christina dodd is an perplexing author. there are moments when her writing expresses an engagement of emotions, her characterizations are textured and multi-faceted, her love scenes are passionate and adventurous and her plots are intriguing. i found this to be true when i read RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, A SCANDALOUS EVENING, and MY FAVORITE BRIDE. unfortunately, i did not find it to be true in her latest effort.
in MY FAIR TEMPTRESS, she again pulls from the bottomless well of heroines found at the distinquished academy of governesses. lady caroline ritter is a beautiful woman down on her luck. four years prior to the beginning of the story, she was scandalized during her one and only season by a ruthless and married aristocrat who used her as a means of gaining a divorce from his shrew of a wife. after being tossed out of the family home by her uncaring father, she was cast from polite society and forced to make a way for herself. after failing at numerous jobs, she lands at the distinguished academy of governesses where she hopes to land a job despite lacking of any skill except for her ability to flirt.
who would need a governess with such a skill, you ask? turns out the duke of huntington desires of someone with just such a talent. his grown son has recently returned from france transformed from a self-contained, serious, and logical man to a foppish, idiot dandy, which has in turn pushed away all prospective brides. after the death of his older son michael, the duke has suddenly become preoccupied with the task of getting his next son jude married and grandkids on the way.
jude durant isn't just any foppish, idiot dandy. in fact, he's just posing as one while he tries to track down those responsible for his older brother's death. his mind is set on vengence and he is determined to bring them to justice, no matter the cost. when he finds out about his father's plan, he is initially outraged until he meets caroline. he is instantly taken with her beauty and when the suspects he's been following appear to be taken with caroline, he decides to use her as a means of getting information from them.
the thing is, he doesn't tell caroline he's using her. she's an unwitting pawn in the game, which makes me wonder how he could possibly think he could get any information from them without her being aware of the situation so that she could actively seek the information out.
and that's just the tip of the illogical iceberg. caroline, who first comes off as someone who is strengthened by her four years on the streets having to take care of herself, ultimately makes decisions throughout the book that lack consistency with her characterization. i won't tell much so that i don't spoil the plot twists for you, i'll just say that she goes from courageous to cowardly at the flip of a hat, and when she finally becomes unwaveringly courageous, it's only because she found a way to sexually tame jude. she never acknowledged the strength she had based on her ability to take care of herself before she met jude.
i find it disturbing that the heroine was able to become empowered enough to stand up for herself only after she tied up jude during a sexual encounter. sure, she was in control, but why would dodd tie such a significant moment of empowerment to such an act? it kind of made the whole thing appear hollow and too fragile to actually last. there were actually some moments when caroline stepped into the "too stupid to live" territory with some of her decisions, which frustrated me and made me wonder why she considered herself to be so intelligent. for example, jude dropped his facade as a dandy when the two of them were alone, so i wondered why she didn't figure out early on that he was doing it all for show.
also, i never got an understanding of who jude was, really. he was a guy who was mad because his brother was killed and wanted vengence. he faked being an idiot to gain information, and he liked to have adventurous sex. that's the extent of what i got from him by the end of the book. there wasn't enough depth to him to make me care about him. dodd depicted him with too little emotion, and what little there was was so mercurial, i wasn't sure if it was his actual emotion or part of the act he was portraying.
the love scenes were on par with dodd's previous efforts, though. they were sensual, intimate and daring. just so you know, there is some bondage involved. i like that aspect, although i didn't care for the reasoning behind why it occurred.
finally, the plot itself was a bit on the side of unbelievable. while jude is chasing down the men who killed his brother, he stumbles onto a murder plot. however, the players and the executing was so convoluted that i ended up shaking my head in exasperation because again, much of the decision-making was illogical, which made the characters appear to be really stupid.
so ultimately, i can only recommend this book with reservations. the execution of the plot was weak, the characterization was inconsistent and spare, although the sexual encounters were top-notch.
in other words, if you like to read about great sex, but care little about the who and the why surrounding it, then this book is for you. otherwise, i'd recommend you check out the three books i mentioned at the beginning of this review.