Beyond Seduction, by Emma Holly

>> Thursday, September 16, 2004

Emma Holly is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. It's not only her love scenes, I really like her characters and stories. The latest of her books that I've read was Beyond Seduction (excerpt).

Merry Vance has made it quite clear she has no interest in marriage, but that hasn't stopped her long-suffering suitor from proposing, or her parents from getting more furious each time she turns him down. Merry has no choice but to concoct a scandalous solution: to pose nude for Nicolas Craven, famous artist and infamous libertine. No man in his right mind would marry a woman who had bared her secrets to him!

But Nicolas has his own plans for the spirited young woman he has convinced to move into his home. In Merry's plain face, he sees uncommon beauty. In her soft eyes, he sees sparks ready to burst into flame. And, best of all, he's certain the masterpiece she helps him to create will tantalize the ton . . .
After some doubts about a story about a feisty 20 year old who wants to ruin herself to avoid marriage and an older rake who has a son only a little younger than she is, I soon loved this book. My grade: a B+.

Holly has created some truly wonderful characters here, who rise above the stereotypical and come alive.

Nic was one "irresponsible" rake whose change I did buy. Even at the beginning, under all the careless Lothario and moody artist facades, you could see the kindness, the way he was actually a dependable person for those who relied on him. You could see that in the way he treated his household and in the way he was always kind and respectful towards Merry. Even when he thought he was a maid, he was very, very careful to make her understand that anything more than posing would be her free choice. He's also an incredible lover, tender and passionate, and I though Holly did excellently well in showing who this man was by showing us how he made love.

Merry was great, too. I started liking her more for the way her defiance towards her mother took. Sure, she could have chosen a less complicated and more reliable way of ruining herself, but I started respecting her when she took the initiative on realizing that if her mother would to certain things to her to ensure her surrender to her plans, she didn't deserve Merry's loyalty. And so she carefully made her plans and put them in motion. She was strong and independent, which I liked, and I also enjoyed that though she was sexually inexperienced, she was not ignorant. I'm so tired of that clichéd scene in which the virginal heroine looks at the hero's penis in alarm and thinks it won't possibly fit!!! Merry would laugh right along me at that.

Holly's prose is wonderful, lush and earthy at the same time, with no purpleness creeping in. Her portrait of both London and Venice were delicious, as were the love scenes, of course. These scenes were amazingly well done. They were just as steamy as the ones she writes in her erotica title, but a little more vanilla. Still, she did go a bit further than most romance authors go, with certain details and with certain hints as to exactly how far Nic's sexual experimentation has gone.

The cast of secondary characters was really, really good, too. No cartoons here, all were complexly-drawn people, especially Merry's mother and Ernest, her unwanted suitor. All these were imperfect people, who never acted out of character solely to further the plot.

After this one and the two short stories by her that I read, as well as her two excellent erotica titles, I'll probably buy everything Emma Holly writes!

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