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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Art of Temptation

**** The Art of Temptation by Lauren Royal. Historical romance.

The Art of Temptation is the third book in the Sweet Temptations trilogy. Unfortunately, I got the order mixed up, and Tempting Juliana is still in my TBR pile. Ah, well.

Lady Corinna Chase is an artist, but unlike other young lady artists in the Regency period, she's not content to confine herself to landscapes and still lifes. She wants to paint portraits, and her dream is to have a painting accepted for the prestigious arts academy exhibit.

When she meets reclusive artist John Hamilton, a member of the academy, she thinks her prayers are answered. Except that it's not John Hamilton--it's his brother-in-law Sean Delaney, who's impersonating Hamilton with Hamilton's dying uncle in exchange for Hamilton's promise to divorce Sean's sister Deirdre, who's threatened to live in sin with her lover if she can't get a divorce.

Of course, it all gets a little more complicated than Sean planned, and when Lady Corinna sees through his charade, she makes another deal with him: she'll help him maintain the masquerade with Hamilton's uncle, of whom they've both become fond and don't want to disappoint on his deathbed, by painting the pictures the uncle is asking to see. In return, Sean will help her with her portrait painting--by posing nude.

This is a wonderfully delightful story. Poor Sean is torn in every direction--getting talked into doing something he finds despicable to save his sister from total disgrace, and ending up doing something just as disreputable with the woman he's falling in love with.

Corinna is an engaging heroine: determined, compassionate, and talented. They make a perfect couple, even if neither of them is interested in being part of a couple.

Meanwhile, Corinna's sister Rachael is slowly developing a relationship with Griffin, who's her cousin, but not a blood relative. It's a nicely done romance, and I can see that it wasn't complex enough for a book of its own, but all the explaining necessary for me to understand their relationship bogged down the story a bit. Maybe it would have been clearer if I'd read Tempting Juliana first, as I'd intended to do. *sigh* The curse of a monster TBR pile.

Anyway, I enjoyed The Art of Temptation. I always like seeing characters do the wrong thing for good, even noble reasons, and both Corinna and Sean do that.

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My cousin wrote an historical with the heroine as a painter, as well - it's called Portrait of a Lover by Julianne MacLean. It's actually my favorite book of hers so far. I'm glad heroines are allowed to show more facets of themselves these days. This one by Lauren Royal has a lovely cover.
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