Originally posted on Goodreads on February 2nd 2012. This is one of our second opinion reviews and if you click the 2nd opinion icon, you’ll find the original:
“She was his last chance for a future of happiness…”A gifted fortune-teller from a humble background, Jenny can make even the most sophisticated skeptic believe her predictions simply by batting her smoky eyelashes. Until she meets her match in Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, a sworn bachelor and scientist.
“He just didn’t know it yet”
Broodingly handsome, Gareth is scandalized to discover his cousin has fallen under the spell of “Madame Esmerelda,” and vows to prove Jenny a fraud. But his unexpected attraction to the fiery enchantress defies logic. Jenny disrupts every facet of Gareth’s calculated plan–until he can’t decide whether to seduce her or ruin her. Now, as they engage in a passionate battle of wills, two lonely souls must choose between everything they “know.”..and the boundless possibilities of love.
When an uptight scientist meets an alluring fortune-teller, a clash is unavoidable. Rich and dutiful Lord Blakely is ready to fight the conniving liar Madame Esmerelda for the soul of his cousin Ned Carhart. Who could have guessed that they’d end up fighting for something else instead?
It’s the basic set up for a historical romance novel. A powerful aristocratic man meets a poor but somehow exceptional woman who changes him irreversibly. Naturally he does the same for her. They meet, they squabble, and go their separate ways. Until they meet again and start anew. They end up challenging each other in ways that neither fully understands until the very last pages of the story.
What sets this novel apart from the rest, is how Milan fills the pages. There’s enough material for two novels, and all the important exposures are knitted with plot points instead of being offered in info dumps. Milan also utilises secondary characters in a way many forget to do. The scenes told from Ned’s point of view don’t feel like a distraction from the main story, but add something heartwarming to the mix. I can’t wait to read more about him.
However. This is not a fair rating. Proof of Seduction may be her debut novel, but it isn’t the first Courtney Milan romance I’ve read, and thus she’s competing against herself. And as good as this book is compared to all those other romance novels out there, I’ve read better, especially from Mrs Milan.
The story has all the elements I’ve come to love about Milan’s writing–abundance of plot, tempting set up, intriguing characters, bewitching storytelling, and a historical world I’d be more than happy to suspend my belief for–but from a purely technical standpoint it’s by far her weakest work. There are unfortunate word choices, questionable characterisations–Jenny, for example, is painfully naive on occasions– and unnecessary scenes, which amount to repetition at times.
Unlike with Milan’s other fictitiously happy Harlequin endings, I didn’t buy this one. I felt like the trademark ending only served to distort the characterisations in a way that made them unbelievable to me. I’ve become accustomed to suspending belief when it comes to historical romances, but this time the magic of the story wasn’t strong enough to carry me through the disparity of the marriage.
See, nothing fair about that.