Occasionally, I will read a book that perplexes me. This time it is Sara Craven’s Seduction Never Lies because I am here to tell you that titles do lie because there was nary a hint of seduction in this weird-ass, out of place in Craven’s oeuvre, veddy-veddy English book. But first, to the blurb!
Seduction Never Lies
by Sara Craven
Octavia Denison has always known exactly what she wants – that is, until she’s caught in a compromising position by brooding former rock star Jago Marsh. Tavi is mortified, and judging by the gleam in his golden eyes, he’s seen everything – and liked it!
Used to getting what he wants, millionaire Jago is determined to uncover the identity of the mysterious, flame-haired temptress that trespassed on his property…and to satisfy the craving she’s awakened in him. But seducing Tavi proves harder than expected, especially when she’s set on putting as much distance between them as possible! It’s time to up the ante….
So Octavia/Tavy/Tavi (blurb copywriter mistake!) our virginal heroine rides a bicycle around her village, helps out her widowed vicar/reverend/clergy/priest dad (sorry – as I am not CofE I am not sure what the correct term is), she’s a dogsbody at the local school run by Mrs Wilding, a mean-spirited head teacher and Tavy is going out with her son, Patrick Wilding but it is a big hush-hush secret because Patrick is too scared to tell mummy he is dating her. One sunny bright day, Tavy gets overheated riding her bike so she sneaks into the abandoned manor home at the edge of town, gets naked (BINGO!) to go for a swim in its lake. Shockingly, she is seen by a man who she assumes is a “traveller” *ahem* #racistundertonesmuch. Little does she know that he has just bought the manor home and is destined to become her Twoo Wuv. Tavi is outraged that this man won’t leave and decides that she hates him. He finally gets called away and her naked virtue is saved. Tavy later discovers this bad boy is called Jago and she hates him more when she discovers he is a rockstar out to corrupt all the village kids, and then even more when he gets along with her dad. But of course, the bad boy is actually super-secret boyfriend Patrick who was using her as a front for his own nefarious (whahaha) reasons. By then end of the book, Tavy loves Jago, Jago saves the village church and all the nasty people get their comeuppance while Tavy just gets mortified at the town meeting where Jago is commended for his attempt to court her and that her dad would be understanding if there had been some nudge nudge wink wink going on (I KID YOU NOT!!!)
This book was both confusing and weirdly fun. There was no seduction, it was light on true angst and melodrama despite the immature heroine spending the whole book wallowing in her own imagined dramas while the hero indulged in a double entendre worship of his childhood nanny (who makes a cameo appearance). The book was all detail of quaint English villages and the countryside, the struggles of traditional church parishes and lots of delightful food description with a repast every other page. There were ginger cakes and pork pies, steak and kidney pies, tomato and cheese sandwiches, boiled eggs (yes – our hero Jago likes them cooked for 4 minutes) which Tavy serves in egg cups (I kept waiting for her to make some toast soldiers for him), garden greens, chicken roast, picnic lunches, pub fares, top notch restaurant lobsters, curries and Tavy even bottled her own plums (like – seriously!!!!) as well as making a spectacular macaroni and cheese. When Jago stays for a sleep over, Tavy offers him a glass of milk and rather than just say “no thanks – I’m an adult” he turns down her offer because he dislikes the skim that forms on the top. Awwww! Hero foible! This all felt so incongruous in a Sexy Mills & Boon. It would perhaps sit better in a Sweet or, as Jodi McAlister said in her FABULOUS review of this book over at Bookthingo, it could just as well have been a Famous Five adventure as it read like a slightly more grown up (yet not all that adult) Enid Blyton tale.
There is also a quintessential Englishness in this story that I really miss in millennial romance novels that are now coming out of the UK. That understated language which only hints at either delight or distress. There is Tavy’s appeal to her father “Dad, I’m in such a muddle” or early in the novel when Tavy’s employer is upset so her son Patrick says “Tavy, make my mother some tea, will you? She’s – rather upset.”
Bill Bryson in his Notes from a Small Island talks about the English and their tea drinking. He says
…Mrs. Gubbins came in with a tray of tea things and a plate of biscuits of the sort that I believe are called teatime variety, and everyone stirred friskily to life, rubbing their hands keenly and saying, ‘Ooh, lovely.’ To this day, I remain impressed by the ability of Britons of all ages and social backgrounds to get genuinely excited by the prospect of a hot beverage.
I too love how English friends and family are all “ooooh that would be grand” to an offer of a cup of tea. That delight in what outwardly seems small and inconsequential but when you have a mindset that a cup of tea is grand then everything else that life gives you is on the uphill and this was certainly parlayed in this book.
Tavy…escaped to the kitchen to boil the kettle, and measure Earl Grey into Mrs Wilding’s favourite teapot with the bamboo handle. This was clearly an emergency and the everyday builder’s blend would not do.
Englishness, food indulgences and countryside descriptions aside, my suspicion (and the milk with skim on top statement convinced me of this) is that Sara Craven had this (previously rejected) manuscript sitting in the bottom of a box in her bedroom, long forgotten as one of the slush pile stories that she submitted in the 1970s. With just a few changes to catapult this story into the 2010s such as mentioning emails and computer literacy, the majority of the story read like a retro romance that doesn’t really make the grade (both in the 70s and now).
I’m not sure why this book got the nod but I am really happy that it did. It was a jolly good read.
I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library in New South Wales.