Title: The Study of Seduction
Author: Sabrina Jeffries
**Trigger Warning** This book deals a lot with rape and, to a lesser extent, stalking. The stalking I gathered from the book blurb, but I did not have any inkling based on the blurb about the brutal rape that would be rehashed repeatedly when I bought this book. I am giving fair warning as I am going to discuss it in this review as it was an integral part of the book.
This is a historical romance novel that centers around a French diplomat wanting to wed the heroine, Clarissa, and his willingness to go to any length to do so.
Edwin, an earl who’s been friends with Clarissa’s family since childhood, does not believe in love and is looking for a “comfortable” bride. He is attracted to Clarissa but knows she will be anything but comfortable. As the diplomat gets more aggressive, Edwin marries Clarissa to protect her.
Clarissa is hiding a dark secret. The back of the book alludes to this. What it doesn’t tell you is that she was brutally raped at her society debut by a man trying to force her to marry him so he could get her fortune. Her brother duels the rapist, kills him, then her brother flees to the Continent to avoid the repercussions as he won’t say why they dueled. After the rape, Clarissa has avoided all relations with men. Even with the patient and gentle Edwin after they’re married, she can’t bring herself to have marital relations with him.
The author does eventually get the heroine over this and there is a happily ever after ending. As I have never endured such a vicious attack, I have no idea if Clarissa’s responses are “normal”. What I can say is that it made the book almost unreadable to me.
- I adored Edwin. He was a quirky, fun male lead. The author did a great job showing his personality. I never had to be told he was smart or generous. I saw that in the books he read, his ability to build automatons, and his interest in a boy’s charity school. I loved how he could be blunt to the point of rude. Logical (his take on picnics) and forthright. He was protective without being overbearing. A solid alpha lead without being a jerk. I really liked him, as you can tell.
- Steamy scenes were well done when they weren’t being overshadowed by the heroine’s fear. If I had known there was a rape in the book, I’d never have bought it.
- Romance pace was quite good. The pair start out as friends and their relationships grows believably over the course of the story. By the end, they both know and admit that they are in love with the other. I appreciate this far more than the “love at first site” or “soul mates” tropes.
- Genuine love and respect grew between between the characters. It was, not sweet, not exactly, but kind and loving. A romance instead of lust.
- Clarissa felt flat even while Edwin really took on a life of his own, . Everything about her personality had to be told to me as I never saw her as strong, bold, effervescent or any other descriptors that were used about her. I didn’t like her, but at least I didn’t dislike her. After reading some really awful heroines lately, maybe I should move this to the pros column . . .
- The rape. I bought this book to be a fun read. Watching a woman’s life be broken by a brutal attack and watching her struggle to piece it back together, even with the help of a kind, patient and caring hero, is not fun.
- The steamy scenes could have been spectacular, but I found myself racing through them as Clarissa’s fear made them impossible to enjoy.
- Heroine’s mother – I normally care marginally about background characters, but this woman was too stupid to breathe. So dumb she wasn’t believable.
All in, I liked the author enough that I will give another of her books a try. I wanted to enjoy this book, but I just couldn’t. It could easily have been a 4 or 5 star book if there was either no rape or if the fact that a rape was going to feature prominently in the story was clearly disclosed in the book blurb so a reader knows what they’re getting.