Author: Nina Rowan
Series: Book #1 in the Daring Hearts series
Release Date: 28 August 2012
Number of pages: 400 pages
Source: ebook provided by publisher through NetGalley
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon, Kindle store, Book Depository
Grade: 4.5 stars
Goodreads appetizer: A Heart Divided
Blessed with an uncanny gift for mathematics, the lovely Lydia Kellaway can solve the most complex puzzles. The one thing she can’t figure out? How to manage the most infuriating man she’s ever encountered.
A Passion Multiplied
Alexander Hall, Viscount Northwood, has purchased a one-of-a-kind locket from a pawnshop, unaware of the priceless sentiment it holds for Lydia. The gentlemanly thing to do would be to simply return it. But Lydia sparks a desire that has Alexander curious to see just how bold this brilliant beauty will be…
A Love Unequaled
What begins as a playful wager quickly escalates into a contest of the minds, a clash of the wills—and a battle of the sexes—as their fiery attraction grows. Even a genius like Lydia can’t account for the feelings Alexander arouses with his smile, or the fire he ignites with his touch. But when a dark family secret is suddenly thrown into the equation, it just might divide them forever.
I have to start with a warning though: I first fell in love with the absolutely stunning cover and then the flirty blurb reinforced my wish to read A Study in Seduction, but now that I had the chance to read the book I think that neither suits the story very well: the heroine is always described as wearing dull black dresses with a strict cut (as she is mourning her father), and she is a serious and determined young woman, not at all this mischievous flirty creature on the cover (and Lydia is about a decade older than the cover model looks like). The tone of the book and the story itself are also a bit darker and emotionally more intense than the flirty cover & blurb would have you expect. Just saying so you know what to expect.
I have read many historical romances but have only come across three, which featured women scientists: Heather Snow's Veiled Seduction series (featuring a woman chemist and a criminologist) and now Nina Rowan's A Study in Seduction, whose heroine Lydia is a brilliant mathematician.
I LOVED how Nina Rowan included bits of equations and mathematical problems into the story making it authentic as if we were indeed witnessing the way Lydia's mind worked. And even though at times I sacrificed stopping to fully comprehend and solve the mathematical riddles and instead read on since the story was so engrossing I still enjoyed how they gave the story more nuance.
Lydia is an utterly unique and admirable heroine: she doesn't care about dresses, dances, flirtation or flowers, those things other young ladies might, what she cares about is bringing up her little sister the best she can and those riddles and problems which challenge her intellectually. She has lived her whole life as some sort of anomaly due to her talent, and thus was always isolated and lonely, she is used to it, but now she and her sister might lose her deceased's mother pendant, the one her dead father made as an engagement gift for her, she makes everything she can to get it back.
The hero, Alexander Hall, Viscount Northwood was delicious. He was intense and so charismatic, his quiet strength transcended the pages. It was interesting seeing a hero who wasn't conducting himself in a strictly gentlemanly way, he didn't make it easy for Lydia just because she was a woman (the words with which he greets her when they first meet are "Who the bloody hell are you?", so not gentleman-like LOL), but his awe and admiration in front of her amazing talent was heart-warming:
Warmth and pride filled Alexander’s chest. He loved watching her mind work, knowing the complexity of the wheels and gears turning behind her blue eyes. Knowing that every other man in the room must be astonished by her brilliance.
I loved that despite not playing by the obvious gentlemen rules Alexander was honourable and had integrity. He respected Lydia and wanted to protect and cherish her:
Alexander fought a hard but brief battle with his conscience. God knew he wanted her more than he’d ever wanted a woman. Yet he knew the cost of scandal, and it was a price he never wanted Lydia to pay.
And despite him considering himself an ambitious and rather cold man, he definitely had a warm and generous heart, he was a romantic. His proposal made me felt and sigh:
“And you would be an asset to me. Yes, I’ve a duty to marry well, but beyond that we are undeniably compatible. Never have I met a woman like you. A woman with whom I wish to spend my life.”
Nina Rowan's writing was exquisite. It was captivating, enthralling and utterly intelligent yet humorous. She made the heroine's intellect blindingly brilliant, the hero swoon-worthy and wonderfully intense and the chemistry between them so richly sensual and delicious as melted chocolate, mmm:
“Lord Northwood.” God. Even the sound of her voice made his blood hot. Lyrical, with just the slightest bit of a rasp, like a good brandy that slid rich and warm down one’s throat. He wanted to hear the sound of his Christian name in her voice, wanted it to melt against his skin.
Her gaze flew to his. “I beg your pardon?”
“Alexander,” he repeated. His breath stirred the tendrils of hair at her temple. “Say it.” She wanted to. The urge filled her mouth like warm cream. She wanted to give voice to this man’s name, to listen to it flow through the thick, dusty air. She wanted to say it aloud, the sharp X sound slicing the elegant vowels like a knife through soap-soft leather. She wanted to hear the acute consonants scarring the liquidity of the word. She loved Alexander. Loved the name’s imperfection, the melting of soft and hard sounds, the way it trailed off into a purr at the end. She could never think of him as Alex, could never cut short the silver ribbon of his name.
“Lydia.” In his deep voice, her own name acquired new depth, like poetry that only he had the power to explain.
Alexander's mother was Russian, so the Hall siblings have this unusual and somewhat exotic cultural heritage compared to the other English Regency aristocracy, and it certainly adds some subtleties to their outlook on life:
“[...] St. Petersburg is buried under a layer of ice six months out of the year.”
“That’s when you learn another way of living,” Alexander said. His gaze came to rest on Lydia, and then it seemed as if he spoke only to her. “In winter, the sound of troika bells replaces summer birdsong. Candlelight fills the churches, and well- tended stoves keep the houses warm. The theaters host concerts, plays, and operas. There are sleigh races on the frozen Neva. The city holds festivals with music, dancing, skating, puppet shows, ice palaces, vendors selling hot tea and pastries. You can lose yourself in the Hermitage, the cathedrals, the academies. And when you don’t want to be lost, you can find yourself in the white darkness. In the silence.”
Verdict: Both the blurb and the cover made me (and I think it's the same with many other readers) expect a light and flirty historical romance, but in truth A Study in Seduction (even the title sounds light and fun) is intense both regarding the emotional involvement of the characters as well as their past: both the hero and heroine have gone through losses and scandals and it affected their outlook on life. This is not a sunshine and poppies story, but is still utterly delicious. The romance will make your heart squeeze and your pulse race. A Study in Seduction is a wonderfully captivating story with well rounded and memorable characters, sizzling chemistry and highly intelligent storytelling. Let yourself be seduced by Nina Rowan's writing and discover this new wonderful historical romance series about the Hall siblings, I know I'll be impatiently awaiting their release!
Writing: 9/10 - could have done with a bit more precise editing
Cover: 8/10 - although beautiful doesn't really fit the story or the heroine
Grand Central Publishing has generously offered TWO paperback copies of A Study in Seduction by Nina Rowan to two lucky commenters!
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