A sappy romance never goes well with a spy/crime story, to my thinking, but sometimes an author needs an idea. Sabrina Jeffries is not the first romance writer to borrow the idea of marrying romance to crime, and not the first one to fail in executing it, either. The 2003 Dance of Seduction is definitely the reason why I said so. Despite my initial low expectation of the book, it’s still hard to have an adequate opinion about it at the end. I never even expected it to exist, to be honest, for I hoped the Swanlea Spinsters series would have just stopped at the third installment. But a reader can only hope.
Subsequent to the revealing story of Sebastian Blakely, Sabrina Jeffries seems to decide that it is just appropriate to have a romantic tale of his twin brother. Morgan Blakely, or preferably known as Morgan Pryce, is thrown by his employer the Viscount Ravenswood into a mission to capture a sly criminal named Specter. To accomplish the mission, Morgan has to settle in Spitalfield, running a shop near the Reformation Home managed by Lady Clara Stanbourne and acting a dangerous criminal himself. But the lady has a dream to reform all the ex-pickpocket children in Spitalfield and she doesn’t want this mysterious, handsomely intriguing man to ruin her effort. She is thus determined to get him out of Spitalfield. However, in the middle of her meddling, she’s unexpectedly yet uncontrollably caught in the charm of the disguising captain and unable to untangle herself from the fact that she is in love with him. Then the question is, does he feel the same way, too? And if he does, will he marry her? And if he will, can he surrender to Clara’s demand to stay in London instead of setting sail again?
While reading Dance of Seduction, I had this question in my mind: is it so hard to create a different character? I found the description of Morgan Blakely very much like Daniel Brennan: he’s sinfully wicked, he’s humorous, he’s funnily charming, and he eats a lot. The fact that he is more burdened by his horrid past than Brennan is the only difference I could find. It’s not that his is not an admirable character, but reading the same portrayal continuously in the same series by the same author is just tiresome. And, as his couple, Lady Clara is as annoyingly stubborn as any female character in the series. What makes her worse is that she’s more horrible and meddlesome. I could bear reading Lady Juliet Laverick, to a certain degree, but I couldn’t stand reading Clara. What’s more, her stubbornness blends with ignorance and innocence, making her ridiculous as both a woman and a person. As a result, a deeply hurt man and a strongly stubborn woman create not only an endless argument, but also an unrealistically longer plot than it should be. Together, they blast the whole book.
As a romance spiked with some criminal case, Dance of Seduction has failed to maintain a balance. Sabrina Jeffries might have never intended to make such kind of story at all, she might have aimed to write a purely historical romance, but the lack of a proper atmosphere can still pique any reader, expectant or not. It might be better than any other historical romance of the same kind I’ve ever read so far, in its premise, story, plot, and even in its description of characters, but unfortunately not in its climax. I wished I could’ve had more fight, more gun shooting, more argument, more violent atmosphere. Instead, the climax is so dull. The very long narrative has to poorly end up in a short, unbelievable peak of line. And what’s more disappointing, I didn’t find Jeffries’ typical funny jokes, nor even a single hilarious, witty dialogue. Nothing entertaining. Nothing to laugh about. The good thing about Dance of Seduction is its nice storyline, which is surprisingly very much different from any other Jeffries’ works I have devoured.
All in all, Dance of Seduction is not really a huge disappointment, but it’s not a marvelous historical romance, either. Its crime component doesn’t successfully blend with the basic idea, making it more or less a patch of unattached decoration. I won’t recommend it, but I’m sure Sabrina Jeffries’ fans will give it a try.