Thoughts After Reading:
After becoming frustrated with my most recent choice for a novel, I turned my attention to the last author that had caught my interest: Emma Locke. I very much enjoyed her first novel, The Trouble with Being Wicked, and was intrigued by the description for the sequel - The Problem with Seduction. It turned out to be an even better novel than I was expecting. The storyline is written excellently, with a thoroughly engaging love story and a bit of comic relief every now and then. But where Locke's brilliance truly becomes apparent is in the sheer complexity of the characters and the relationships between them that emerge, giving an astounding amount of layers to a single story.
It would be hard for me to completely describe the characters and plotlines, but I'll give an outline. Both protagonists are a wealth of contradictions. The heroine grew up with unloving parents, ran off with a captain, and proceeded to live life "freely" - leading to her becoming one of the most famed and wealthy courtesans in London. In some ways she comes across as a independent woman, self-assured and very knowledgeable about the world. Yet she's also needy in some aspects, trying to manipulate events around her to fill the missing pieces in her life she so very much desires. The heroine idolized her last protector, believing herself in love and convinced that he loved her and would somehow marry her... despite already having a wife. The heroine eventually has his child, and is devastated when he decides to take the baby away from her and raise it with another mistress. Becoming a mother marked a turning point in the heroine's life, and suddenly nothing becomes as important to her as her child. Enter the hero. The heroine offers the hero a small fortune to claim her son as his own, so that she can get her son back. The hero is the younger sibling in a family of noble yet impoverished brothers, in addition to having a gambling rakehell for a twin. His greatest fault and greatest strength are one and the same: he has an abundance of compassion. His compassion has led him to having made some questionable investments, to continually sign IOUs and bail his brother out of debts so that he doesn't have to endure debtor's prison, and ultimately to further entrench himself in the heroine's life. At the same time, as a younger son he has largely lived a life of idleness - the idea of responsibly is terrifying for him. As events unfold, the hero shows a great deal of resistant as his actions challenge the heroine to stop hiding behind her facades. Both main characters ultimately come to want the same thing - the hero wants to make a life with the heroine and his adopted son, the heroine wants a constant and loving man in her life - but it takes them a good chunk of the book to figure out how to get there. There's some intensely dramatic twists towards the end - especially in the external conflict - but everything is tied up neatly in a overwhelmingly sweet, triumphant, and vaguely unrealistic happy ending.
There were a few issues I had with Emma Locke's The Problem with Seduction - mostly a few questionable plot devices and the fact that the storytelling can become a little too intense at times - leaving me unable to give the book a perfect rating. Nonetheless, it's pretty easy to overlook any of the novel's perceived flaws. Not only is the historical romance story written skillfully, but it goes above and beyond by providing characters and plotline with a truly impressive level of depth. I can't wait for the next sequel.