourage readers who like Regency-set historicals to give The Seduction of Lady Phoebe a try. You may enjoy Phoebe more than I did.

--Cathy Sova


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