Seducing an Angel by Mary Balogh (2009) is the fourth book in the Huxtable series released in hardcover and published by Dell. The following review was written by fellow reader and contributor, Senetra. Enjoy.
Stephen Huxtable, the Earl of Merton, first appeared as a 17-year-old young man in First Comes Marriage, then aged a few years in each subsequent book, and now he is 25 and the hero of his own story. Over the course of the previous books, Stephen seemed to have it all, a loving family, wealth, a title, and good looks. He was a complete Mary Sue; I can’t remember too much unhappiness on his part once he became the earl. Before I read the book, I tried to figure out what the conflict between the hero and heroine would be, but couldn’t think of anything that didn’t involve either a complete rewrite of his character, or some disfiguring incident that left him some combination of angry, bitter, scarred, and crippled. Stephen’s still hale and hearty, and I don’t recall Mary Balogh writing a simple Boy meets Girl romance, so all the angst and drama comes from the heroine.
Cassandra Belmont, Lady Paget, is a widow rumored to have killed her husband with an axe. The truth is that he was shot, but no one has come forth as a witness to say what actually happened, and as long as Cassandra left the estate and did not press her claim to it, her stepson was willing to let her go. This means that Cassandra is destitute, with now way to support her household, consisting of her former governess, Alice, a maid-of-all-work, Mary, and Mary’s daughter Belinda. They move to London where Cassandra is determined to set herself up as a rich man’s mistress. She spies Stephen in the park, and is attracted to his angelic looks and she decides he will make a good protector. In order to introduce herself to him, she crashes a ball, not realizing that the Earl and Countess of Sheringford are related to Stephen. Knowing all about social ostracism, they make her welcome, and she eventually convinces Stephen to come home with her. After a somewhat lackluster performance in bed, Stephen falls deeply asleep, only to awake the next morning and find Cassandra ready to negotiate a contract. Once he realizes just how poor Cassandra is, and figures out that her husband abused her, Stephen agrees to the arrangement, but is determined to have more than a wholly sexual relationship. Cassandra does not wish for emotional intimacy and tries to put the focus back on the sex.
Stephen manages to ignore Alice’s distaste for his relationship with Cassandra, but his conscience gets the better of him when he finds that Belinda lives in the house as well. Not wanting to taint her home, he ends the sex part of the contract, but tells Cassandra that he wants to get to know her better. This occurs in fits and starts, and Cassandra begins to piece her life back together, finally deciding to fight for her part of the estate and mending fences with her brother.
After reading this book, I’m not sure how much I like or know either of these characters. Cassandra is only three years older than Stephen is, but she sometimes tries to keep him at a distance treating him as if he’s a teenaged boy with a crush on her. I know this is part of her defense mechanism, but it got tiring, and at times, it felt as if Stephen’s feelings were more about lust than anything else. Yes, he fell in love with her, but I still can’t figure out why.
While I wasn’t as interested in this story as I was in the previous ones, I did want to find out how it wraps up for the siblings. This book had cameos by the sisters and their husbands, but it also felt very short, and after reading it, I decided that with some editing of the plot, this novel would have fit nicely in a two-author anthology instead of being a stand-alone hardcover release. There were some plot points and character interactions that felt more like padding than actual story development, and one that came out of what seemed like nowhere, and I’m still not sure if I buy it.
Note: Apparently this is a quintet? Look for another hardcover soon.