My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
This rating is based on the two novellas by Lori Brighton, The Art of Seduction (3.25 stars) and Meant for Me (3.75 stars).
“The Art of Seduction”
I’ve never read anything by Lori Brighton before so this free ebook was pretty enlightening for me. Her writing’s good. This 1st short story of about 5 chapters and an epilogue held my interest. But it was just too short; the incident took place only on one night.
Clara has been in love with Brendon for the last 10 yrs. She was quite young back then and Brendon being 5 yrs older than her, it never really bloomed into anything. Now, it has passed the phase of a young girl’s infatuation to something deeper. Brendon has seen his share of tragedies and now living a life of a recluse in some shabby, not-so-impressive area of London; in a house not-quite-the-abode for an Earl. Clara is in dire straights, her guardians (or parents, I wasn’t sure) sold her to this Lord, an old lecher for money and now she’s engaged to him. The guy tried to force himself on her but hasn’t been successful. Clara has decided she needed money to get away and the latest ad Brendon put in the newspaper might prove to be how she could acquire some. Sadly enough, I wasn’t quite clear of Clara’s background at all. Was she the daughter of an impoverished Lord or a commoner? But I got it that no one cared whatever might’ve happened to her so she’d planned to sail to America once she had the money.
Brandon was looking for a nude model for his latest statue (and portrait) commission. Since he’d put the ad on the paper, there’d been plenty of responses but no one could meet the standard for his muse. He wasn’t really looking for a virgin, maybe a widow or someone a bit well groomed than the street side whores. But this girl, she’s definitely the muse he’d envisioned and he knew from her approach that she’s a virgin. He’d been without a woman for sometimes now and his body is definitely reacting to her nearness. It seems like she returns the attractions as well. I don’t know what to talk about the tragedy of his life, as his wife runaway with her lover and then died in an accident. He definitely felt guilty of this, thinking he was somehow responsible for his wife’s actions. I wasn’t sure really, why would this scar him so deep emotionally but it did.
He doesn’t recognize Clara until after this modeling session turned into something more intimate. She was willing and he couldn’t deny it. Then there were some twists which were taken care of in the end, a bit over the top for one night IMO as the man Clara was engaged to makes trouble. Also, a revelation of how Clara’s good friend and Brendon’s sister Elizabeth helped them come together after such a long time comes into light. It was a good story, interesting. I think I would’ve enjoyed it more if it was a full-length novel. 3.25 star.
“Meant for Me”
Now this one I liked overall. “Meant for Me” was about a bit of deception here and a twist of mistaken identity there but worked out nicely. This short story, which has 4 chapters and an epilogue, could’ve been a great full-length novel IMO. It did leave me wanting for more.
Cynthia’s life read like the Cinderella story. After her mother died, she came to live with her aunt and her family. She didn’t really come on her own accord, she had no other choice; a 7/8 yrs old girl who had no one and nowhere else to go so, the family solicitor kinda dumped her on her aunt’s doorstep and left. Cynthia’s Irish father never married her mom (not sure what happend to the doomed couple) and so her aunt can’t stand the sight of her. Cynthia has been more of a servant in the house than a member of the family. The Auntiee is one evil, evil woman and so was her only daughter, Helen. Helen is spoiled and selfish, with a venomous mouth. Even though she’s beautiful and resembles Cynthia quite closely, she’s considered as ‘the beautiful’ one while Cynthia ‘isn’t much to look at’. This is according to the Auntiee of course.
Helen has been engaged to Gabriel, Lord Kennwick from childhood. Gabriel so far has been touring the world as he didn’t like his fiancée. But two years ago, after his father died, Gabriel decided it’s time to settle down and so, he initiated a communication with Helen through letters. His earlier, even though vague, memory of Helen has been pretty bad. She was spoiled even as a child, so when her letters came back as beautifully written and gave the impression of a thoughtful young woman, Gabriel was overjoyed. He always sought for a good, happy marriage. Maybe Helen has changed and it would be possible to have one with her. He’s written to her every week from then on and she replied back with just as much enthusiasm. He bared his soul to her, and so has she. This did remind me of Lisa Kleypas’s Love in the Afternoon a bit, which I loved loved loved! So I found this story interesting as well. I wish a few letters were included in it though.
Now Gabriel is back in London but whatever he’s heard about Helen hasn’t been impressive so far. She’s an inveterate flirt and might not be a virgin, according to the rumors. I wasn’t sure why he didn’t go to her house and confront these rumors if he was so interested in her. On the other hand, the eeeevil Auntie has forced Cynthia to pose as Helen in a masked ball because Helen wasn’t feeling well and rumor has it that Lord Kennwick has been losing interest in her. Cynthia can’t, just can’t face Gabriel. Yes, she calls him by his name, though only to herself. And, she has every right because she was the one who wrote those letters in Helen’s stead. Helen the b*tch never really cared for Gabriel and never will even if they marry. Cynthia is completely in love with Gabriel, even though she knows there is no future for her with him. In that mask ball, things change drastically for both Cynthia and Gabriel. When he asks her to meet in a secluded place, Cynthia can’t help but oblige. And they end up making love in the dark.
I won’t say anymore but I liked the final twists quite a lot. These two did belong to each-other. 3.75 stars, I would’ve definitely given it a 4+ star if it was a novel. Looking forward to read more Lori Brighton books in the future.