Amethyst

Emerald

Lost in Temptation

Violet

 
Tempting Juliana by Lauren Royal
(Signet Eclipse, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0451-21824-8
***
Generally appealing, Tempting Juliana is a story of a meddlesome girl and a relatively sane gentleman finding their way to romance and love. There is a lot going on with a variety of characters’ happiness all hinging on the outcome of Juliana’s matchmaking attempts, yet the story bogs down at times because there is a lot of talk but little actually happening. Despite this paradox, I did enjoy it.

Juliana Chase is the second daughter of a dead Earl. Due to a string of deaths in the family, she has not had her come-out yet. Her brother Griffin is giving her a season so that she will marry, allowing him to marry off his third sister next year. While Juliana has a choice, at age twenty-three her time is running out. But Juliana is determined to marry only for love. Over the years Juliana has developed her sense of helpfulness. She is caring and determined to do something good for people. Her latest project is to sew all the garments needed for the Foundling Home. That means she needs 340 items of baby clothes or accessories within one month. She elicits help in sewing from her sisters, aunts, and any fashionable lady she can coerce into sewing.

At the same time, Juliana must attend balls and soirees to find a spouse. There is one man she is looking at in a positive manner. He is the Duke of Castleton. While David is rather stiff and standoffish, he does seem interested. (The reader is aware that interest is primarily due to a fast race horse that Griffin has promised as part of the dowry, but Juliana is unaware of that fact).

Juliana also has met James Trevor, the Earl of Stafford. She is attracted to him, but convinces herself that she and he would not mix well. However, they befriend each other. James is a widower, who became a doctor before assuming the title. He is a second son and inherited only after his brother died. James’ passion is to eradicate smallpox by vaccinating all the children he can. When he is not sitting in the House of Lords, he is operating a clinic which offers free vaccines to all the poor people.

The basis of the plot is Juliana’s matchmaking. Her friend Amanda tells her that she has been betrothed and will be forced to marry Lord Marmsley, a man in his forties who is nice, but definitely too old. Amanda is also somewhat of a wallflower and a very rigid person. Juliana decides that they must find someone to compromise Amanda, thus forcing a marriage with a younger man. She picks James to be that younger man. Feeling guilty for then ruining Lord Marmsley’s life, she pairs him up with her like-aged spinster aunt. Since Juliana has decided that she will marry the Duke, everyone will live happily ever after.

But things don’t work out as she plans, especially when James, who is unaware of the plot to force him into marriage, actually falls for Juliana and sets out to convince her that he is the man of her dreams, not the Duke.

The story is fun at times, when all these machinations by all the different people create conflicts. Poor Juliana tries to do everything for everyone else but realizes that she may just be making things worse. Complications do abound, including her quest to get these clothes made, and how it all works out is rather amazing to see.

Unfortunately for the reader, there is a lot of unnecessary personal angst that detracts from the fun. Juliana ruminates and worries to herself excessively. James also spends a lot of time plotting in his mind. While all this is going on, the story just plods along. It is when James and Juliana are face to face, and when the sequence of events moves to the conclusion that the story is good. There are even some unexpected twists that add to the sense of frivolity.

This is the second in a trilogy, but Tempting Juliana stands alone with one small exception. Griffin is in contact with his cousin Rachel, who apparently discovered in the first installment that her father is not really her father. Griffin offers to help her find her real father, which I assume sets up a plot line for the next story. It is rather distracting in this one, having no connection to Juliana and James.

Tempting Juliana is a cute tale if one can muddle through some of the inner struggles going on in the minds of the characters and concentrate instead on the fun interactions that create the romance.

--Shirley Lyons


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