Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Seduction of Lady X

The Seduction of Lady X by Julia London

Lady Olivia Carey is very unhappily married to Lord Edward Carey, Marquis of Carey, who is drinks too much, verbally abuses her, and makes her life a living hell. The only bright spot in her life is the Carey Steward, Harrison Tolley, who always has a smile for her and a way of making her forget her troubles. Harrison has been in love with Olivia since she first came to the estate and even people in the village know that he secretly pines for an unknown "Lady X" even if none are quite sure who precisely holds his affections. The Carey marriage has gotten worse as the years went on and Olivia had failed to conceive and Edward, of course, blamed Olivia, for the problem and took his frustration and anger out on her. Things are made even worse when Olivia informs him that her unmarried younger half sister, Alexa, is pregnant from an unknown lover from her trip to Spain. Edward wants to send Alexa to a convent and take her child away to prevent any scandal from attaching itself to the Carey name. Olivia is horrified and seeing her distress, Harrison steps forward and offers to marry Alexa.

Alexa has been looked after her whole life and it takes awhile for her to realize that she has no other option, but her spoiled attitude makes it clear to Harrison that he does not want this marriage, not least because he is in love with her sister, but he sees no alternatives and no hope for a relationship with Olivia. The prospect of Harrison marrying Alexa breaks Olivia's heart and the feelings she had suppressed for so long come bubbling to the surface. Suddenly her life with Edward looms before her like a nightmare and she does not know how she will survive, even while Alexa has decided to make the best of the situation. Edward is furious with Harrison, and as always with his wife, and makes public accusations against them before dying in drunken accident, but even with his death the rumors he started did not die. His family cannot let the hint of scandal affect the Carey name and Harrison has no idea how to get out of his marriage to Alexa. The two of them seemed destined to miss happiness unless one of them can take the first brave step to love and happily ever after.

I was attracted to this story from the beginning and prepared myself for the angst that would accompany two people in love with no foreseeable hope for ever ending up together. Olivia was a happy person, who wanted to help others an was genuinely kind and generous, but her marriage was slowly crushing her and she was changing from that person into someone beaten down and London did a great job of making her sympathetic and likable and making us root for her not to completely lose herself. Harrison was great because he was so noble and so in love with Olivia that he sacrificed his own happiness and hope for a future with her because he knew that it was not what was best for her. I had a lot of trouble understanding why he did not accept his inheritance and fought it for so long and he came across as rather dumb for this. I wanted to admire him for stepping in to marry Alexa but really that was just too "good" for my taste and he went from being a noble hero to an unrealistic caricature of noble-ness. Alexa was a spoiled brat, and her actions made her stupid to boot, and I just could not stand to see Olivia and Harrison sacrificing themselves for her.

Unfortunately Olivia and Harrison were pretty much in love before the book started and the scenes of them together were about reinforcing this love instead of developing it, which I don't really like as much. While I understood that their predicament was depressing and left little hope for them I quickly became bogged down with it. First they were impeded by Olivia's husband being alive and then, after he died, by Harrison's promise to marry Alexa. I could not understand why they didn't just talk to Alexa because I felt like, despite her immaturity and selfishness, she would have happily stepped aside and, as the new earl, Harrison could have protected the baby. It just made the book drag on and seemed completely pointless which I absolutely detest. Harrison and Olivia, being incredibly noble, do not have sex until the husband is dead and it is brief and not very hot, especially for people who have been in love for so long. Harrison's new family are the characters from the previous books in the series and they're kind of thrown in willy nilly and it comes across as blatant plugging which I also did not enjoy.

Rating: Two characters and a plot with so much potential that quickly became tiresome when it dragged on needlessly.

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