Remember when I mentioned how I've been corresponding with author Lauren Smith and how she was kind enough to send me advanced reading copies of her novels? Well, the first book of hers that I reviewed, The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall, has finally hit the bookshelves! I cannot wait to get my own physical copy and I'm sure you can't as well! You can read my review of TSoSH here and buy the book online here.
Lauren has also kindly consented to allowing me to post my review of her next novel, His Wicked Seduction, so I thought I'd finally share it with all of my lovely readers!
I hope you all enjoy!
If there's anything you'd like me to review, you may send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org :)
His Wicked Seduction
The League of Rogues, book 02
Godric, Duke of Essex, Lucien, Marquess of Rochester, Charles, Earl of Lonsdale, Cedric, Viscount Sheridan, and Ashton, Baron Lennox have unwittingly been dubbed by the society pages as the League of Rogues, a merry band of debauched nobles hellbent on seducing their way through the beau mond and occasional demimonde. As word of the pen name reaches their little group, the 5 rakehells are all too happy to oblige their new but notorious sobriquet. After all, a gentleman honors his titles.
Having met the League in authoress Lauren Smith’s first book about our rogues, Wicked Designs -- Godric’s book and possible salvation -- Smith begins Lucien’s story in more familiar territory. Having been chased back to the buxom of town (and the ton) thanks to Emily Parr, new Duchess of Essex and Godric’s wife, Lucien finds himself in constant company of Miss Horatia Sheridan, younger sister of Cedric, Viscount Sheridan, and sole reason for his current discomfort.
Having helped rescue the chit from a carriage accident that took both her parents many years ago, Lucien can’t help but hold a soft spot for the then-young lady. Over the years, he has watched her bloom, albeit from a close but chilly distance, from a young girl to a beautiful lady. And while our hero recognizes that his tendre for the young miss has bloomed into an aching love for the wisened woman, he fears for his black past as well as the repercussions of romancing his bestfriend’s sister.
Horatia, deeply grateful for the comfort the red-headed Marquess extended to her during such a painful time of her life, cannot help but cling on to the heroic memory of her older brother’s friend, no matter how cold he is to her at present. Still, after so many years of perceived unrequited yearning, Horatia is finally ready to give Lucien a woman’s love, and no longer a child’s infatuation.
Soon, a threat to their not-quite-peaceful coexistence emerges in the form of a near accident and death threat, a story arc carried over from Godric’s book. Worried that their childhood nemesis, Hugo Waverly, is upping his game, so to speak, the League decides to have Cedric, along with his sisters Horatia and Audrey, hightail to Lucien’s estate in Kent.
Once properly ensconced in the country, Horatia and Lucien begin to wonder if they can put away their demons and maybe discover that a future with each other is bright, even amidst the bleakness of their present.
Smith blows my mind once again with her artful story-telling and edge-of-your-seat plots! It is no secret that I favor series’ over standalones and with the LoR, I’m proved, once again, why it is so. While I did highly enjoy Godric and Emily’s story, there were precious few moments outside of the two. Here, however, having already established most of the men in the league, we were treated to many interesting anecdotes and supporting stories sans Lucien and Horatia.
A particular favorite series trope of mine is character development and buildup, as well as a glimpse of the previous leads. In HWS, we re-visit Emily and Godric and sneak a peek at how married life is faring for them. More than that, however, I like to keep guessing at whose story will develop next. In this, Smith humors me plenty. I was kept constantly guessing as to who ends up with whom. Her way with characters and words are kept so human that each character has a specific and definite relationship. Chemistry is oozing from their pores, and you are left with many a ship to root for.
For example, while Cedric’s youngest sibling, Audrey, has expressed interest in Jonathan, Godric’s younger half-brother, I love the playfulness and historically gender-bending friendship she shares with Linus, the youngest Russell brother. While inter-sex friendships were encouraged for children, they defied the odds and kept a close relationship even as a in-the-marriage-mart Miss and Cambridge graduate. And speaking of young Linus, we also peep a light flirtation between he and a daughter of a close family friend, Lucinda. I suspect the two can cause many a jealousy between their respective love stories.
Gregory, Lucinda’s brother, has also shown a possible partner for the youngest Russell sister, Lysandra, as evidenced by the sparks that I detected during a very fun snow fort battle. Lysandra, a character I already love due to our similarities in name – and nature! She’s a bluestocking of the tallest order! – is also a contender for Charles, Earl of Lonsdale and a member of the league. Jane, mother of the Russells and current Lady Rochester, is a matchmaking mama and is promoting a match between the two. Ironically, Charles is also whom Audrey tries to seduce in the beginning of HWS so I am curious as to see what adventure Smith has in store for him. Back in London, Ashton, Baron Lennox, may have met his match with businesswoman Lady Melbourne – a seductress of the tallest order. Lastly, Cedric is paired with Miss Anne Chessley in the epilogue leading me to believe that his story is next in the saga.
It is no easy feat to keep the sheer number of characters and possible matches in a single novel but Smith manages this beautifully. And even with all the excitement found in the book – duels, accidents, murder plots, fires, hidden identities – she is able to infuse a warmth and familiar joviality and gaiety in the book. A competitive snow battle reminiscent of the Pall Mall game in Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me (Bridgerton book 2) comes to mind, as well as Lady Rochester promoting a bit of devilry and sibling rivalry to push her eldest into action. Another scene is the founding of The Society of Rebellious Ladies – a bit of teasing and mocking by Emily, Horatia, and Audrey due to the high-handedness of the men of their lives.
We also can’t forget the story between our leads, Lucien and Horatia. Though both appear to accept their deeper feelings for each other, a rarity amongst the usual denial rakes favor in hisrom novels, it is more heartwarming to know that Cedric was the reason the two were so apprehensive to pursue their burgeoning relationship. It is usual with ladies to forge friendships that will test fire, especially during the Regency when ladies were not even considered their own persons, but a rarity with the men. I applaud Smith for sticking to her guns and showing us a story where friendship is the unifying factor.
If there is one thing left to say about Smith’s prowess in writing, it is that she weaves her wand and poof – you are entranced. Lucien and Horatia saw to that. Besides, who doesn’t love a man who buys his woman a dress, propriety be damned?