I'm always fascinated when authors write about characters who are authors. It gives me the feeling that they're incorporating a little bit of themselves into the character. After all, they know what it feels like to write. What kinds of emotions that evokes. What difficulties it can present. So while there's no doubt the characters are fictional, I always feel like I'm getting a secret glimpse into their hopes, dreams, fears, triumphs.
In the case of Laura Lee Guhrke's newest book, With Seduction in Mind, both the hero and heroine are authors. One is an aspiring, unpublished author; the other is a burned-out formerly successful one. They could not be more different in temperament, experience, or style, but the author uses those differences wisely.
I love Laura Lee Guhrke's writing. No one writes romantic tension better than Guhrke. She manages to make it suspenseful without dragging down the pacing of the novel. The seduction of Daisy is a genuine seduction. A step by step heightening of desire. You can feel Daisy's resistance melt without feeling as if she were coerced or manipulated. And you can sense, as well, the unexpected way Sebastian finds himself seduced by someone who shouldn't challenge him at all, but clearly does.
Daisy is a wonderful character. She is a curious combination of vulnerability, naivete, and optimism. But despite having some serious self esteem issues with regard to her appearance and professional success, she has a strong sense of right and wrong and an ability to speak her mind. Most with her character traits would end up on the annoying side of mousy, but Daisy has just enough spunk to make her appealing.
I really adored Sebastian, too. He's incredibly selfish and has the requisite tortured artist mien. What he isn't is cruel or mean spirited. He hurts those closest to him, but not purposely. And his ability to not only recognize but celebrate Daisy's unconventional beauty is incredibly endearing. The two gifts he gives Daisy reinforces the fact that he understands her on a deep, personal level. Gifts say more about the person giving them than the recipient, and I found his choices very revealing.
I am so used to reading Regency historicals that the late Victorian setting in this book was quite refreshing. I think it's an interesting choice to set the book in a time when there are so many cultural and technological changes in the works. The world is at a crossroads between tradition and industrial progress. That sort of old meets new atmosphere is a perfect setting for this story.
The only real complaint I have is the last page of the novel, where Guhrke seems to give into the type treacly sentimentality that is so often mocked during the course of the novel. I think the declarations of love could have been made a little more in keeping with Sebastian's general character, but it's a very minor complaint in an otherwise fantastic novel.
My grade: A