I can honestly say that in all my reading of romance novels over the years, I have never been totally and truly seduced by a fictitious character until I picked up this novel. It’s always fun to watch a rake reform, but in this case, the author puts forth a seduction so all-encompassing and emotional, that you spend the entire book envying Miranda Chase, “lowly” shopgirl and correspondent to not one, but two literary figures, who becomes the recipient of Maximillian, Lord Downing’s attentions.

Miranda, like all of London, is enamored of a new book entitled “The Seven Secrets of Seduction,” written by the author who calls himself Eleutherios. She strikes up a correspondence with the author himself, while at the same time, defends him to a Mr. Pitts, a critic who seems to have a reason to hate Eleutherios and his work. Miranda becomes the central focus of this triangle, writing to both men for a period of time, and receiving life advice from Mr. Pitts and reading material and romantic prose from Eleutherios. She then finds herself the recipient of Maximillian’s singular interest.

Maxim seeks Miranda out in her uncle’s bookshop and at first we are convinced that this is a random meeting. We are as stunned as Miranda when Maxim seeks her out for special attention, even engineering an excuse to have her work in his library. We watch Miranda fall prey to what we think is a practiced and random seduction. And we are terrified that she will succumb to this seemingly cynical and jaded rake. Miranda even recites a mantra when she is with him: Flame, Moth, Danger. She knows how much trouble she is in around Maxim, but she can’t help it. His seduction is so perfect and so complete, that she has no choice in the matter.

When the author switches the story’s point of view to Maxim’s, things become almost painful for the reader, but not in the way you would expect. We see the spider caught in his own web, as helpless to escape his feelings as his prey. Maxim is more than what he seems. Much more to Miranda in fact, and once she pieces the parts of the puzzle together, she can’t help but make a decision that will change the course of her life forever.

And damaged by his parents’ relationship, Maxim swears he will never marry for love, but with Miranda, he finds that a loveless marriage combined with a mistress he loves results in an untenable situation.

Anne Mallory writes with a distinct descriptive flair. There are numerous instances where we are given a description of the tactile things these two do… a swipe of a hand down a silk dress, the motion of restless fingers over a desk or a quill.  All these things, plus a powerful and emotional story line, put this reader right in the story. I wanted to be Miranda. What woman (or man) wouldn’t want to be the subject of such abject love and devotion?  And it works both ways.  Miranda says that Maxim is “just like a walking addiction.” Maxim realizes that he cannot let Miranda be hurt, but he cannot let her go, and that he needs her more than she needs him. It’s a painful revelation to a man obligated by duty and family history to reject the obvious course of action.

Seven Secrets of Seduction is just out in paperback. It brings back memories of how it feels to begin a new relationship, and to  fall in love…. that agonizing and exhilarating phase of life where feelings can’t be taken for granted and nothing is ever easy, but the rewards are beyond wonderful. You’ll experience it again as you read this book.

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