A review by kamreadsandrecs
The Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig

lighthearted fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


So after the disappointment of Deception of the Emerald Ring, I went into this book hoping it’d hold up to my memories of it better than the book that preceded it, and I’m glad to say that: it actually did! Well, sort of.

As expected, it was the romance between Mary and Lord Vaughn that actually carried this book for me. I know I said I liked Letty and Geoffrey as a couple, and that I empathized a lot with Letty, but I think I like Mary and Vaughn’s romance more than Letty and Geoffrey’s. A lot of that has to do with what Mary and Vaughn are like as characters: they’re both jaded and cynical, and both have an edge of arrogance handfasted to cruelty. Would I want them as friends IRL? No, because I strongly suspect that if they were real they wouldn’t be very good people. But as characters? They are VERY interesting to read about - especially their dynamic when they’re around each other. 

Speaking of Mary, there’s a thread here about the general misogyny of the era that was really put in the forefront in this book. The misogyny’s an undercurrent that runs throughout the books thus far, but in this book Mary has this conversation with Vaughn that lays the whole thing out in the open. She basically says that a man like Vaughn can make whatever choices he wants in life because his future is, for the most part, secure. A woman, on the other hand, has to marry well in order to ensure her future is stable. This is something Mary has known most of her life, and basically defined most of her actions - including her attempt to elope with Geoffrey in the previous novel, that was foiled by her sister Letty. She’s not HAPPY with it of course (she’d much rather have the freedoms of a man than be restricted by marriage), but she knows how society works and how the game is played, and her goal has been to play that game in such a way that she manages to gain some power over herself, instead of constantly being in the power of someone else. There’s also a passing reference to Mary Wollstonecraft - yes, Mary Shelley’s mother, whose work A Vindication on the Rights of Women is considered one of the earliest works of feminist politics and philosophy in the West. Mary observes that she agrees with the ideas put forward by Wollstonecraft and other feminists (though she doesn’t call them that; she calls them bluestockings instead), but doesn’t align with them in public because of the damage it would do to her desirability as a potential bride - plus, they’re not very fashionable. 

Speaking of romance, Eloise and Colin’s romance actually moves forward in this novel! Unlike the last two books where I was only peripherally interested in what was going on with them, in THIS go round they actually go on a date! Other things happen around that date too that I won’t get into because of spoilers, but it’s nice to see them finally moving their relationship into “officially seeing each other” territory. I’m sure their romance will continue in the other books, so I’m looking forward to reading about how they get along with each other.

So overall, this was a read that held up to the time since I last read it, at least for the most part. Mary and Vaughn are an intriguing couple who stand in almost direct contrast to the other couples in the previous novels, and they make for a very refreshing read - more along the lines of a Bronte couple than an Austen one, in a way. The only spots of tarnish on the overall shiny package of this book occur in the latter part of the novel. Won’t say much more on that because of spoilers, but: Outlander fans may find something to pique their interest in that regard.