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Emma Locke's Lord Constantine Alexander is simply the fourth son and spare to the spares of his brother, the current Marquis of Montborne Constantine would be happy with his meager allowance, struggling investments and quiet life, except he has to constantly keep his twin brother, Darius, out of trouble. All of London sees Constantine as another feckless Alexander boy with too many debts, too many entanglements and too many complications -- and this is exactly the kind of man Elizabeth needed.
Elizabeth's proposition comes at the right time for Con, who needed the money Elizabeth was offering -- it was to have been a simple arrangement: get the baby and then get the money, but nothing in Elizabeth's life is ever simple and, when the inevitable complications arise, Constantine does what Elizabeth never expected anyone to do for her: stand by and protect her.
When we are first introduced to Elizabeth in The Trouble with Being Wicked, she is pregnant with her son and was, quite honestly, annoying: she fell pregnant as a last-ditch effort to keep her lover from straying and all she did in Devon was to moan and cry -- but Elizabeth in The Problem with Seduction, is a woman transformed by love -- the pure love of her son, Oliver. She is more circumspect and more grounded but, when Oliver was taken from her by his father, Elizabeth is moving heaven and earth -- and has resorted to lying and plotting (and ten thousand pounds) to get her son back.
Picture a romantic hero right now. What three words would you use to describe him? Brooding? Mysterious? Tortured?
Constantine Alexander isn't any of these -- and it is a refreshing attribute. Constantine is misunderstood, by his brothers and by society -- what they see is another bored, spoiled aristocrat who spends more than he earns -- but Constantine isn't that at all -- he is an earnest young man who is trying to make the best of his situation. His father died of gaol fever because of his gambling and his family continues to struggle to make ends meet -- and Constantine has the added burden of having a twin brother who has inherited their father's vice.
The truth is, Constantine isn't idle at all -- he is busy trying to save the world. When Elizabeth approaches him with the offer, he immediately accepts it. He is as desperate as Elizabeth is: she for her son, he for his twin brother. He does the job and succeeds in getting Elizabeth back her son. Their involvement ought to have ended then -- but Con's brothers want him to step up and be a father to young Oliver and, after being threatened by her father, Elizabeth needs him to pretend to be Oliver's father as well.
But Con doesn't want to pretend -- in the eyes of his family and of society, he is Oliver's father and he truly wants to be involved in Oliver's life.
An issue of trust: Elizabeth has been disappointed by all the men in her life. Her career as a courtesan has also made her wary of the falseness and shallowness of men. She thought Constantine was another name in that long list of ... wolves and she tries to resort to her tried-and-true methods of handling men: seduction -- but Constantine surprises her (and the readers) with his sincerity and kindness. He isn't at all what she expected him to be.
His arms opened wide. Without warning, he enveloped her in them. "I have never seen anyone more in need of a hug," he murmured against her hair.
Stunned, she could no nothing but stand stiffly. Pressed against his chest, with her arms squashed against her corset and her cheek turned to one side, she waited awkwardly for him to finish. Why was he hugging her when she was sure he'd been about to --
"I'm not going to kiss you." His warm breath tickled her hair.
"Why not?" The side of her mouth moved against his coat. The soft wool smelled like him.
- pp. 164-165
Constantine wants to be seduced -- not by Elizabeth the courtesan, but by Elizabeth the woman, the mother, and his unlikely friend and confidante. With Elizabeth, Con is free to be himself -- to be honest and unburden himself. Elizabeth does not judge but listens -- a quiet reinforcement to his crumbling life. (Read pp. 58-71)
I love that it isn't the hero that needs reforming in this story, but the heroine -- Elizabeth struggles to make sense of her new world and Constantine is as his name implies: constant and steadfast: the north star to her lost ship.
For all the men she'd thought she'd loved, she'd never known anything like her feelings for Con. He took her many faults and tamed them. And for the few good qualities she did have, he made them better. Motherhood, for one. He took her lopsided little family and completed it.
- pp. 242-243
I think Con and Elizabeth truly complete each other -- and I love how they fight and sacrifice all to keep their little family together. Con is an extraordinary hero, selfless and loving -- and chivalrous -- he shines through, truly, like a knight in shining armor amidst the many, many dark and shadowy characters who sought to destroy his family.
I loved Emma Locke's debut novel and this book just blew me away with its thoughtfulness, honesty and warmth. Locke writes her characters with such depth, insight and sympathy that you can't help but root for them. The Alexander men also stand out in this story and it amazes me how Emma Locke manages to enliven Roman, Bart, Tony and Darius with distinct dimensions, personalities and voices. As I was reading about them and their interaction with Con, I kept thinking: I want to read more about them. (The good news is, I will! Yay! The next book features Roman! ^_^)
The Problem with Seduction is Book 2 in Emma Locke's The Naughty Girls series. Book 3, The Art of Ruining a Rake is next. To find out more about Emma Locke, click below: