Then Comes Seduction (Huxtable Series)

Then Comes Seduction - Mary Balogh 2nd in the series, "Then Comes Seduction" is Katherine's story. Katherine is the youngest girl and a few years older than Stephen. She's the golden beauty in the family -- the dreamer and the romantic.Jasper is the villain... or is he? In a drunken revelry on his 25th birthday, Jasper's friends make a wager that he, even with his rakehell reputation, cannot seduce (full intercourse) an innocent within a fortnight. They choose Katherine Huxtable as the innocent, partly because she's a "country mouse" and partly because she's known for her virtue as well as her beauty. Unfortunately, the wager is actually written in a wager book (probably at White's?) and signed by all involved. Which makes the whole wager and all those "gentlemen" involved that much more disgusting. It's one thing to make a wager when you're foxed; it's another to write it down and attempt it when you're sober.Katherine's been warned about "Monty" (Jasper Finley, Baron Montford), but she's just decided that at 20-something, her life and her love life are dull. She has plenty of suitors in her first Season, and many are likeable; but Katherine doesn't *feel* drawn to any of them. So when Monty asks her to walk with him and manages to get separated from the pack and onto a dark, secluded spot, Katherine decides that perhaps she could feel head-over-heels for someone dangerous, like Monty. And she thinks herself capable of taking care of herself... bad move. Monty is so practiced at seduction, he has her willing and breathlessly waiting up against a tree. And somehow, from somewhere, Monty gets a conscience. At the very last possible moment, Monty withdraws and then cruelly scolds and mocks Katherine, telling her all about the bet. She tries to restore her dignity by giving him a rather good set down, herself -- much better than I'd imagine, given just a moment ago, she was ready to surrender her virginity to the man! And then Jasper does the unthinkable: he tells his friends that he lost the wager and pays them off. Why? Even Jasper doesn't know, and so he confines himself to the country for the rest of that Season, to allow Miss Katherine Huxtable all the Society events without having to see him. Except that she packs up and leaves the Town, too.Fast-forward three years... and that I don't quite understand. Why must we wait three years for the story to continue? Regardless, Katherine and Monty meet again, and the spark between them isn't done yet. Monty makes another wager -- this time with Katherine -- that he can make her love him. As dangerous as Katherine knows this man to be, she can't seem to just walk away from him. And because she doesn't, a snide, overweight, mama's boy cousin Clarence (Clarrie) makes a fuss about Katherine's virtue and Jasper's lifestyle. And suddenly, not only is Jasper's half-sister's guardianship in jeopardy, but Katherine's reputation is shattered. Clarence discovered the wager about Katherine and is broadcasting it to all. Now... wouldn't you think that since it was recorded that Jasper LOST that wager that Katherine should be safe? But no. Once again, in the worst of double-standards, it's Katherine that is lambasted and gossiped about.So Katherine is forced to marry Jasper. He doesn't believe in love, only passion and sex. She doesn't believe that a marriage can be sustained on only passion and sex, but needs a heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul understanding. Another reviewer here said it was the contrast of physical (sex) versus friendship/companionship -- which makes a marriage? And as that reviewer so wisely ascertained, it takes BOTH to make a marriage. I see that as a possible motive for this story... although, it didn't quite hit me that way when I read it. So I'll throw in my two cents and say that beyond the passion and friendship, marriage takes WORK; it takes two people committed to each others' happiness - and keeping a positive attitude throughout. But will they be able to pull it off? Is it just a case of a good girl falls for bad boy and regrets it story?---------------------My review here contains spoilers, so I'll be so good as to mark it thus. If you've read the book, read on; otherwise, read at your own risk!The wager is hideous, and it incenses me that Katherine is to blame when it's found out in polite Society! How any reasonable person could believe that is beyond me. And yet it happens every day. So no more about that.But Katherine isn't truly innocent, and she knows it. She wanted the danger -- she thought it was necessary to fall in love. And she continues to be drawn to the bad boy, Jasper, throughout. I'd rather believe that this is a case of attraction, and that when reasonably attracted and motivated, two people can find a way to make it work, IF they're both committed to doing so. I empathized with Katherine, but I got a bit weary of her martyr attitude -- about doing the right thing for her family and his. And I wondered about the 3 year lapse in time. Why? Was it for Jasper to grow up a bit? To return to his childhood home and start to take his rightful place? Katherine certainly didn't seem much changed... or much more mature. She *still* falls for the bad boy; almost as if she, too, can't resist a challenge or a bet, and so she allows herself to be manipulated by Jasper for spite.The wagering bit... if Jasper is such a gamester, why hasn't he gambled his fortune away? That seemed odd to me.And yes, I realize that Jasper is the way he is for a reason, or for several reasons. And his backstory is touching... sad, even. But must every rake have a tortured childhood? Katherine is right in that she reminds him that he was loved -- maybe not by the persons he wanted to be loved by, but he had his sisters, the servants, and his tenants who loved him. Although it's never quite made clear why his father's family had little to do with him; I suppose we're to assume that his holier-than-thou step-father kept them away.Overall, I enjoyed the book immensely. As unlikely as it is, it's always fun to see a rake become reformed... to realize that love isn't a dirty word. And in this book, I enjoyed that Jasper realized that Katherine had been leg-shackled, too -- not just him. And they both realize that happiness or misery is a CHOICE.