If Courtney Milan writes it, I will read it. I love that she writes in periods where women really didn't have much agency and does her best to empower them within that limited framework. She's also a lovely person, too, and we were lucky enough to get an interview with her in the Unapologetic Romance Readers book group (where she hints about upcoming projects and ideas - spoilers!).
I've read books from the Brothers Sinister and the Worth series, and was excited to traverse into the world of the Carharts. I'd hoped to read this book before the interview so I was a bit more prepared for the Q&A session, but I am really bad at blogging deadlines because I'm so focused on real-life deadlines, so that didn't really happen.
The opening of PROOF OF SEDUCTION is really great. We're introduced to Madame Esmeralda (who I couldn't help picturing as the Disney Esmeralda), gypsy fortune-teller extraordinaire. She's meeting with her favorite client, Ned, cousin to a skeptical marquess who also happens to be a scientist and a bit of a jerk. He challenges Madame Esmeralda's claims by forcing her to prove herself, which results in a battle of wills, a reluctant attraction, and a rather cringe-worthy attempt at matchmaking.
Lord Blakely was an interesting character, and his scientific background and stuffy demeanor kept his nastiness from being as unpleasant as it might otherwise have been. I enjoyed his verbal battles with Madame Esmeralda/Jenny, and thought that their interactions were great at adding tension - both sexual and otherwise - to the story. The way that they struggle for control over Esmeralda's attempts to "prove" herself were hilarious. Nary a loophole wasn't exploited to its fullest comedic extent.
My problem with this book is that it drags. Terribly. The beginning is the best part. After that, it's all downhill. Around page 100 I actually asked myself, "Things seem like they're about to wrap up - how on earth is she going to fill the remaining 147 pages?"
With sex, of course, and many back-and-forth arguments.
The sex scenes are for the most part well-written, but they are repetitive (like the arguments). And there are some rather jarring descriptions, like a woman's ladyparts being described as "her wetness" and other little niggling details like that that pulled me out of the moment and made me go "ew."
Then there's Ned. I wanted to like Ned. And at first, I almost did. I felt sorry for him. He's a boy with a huge pair of shoes to fill, and an older cousin who doesn't take him seriously at all. But he's also a weenie. I get that he was depressed, and that depression doesn't always make you pleasant to be around, which I think the author was going for (to her credit), but his characterization just seemed to vacillate so much, he started feeling more like a cartoon caricature of adolescent weeniness.
PROOF BY SEDUCTION isn't a bad book, and features some great lines. But it isn't Milan's best work. I get the feeling that she enjoys wrapping up stories neatly and quickly which is probably why she writes so many novellas and why they are so good. But that talent doesn't translate well to novels, and this one felt like it was very fluffed up when 100 pages or more could have been easily shaved off. The ending, too, seemed a bit over the top. I mean, really. An elephant?
2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars.