This is the first of a quartet of Georgian romances involving members or friends of the Rothwell family, the head of which is the Marquis of Easterbrook.
The quartet consists of
1) This book, "The Rules of Seduction"
2) "Lessons of Desire
3) "Secrets of Surrender
4) "The Sins of Lord Easterbrook
At the start of the book, Alexia Welbourne experiences financial ruin for the second time in her life. After her father had lost all his money shortly before his death, she had been taken in by her cousins, the bankers Benjamin and Timothy Longworth. Benjamin had then gone off to fight on the side of the Greeks in their war of independence, and been reported to have died. Now his former friend Lord Hayden Rothwell, the devilishly handsome brother of the Marquis of Easterbrook, arrives to see Timothy Longworth.
Timothy tells Alexia and his sisters that Rothwell has ruined him: Alexia finds herself homeless and penniless and is encouraged to believe that this is all the fault of Hayden Rothwell's cruel whim. As part of the restitution for the money Tim has lost, Lord Hayden takes the Longworth's main home and gives it to his aunt and cousin as payment for their losses. Offered a position as governess and companion to Rothwell's aunt and cousin in the home where she had previously been a member of the family, Alexia has little choice but to accept. Yet despite her anger with Lord Hayden, she finds him strangely fascinating - and begins to wonder if her brother's allegations that Rothwell ruined their family out of malice or caprice can be completely true ...
The book is set at the time of the war of Greek independence from Turkey, which has affected the lives of a number of characters in the story. There is a reference to the siege of Messolonghi which appears to place the action of this book between April 1825 and April 1826. (A character who mentions "the current siege" of that city is almost certainly referring to the third one, when the Turks secured a military victory but incurred a propaganda disaster.)
Subsequent books in the series cover the romances between Alexia's best friend, Phaedra Blair, and Lord Hayden's younger brother, Lord Elliot Rothwell (Lessons of Desire), between Alexia's cousin Rose Longworth and a self made man, the son of a coal miner, but the only man in a room full of gentlemen who treats her like a lady (Secrets of Surrender), and in the fourth book the eccentric head of the family, the Marquis of Easterbook himself, finally discovers a woman whose company he can stand for more than a short period (The Sins of Lord Easterbrook).
I refer to these books as Georgian romances rather than regency ones for two reasons:
(i) they are set after the Prince Regent had ascended to the throne as George IV
(ii) they are more "modern" in tone and plot than the style associated with the terms "regency romance" or "traditional regency romance"
In particular these books are rather less focussed on the intricate style of the "ton" as high society in London was known in the late 18th and early 19th century and more on the emotional development of the relationship between the main romantic protagonists. And they contain rather more sex than is normal for the traditional regency romance genre.
Some Amazon reviewers have criticised the new sub genre sometimes known as "regency historicals" such as the novels by Stephanie Laurens, a prolific writer of romances set a decade or so before this book, for containing too much sex for their taste. If you are one of the readers who agreed with this criticism of "Bastion Club" novels such as "The Lady Chosen: Bastion Club Series, Book 1
" you will probably think the same problem applies to "The Rules of Seduction." By the same token, if you like the Bastion Club or Bar Cynster series there is a good chance that you will like this book.
Although I would consider this a modern romance set in the 1820s rather than a true historical romance, it is reasonably entertaining and well crafted. The complex plot is a bit implausible, but not so much so as to make it impossible to suspend disbelief while you are enjoying the book.