Seducing Mr. Heywood, by Jo Manning

>> Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I read my first e-book last week. I'm not too sure if I could technically call it an "e-book", since it was just a .pdf file and I had to read it on my computer, but well, it was a non-paper book, so it counts. It was a pretty good experience. I still prefer regular books as a format, but I think I'd probably adapt very quickly to some kind of portable e-book reader. I'll have to start saving!

The book was Seducing Mr. Heywood, by Jo Manning. I was a bit doubtful about reading it, since I thought the author behaved very badly online at one point, but luckily, I think I was able to simply forget that and appreciate the book on its own merits.
The thrice-widowed Lady Sophia Rowley arrives in Yorkshire after the death of her last husband, the Baron Rowley, to claim her two young sons only to find that the local vicar, Charles Heywood, has been named the children's legal guardian. The first meeting between Charles and Sophia turns out to be quite memorable for both parties when, stunned by Sophia's beauty, Charles trips and falls; splashes his glass of sherry all over Sophia; and tears her gown, exposing one of Sophia's finest attributes.

Once her initial anger at Charles fades, Sophia, who is still smarting from the conge given to her by her latest London lover, decides to seduce the extremely handsome Charles as a means of whiling away the time while she is stuck in the country, but the more time Sophia spends with Charles, the harder it is to determine who exactly is seducing whom.

When I saw that the heroine in this book was a woman who'd had lovers and cheated on her husband, who'd abandoned her children... a real, honest-to-god imperfect woman, I was elated. I was ready to love the book to pieces.

Authors always cop out, and the supposed "bad girl" heroines end up being virgins, who've done whatever "bad thing" they've done only to save their fathers / siblings / orphaned nephews or some such rot. Not Sophia. She had been victimized by her fathir at first, yes, but she'd really spent the last 10 years apart from her children, enjoying herself by taking lovers.. and she did enjoy herself. It was very refreshing.

I loved to see her paired with Charles; she was the rake, he the almost virgin who got seduced. And Charles was so nice and good and non-judgemental that even being an agnostic and anti-clericalist, I was perfectly ok with having a vicar as a hero.

So far so good, likeable hero and heroine, beautiful, exciting potential conflict, a pretty setting... but no, the author couldn't leave good enough alone and had to start throwing external conflicts at them. First her horribly evil father with his friend in tow, and a plot to kill her children, then a putrid sore throat epidemic, followed by Charles quest to find Sophia's old governess... they kept piling on. Maybe one of all these distractions would have been ok, but with all this going on we practically didn't have space to see Sophia and Charles interact. Their potentially interesting relationship ended up in the background most of the time.

Plus, I wasn't completely happy with the author's style. I don't know how to explain it very well, but it felt a bit amateurish at times.

The actual story would be a C for me, but I'll grade the book a B, simply because of how much I enjoyed the novelty of a heroine who really did deserve her bad rep.

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