by Emma Holly

June 2002
ISBN: 0-515-13308-6
Reviewer Graphic Button Jove Books
Mass Market Paperback

What lies beyond seduction? Emma Holly answers this complex question in her wonderful new book of the same name. Heroine Merry Vance, introduced in Ms. Holly’s first historical novel, Beyond Innocence, is bold, willful, and convinced that she’ll never find someone to love.

In a desperate attempt to foil her mother’s plan to force her into an unwanted marriage, Merry decides to ruin herself by posing for a flamboyant artist who lives not far from the Vance household. As the daughter of a Duke, such a liaison would be disastrous, and completely finish Merry’s matrimonial chances. The artist, a captivating man by the name of Nic Craven, has no idea that the winsome wench with the acres of magnificent hair who offers to model for him is actually a member of the aristocracy which routinely spends a fortune for his pictures but refuses to associate with him socially. He simply knows he wants her – for his painting and his bed.

Thus the plot is presented, and the players assembled, ready to entertain us. But if you are expecting the standard fare, you are in for a major surprise, because Emma Holly peels not only the clothes off the hero and heroine, but also the facades they present to the world, exposing their deepest fears, desires and wounds. Known for her successful erotic novels, Ms. Holly effectively crossed over into mainstream romance fiction with Beyond Innocence, and that trend certainly continues with this book, one of the most fascinating historicals I have had the pleasure of reading lately. Gripping, challenging and sensual, this is a love story that takes the reader into uncharted depths of passions and personalities.

Merry and Nic cautiously circle each other, both aware of their sexual attraction and the explosive sensuality that peppers the air between them. But what should have been a simple seduction becomes something so much more complex, as the passion between them deepens and their emotions start playing an increasingly important role in their interaction. Both are imprisoned by the narrow-mindedness of their time, a socially repressive environment where the “Eleventh Commandment” - Thou Shalt Not Get Caught - ruled most people’s lives! Discretion and appearance were the twin gods worshipped by both Nic’s and Merry’s family – to the great detriment of all concerned. Emma Holly asks difficult questions in this book - parental values are held up to a strong light and many of them can’t stand the scrutiny.

At times this book is almost difficult to read, but only because we are so closely involved with Nic and Merry that we are sharing what they are feeling. We laugh with them in their joy and get furious at their narrow-minded and devious enemies. The ending is enormously satisfying and surprisingly uncompromising – it’s as true to Merry and Nic as the rest of the book. I certainly recommend a second and even third reading – there are so many layers and hidden depths that enjoying it only once won’t begin to come close to revealing them. If you want to know what lies Beyond Seduction, read this book and then put it right on the front of your re-read shelf. Congratulations, Emma, this is a masterpiece!!

Reviewed in May 2002 by Celia.

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