We’re pretty much two for two here. It’s interesting to see each generation of authors dust off and shake out the older stories. Katy Madison successfully went after the gothic with her last novel, Tainted By Temptation. This time around she’s going with the pimping husband and a sidecar of Shanna. (Lorraine Heath just took this trope on as well, almost redeeming it in the process. Initially, I thought Katy Madison was failing hard in comparison. As All About Seduction continued, I realized she was taking a different but equally successful route to a new look at this tired tale.)
Madison moves her infertile husband and his socialite wife to the Victorian age, offering her more social mobility to work with. Instead of the standard convention of this plot line (the heroine being offered her true love on an adulterous platter) Caroline is faced with a house party of men to choose from. Madison steps away from fantasy to truthfully explore the horror of the heroine’s situation. Caroline tries to seduce men as repellant to her as her spouse. Of course there is a man who interests her.
Through her relationship with Jack, Caroline slowly reclaims her sexuality. (Jack gets one of the best lines in the book, debunking the ‘magic pole’ theory of restoring a woman’s sexual interest.) After 15 years of rape, Caroline is hardly ready to get wild. Jack is one of her mill workers, saddled with the sort of dysfunctional family many will find relatable. His dreams of becoming a self made man crushed, Jack is willing to risk his own life to be with Caroline.
Despite a slow start, I enjoyed All About Seduction and expect Katy Madison to eventually find her way to my must buy list. With well constructed class differences and a truthful look at the repressed rage of the purchased bride, All About Seduction made good use of this unpopular plot. The ending is a bit neat, yet Madison lays the groundwork well enough to render it plausible. In this she does surpass the Heath book’s wedding-during-birth even as she falls just short in totality. How many authors can stand up to a direct contest to Lorraine Heath? (If I were Madison I’d take the second place with pride.)
Of course, the self made ex-husband is a horrible person with a horrible past but it doesn’t feel gratuitous. To drive Jack and Caroline to the place they need to be emotionally for this mismatched infidelity to occur, an extreme villain is required. Caroline’s family is not as heartless as she assumes, simply distanced by a classic case of the mousy wife in the abuser’s trap. Jack’s family is weak in a way I personally recognize. They resent his desire to elevate himself from poverty even as they long to improve their own situations. It’s an old story, told well here.
I’m not sure what’s next for Katy Madison but I’ll show up to find out. Unless it’s a harem novel. (Don’t dust that one off, it’s hopeless. Some tropes can’t really be redeemed.)