I was in the library looking for Julie Anne Long’s What I Did for a Duke, but the copy was checked out, so I took home the third and final entry of the Holt sisters’ trilogy, The Secret to Seduction. In this entry we meet the third of the daughters of Anna Holt, the mistress accused of murdering her lover and abandoning her three daughters to flee the country. Sabrina Fairleigh has been raised all this time by a country vicar and is quite the demure young beauty. She has struck up a friendship with her father’s young curate and it’s due to this growing attraction to the young man that she travels as companion with her friend Mary to the Earl of Rawden’s country estate, in the hopes of prodding this young curate (the Earl’s cousin) to propose marriage. I would say the guy’s name; it starts with G, but I’ve forgotten it and the book is all the way upstairs on my night stand so I can’t be bothered.
The Earl of Rawden, Rhys Gillray, goes by another name – The Libertine. He writes some of the dirtiest, most seductive poetry in all of England and is a famous rake. He is also, naturally, terribly good looking and rich, which we would also like in our love interests. Sabrina’s goodness and purity provoke the Earl out of his boredom; she challenges him and though she professes a lack of passion in life, seems to possess it with pride and temper in all her interactions with him. He decides he simply must seduce her; he longs for a challenge like a virginal vicar’s daughter. What he doesn’t expect is how much he really needs her once he kisses her, and how strong his attraction to such a woman would be. We surprisingly get their courtship out of the way fairly quickly; most of the novel is devoted to them actually falling in love for real and to wrapping up the story of Sabrina’s long-lost family and clearing of their mother’s name.
I liked this entry in the trilogy the best out of the three, but I also have a predilection for rakes, so that’s probably why. Sabrina’s sisters, Susannah and Sylvie, also married rakes but Rhys Gillray is in a class of his own and is quite entertaining. At the same time he’s also a jerk, so there is that to work through. Sabrina is interesting and I generally like her, though I feel like she should have seen through the façade of her father’s curate a little sooner. Rhys’ cousin “G” is generally douchetastic and it’s hard to imagine a woman as intelligent and observant as Sabrina would fall for his bullshit. The resolution to their family’s tragic history is neat and nice, though there seems to be room for more to be written on this story, judging from the way Long wrote some of that. I’m not sure where she’d go with it, because she has exhausted the sisters; perhaps this loosely ties into another of her books and I’ll encounter that later.