Seven Secrets of Seduction, by Anne Mallory

In Book Reviews, fiction, romance novels on July 30, 2010 at 8:47 am

Even the most guarded souls succumb to the power of beautiful words.

Set in the London of the early 1800’s, Seven Secrets of Seduction follows the journey of Miranda Chase, bookish and reserved shopgirl, as she meets a charming Viscount and is drawn into a splendid game of seduction.

Leading lady Miranda was terrific; reserved in manner, yet able to verbally hold her ground with the Viscount.  Mallory scores points with this reader for leaving the choice to Miranda of whether she will succumb to the seduction.  Miss Chase is not held against her will, is not a helpless victim of any vile villain, but simply a young woman with a keen insight who accepts a challenge.  Not that there isn’t some wonderful maneuvering in the game, but it is practiced by both parties and expected as well.  Maximillian Downing, Viscount, is also a great character.  Using the gossipy and cruel nature of the “ton” against his adversaries, he ensures his rakish reputation will overshadow what he does not wish revealed in expert fashion.

Each chapter begins with an intriguing header such as in Chapter 1, “Secret #1:  Every good seduction first begins with a baited hook.”, with the “baited hook” which caught this broad being the fantastic dialogue between Miss Chase and Maximillian Downing.  The banter exchanged is slightly reminiscent of a D’Arcy/Elizabeth go-round in the famous novel by Austin, only add in heightened boldness and obvious double-entendres on Downing’s part.  Miranda is often caught off guard, being more innocent, but usually recovers cleverly.  The overall effect is quite adequate, because a man who expresses himself well, who realizes the power of perfectly timed and carefully chosen words, is a treasure to be hoarded.  Along with the back and forth verbal sparring, Mallory uses Miss Chase’s written correspondence to add one more layer to the game/seduction.

Be forewarned, a few minor characters in Mallory’s book are wretchedly misplaced and the time period she chose in which to write an otherwise delightful romance doesn’t work.  Victorian-ish Era London would not have abided a Viscount parading a shopgirl around, no matter the level of “discretion” shown by either of them.  (History lovers may be challenged by these discrepancies.)  Despite these issues, Seven Secrets of Seduction is on this broad’s “Read It” list for romance lovers.


Romance Amidst A Sea of Anachronisms

Seven Secrets of Seduction by Anne Mallory is the romantic story of Miranda Chase and Viscount Maximilian Downing.  As romances go, it’s interesting.  The story gets its name from a scandalous book that has been recently published in 1820s England, The Seven Secrets of Seduction.  Miranda is enchanted by the book, which explains the methods of seduction.  That she likes the book is one thing; that she announces this to Downing when he meets her in the bookstore in which she works is another.  This simply wouldn’t be something a young, educated English woman would do in 1820.  It wouldn’t happen because it would be entirely inappropriate for her to speak to the Viscount on such matters.  1820s English society was incredibly rigid.  It was divided into the upper, middle, and working classes, and even if Miranda were to be considered in the middle class, a Viscount is certainly of the upper class and not likely to be speaking to any female in the classes lower than his other than in a superior to an inferior manner.

Viscount Maximilian Downing is a rake  and takes a liking to Miranda.  This too is an anachronistic issue: While he may have wanted to take a taste of a woman lower than he, Downing certainly wouldn’t be allowed to  spend time openly with her in his home or with her in society.   This plot device in this time period simply doesn’t work.

The problem is that too much of what happens in this romance couldn’t happen because of the strict social structure of 1820s England.  Does this make it a bad book?  In one very important sense, yes, it does.  This story is rife with mistakes about the time period, which is a problem.  In another sense, no, it doesn’t make it a bad book because it’s a romance story, and the romance is basically sound, if the reader is able or willing to overlook the inaccuracies.  But this begs a different, larger question:  Are romance stories of so little consequence and importance that they don’t even need to be properly researched and edited?

Above and beyond the historical inaccuracies, the story is a good one.  Miranda is a strong romantic heroine and a very likable character.  But as in other romance novels, what saves this story from getting mired down in things that couldn’t ever happen is the Viscount.  This is the one area in which Mallory shines.  Her characterization of Maximilian Downing is wonderful; she created a fabulous rake.  He’s intelligent, quick thinking, gallant, sexy, and clever.  He’s no Sheik, Gregori, or Rhage, but he’s a good example of the classic seducer.

In addition, the use of the chapter titles from the fictitious Seven Secrets of Seduction book is great.  Each chapter heading is used at the beginning of each chapter in the story, and each relates to the action occurring in that chapter.  The fictitious book sounds like a better read, however, and was probably better researched.

Seven Secrets of Seduction is a romance based upon errors in historical knowledge.  Is it worth the time to read it?  Not if you believe that even books some think are trashy novels worthy only of the beach should be at least accurate in their plot ideas and settings.  If this isn’t a big issue for you and you won’t be bothered by the anachronisms, then it might be something worth trying.  The basic romantic story is sound.  It’s the setting–the time, the social circumstances surrounding the characters–that isn’t.


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