Courtney Milan does not write a simple Romance novel. This novel is sophisticated and sexy as Hell. Her books are complex with important subplots and important relationships with secondary and tertiary characters. The back stories she creates for her characters are lush, rich and incredibly well developed. “Proof by Seduction” is a novel that took me by surprise, it started off “status quo” then I quickly realized this was going to be something completely different. Both the Hero and Heroine are flawed, damaged, and hiding their true identities in different ways.
The novel begins with Ned Carhart bringing his skeptical older cousin to prove that Madame Esmerelda is the real deal – a true Fortune Teller. Gareth Carhart, the Marquess of Blakely, is a man of Science, he’s recently returned from South America where he’s documented the many species of wildlife and where he can prove theories of evolution and the environment. However, since the death of his Grandfather he is now saddled with the responsibilities of his Title. He needs to rein in his impetuous young cousin and prepare him for the responsibilities that await his station. Gareth comes prepared with notepad in hand and many questions for Madame Esmerelda and takes copious notes during the interview. All the while Ned is completely Team Esmerelda. Gareth finally requires proof of her future telling ability. Esmerelda foretells that if Gareth performs 3 tasks he will get married. He must complete the first take and he will see and meet the woman he will marry at a precise time at a specific ball. Knowing this is preposterous, Gareth arranges for Madame Esmerelda to attend the ball with him and Ned to see her expression when her fortune does not come to fruition.
Despite the fact that Madame Esmerelda displays the utmost outward calm during her interview by the Marquess of Blakely, she is in a panic. She is not a Fortune Teller and her name is not Esmerelda but Jenny Keeble. She takes money for telling people what they need to hear and/or what they want to hear. Ned Carhart came to her at a time of desperation and depression. He came to “Madame Esmerelda” to ask whether or not if things would be better if he took his own life. As Madame Esmerelda she didn’t truly see his future but she assured him that his future would surely be better than it was at that time. After she spoke to him it gave him hope and because of that boost of support, he gained some confidence and self-worth. Much of what she does is not fortune telling but providing really good advice, a friendly ear to listen, and an unbiased set of eyes. Jenny has cleverness and wit on her side, she was sent to an expensive finishing school as a child until she turned eighteen. She does not know who her parents are but she is well educated and could be a governess or companion but without any references nor knowledge of who her parents are she is unable to get hired in that profession. She is too educated to be content to be a farmer’s or a merchant’s wife so if she didn’t have her persona as Madame Esmerelda she would have to selling her body to survive.
Gareth has the reputation of being cold, calculating, and rude and that’s being kind. His half sister wants desperately to be close to him, she attempts to seek advice to him but he is unable to give it to her. Much of his behavior comes from being raised by his Grandfather who was cruel, punishing, and demanding. He taught Gareth to suppress his emotions so Gareth doesn’t know how to help his sister, how to talk to her, nor what advice to give her. Similarly, his cousin Ned worships his older cousin and seeks his approval but Gareth only knows the expectations that were drilled into him and doesn’t know how to give encouragement or constructive criticism. However, as much as he wants to debunk the fortune telling abilities of Madame Esmerelda he is also incredibly attracted to her. He thinks that perhaps he can kill 2 birds with 1 stone – defraud her, humiliate her and then have her screaming his name as he enjoys the pleasures of her body. However, her intellect and her ability to see past his mask of cold indifference attracts him as much as her beauty and sexuality. As the novel progresses her observations of him and his lifestyle cause him to rethink about some of his day to day behavior and treatment of people, and causes him to be a better and more feeling person. Not to everyone, but to those close to him.
Jenny is effected as well. Because she is revealed she rethinks her “profession”, which causes some profound reactions for some people, and impacts her to a calamitous degree. She realizes that even though she felt that she wasn’t doing anything wrong by pretending to be a Fortune Teller, as she mostly gave advice and a safe person for people to talk to and get advice from it was wrong to take money from these people. What made things worse was that many of her clients were people she had grown close to and now she’s abused her trust. It was all because of Gareth, he opened her eyes to how her deception was unfair to these people, no matter how innocent her motives were. Jenny’s story is very complex and the solution to her life situation is not easily resolved because she wants to keep her dignity and not be “owned” by a man.
There are many pieces in play in this novel, and so much emotional and psychological workings to accompany the incredibly hot and steamy sex. Wow! There is multitude of Smexy, panty melting, tingly scenes in this novel. Again, wow! This novel has everything!
I’m giving this novel 4 Lightning Bolts and a Storm Warning.
This novel is from my personal bookshelf therefore it is an honest review.