Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Beyond Seduction, by Emma Holly – Review

So I’m going to expose myself as a pseudo-intellectual here (or perhaps merely a former intellectual) and cite Molière’s Les Précieuses Ridicules as the prototypical plot for this book: two members of the nobility, fed up with the strictures and pretenses of their class, both independently choose to pose as a servant. Each in their guise, they fall in love but struggle with class bias. Each knows they must eventually return to their true position in society, and cannot figure out how to fit their commoner lover into that life.

Of course, the ironic reveal involves much drama and a happily ever after.

I’m 100% sure that I read some play with this plotline in my 17th Century French Lit class in 1985. I am something less than 100% sure that I have the right title. I still have the book; sadly, I do not have enough patience, given the tattered remnants of my French language ability, to confirm. Anyway.

That’s pretty much the plotline of Beyond Seduction in a nutshell. There is also an unremarkable and wholly transparent subplot involving a servant boy that constitutes the weakest part of the book, IMO, and one of your more despicable manipulative-parent stories I’ve come across.

What makes it really shine though, is the character of Merry. Her trials at the hands of her mother aren’t so very horrible, as fictional trials go, but her rebellion is quite wonderfully executed. Holly really shows us an entirely unique, intelligent, vulnerable, sensual heroine throughout the story, and as readers, we watch her grow up, step by step. I absolutely love the way Merry not just defies convention, but stands ready to live with the consequences of her actions; no qualms, no ducking or excuses, just standing tall and serene, with narrowed eyes and a bring it ON attitude.

Naturally, our hero Nic has no intention of settling down or falling in love, and for once, the heroine handles this just exactly right. Plenty of stories follow this general formula, both characters refusing to admit that they are in love because they know the other will freak out (for want of a more historically appropriate phrase), but few manage to do it without drawing it out too long or making me dislike at least one character as TSTL. I can’t quite describe what is so right about Beyond Seduction, but I just loved it. Despite Nic being jaded and dissolute, despite Merry being protected and innocent (before Nic, anyway), she instinctively knows exactly how to manage their relationship with dignity and intelligence and with a profound ring of believability.

Holly’s backlist includes paranormal and contemporary erotica, none of which I’ve managed to sample yet. I’m almost hesitant to pick up the paranormals – I liked this book so much I’m somehow afraid I’ll be disappointed with the paranormals. I know that doesn’t make any sense. I do sort of feel like the historical subgenre needs her right now more than the paranormal one does.

Yeah, so it’s kind of late and I’m not sure I’m making sense any more, so I’m gonna call this post done, LOL.


JenB said...

I actually owned this book at one point, but I got rid of it a few months back because: a) I don't like historicals and b) It looked a lot more tame than I'd expect from Emma Holly.

I did, however, LOVE Fairyville, and Personal Assets is fabulous as well. I've read two more of her books that were "pretty good" and one (Menage) that wasn't so great.

JenB said...


It was Beyond Innocence that I owned and got rid of. Not Beyond Seduction. I don't think I ever even knew what Beyond Seduction was about.

Sorry. LOL

Nicola O. said...

It may be tame for Emma Holly, but it's way NOT tame for historical romance, IYKWIM.

JenB said...


Might have to look into this one then. I got the impression that it was mild. Maybe that's because it was being compared to other Holly books. Interesting!

Lady of the Review said...

I've gotta admit, I am not an Emma Holly fan. *ducks* I've tried reading all of her different styles and I'm just not into her stuff. I know, there must be something wrong with me. :D

Nicola O. said...

I just finished one of her novellas and didn't love it. I think she's a good writer but the direction of her wilder imagination didn't do much for me. I think that's why I liked this one though, it didn't sky off into the paranormal penis realm.

Marsha said...

I adored this, too, and am poking about for a copy of my very own, to have and to hold forever and ever, amen. Everything about the story read pitch-perfect to me and, well, sigh. I despaired when I finished.

I also read a short by Emma Holly in an anthology that I liked, but now cannot remember what it was. Drat.


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