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Theresa Romain's Season for Desire takes a very different approach to the other three books in the series. The first three books are very straightforward romances and focus on the interaction between the hero and heroine, but, in Season for Desire, Romain's plot involves the following:
1. The Quest for lost treasure
2. The Love Stories (yes, plural)
3. The interaction between the main hero and heroine
4. A villain
5. Lots of interesting side characters
Giles Rutherford and his father are in England to find his mother's jewels, which disappeared without a trace before her elopement to Giles's father. With no leads, except for his father's blind faith in his wife's final words, they've cut a trail through London and nearby towns, and now they've found themselves in an inn in York and recruited by the angry Earl of Alleyneham who is chasing after his youngest daughter, whom he believes has eloped.
Except Audrina hadn't actually eloped -- she had been kidnapped by her former lover, David Llewelyn, who has designs on her dowry, and plans to gain it by fair means or fowl.
It gets a bit confusing at this point, but Audrina's father orchestrates a deal with the Rutherfords: allow Audrina to accompany them (and Lady Irving), and he would tell them about a clue to Giles's mother's jewels. The clue is a jewel box, gifted by the late Mrs Rutherford to Lady Sophy Parr. It's unclear to me whether the treasure hunters were unexpected guests or not, but the Parrs are a strange and very casual family, that everyone was welcomed anyway. The story shifts slightly as the author focuses on the idiosyncrasies of the Parrs, especially Lady Sarah, who married the Viscount of Dudley's late son, Jack.
Lady Sophy is interesting -- slightly odd, and thoroughly enamored with astronomy. She received the Japanese puzzle box from Giles's mother, and never thought to try to open it. Now, Giles, his father, and Audrina try to figure it out. Sarah doesn't really get involved, content to sit and either reminisce about the late Mrs Rutherford's kindness to her, or to hide away in her observatory and look out at the stars. But the author takes time to delve into her backstory and the strange circumstances of her marriage. (She gets her own love story as the story progresses.)
When it was revealed that the clue was a Japanese puzzle box (himitsu bako), I really did wonder whether Giles or Audrina could get it open, because, as mentioned in the story, these boxes are very difficult to solve. And it does take Giled and Audrina chapter upon chapter of figuring out the combination, but they never really make any headway. While tedious, and a bit plodding, these captors did succeeding furthering Giles and Audrina's friendship. While they met on strange circumstances, and thrust together in stranger terms, Giles and Audrina discover a kinship -- they're able to share their thoughts and feelings about their families to one another.
Giles is the oldest, and knows he must look after his sisters. His father is a bit flaky, so it's all on Giles to make sure everything is running smoothly. He worries for his father, and he worries for his sisters, and he worries for himself -- but he has never said all this out loud, until Audrina.
Giles wanted to throttle whoever had coined the word adventure. Everything was an adventure to Richard Rutherford, from days on sleet-sludgy roads to his grandiose plan to establish a London jewelry firm to rival Rundell and Bridge.
- p. 10
But the connection between the wasn't instant: Giles initially thought Audrina was spoiled and entitled, and Audrina thought Giles was too ... American.
As the youngest, Audrina has had to live in the shadows of her older sisters all her life, and then she has had to live up to her father's very high expectations of her. It's been a suffocating and restricted life for Audrina, and this stint in the countryside proves to be liberating.
"...There are five of me within my own family. I could do nothing that had not already been done first or better. So I could only do things last and worst."
- p. 255
The leap between loathing to love is a bit big -- I don't recall Audrina being attracted to Giles, and, while Giles thought Audrina was beautiful, there wasn't really any strong, or compelling desire. Perhaps that is the author's point? To show that love doesn't have to be intense, and passionate, but that it can grow quietly?
There are three other relationships tackled in the story:
1. Giles's father and Lady Irving
2. Audrina's sister, Charissa, and the Duke of Walpole
3. Lady Sophy and Millicent Corning
Add to the quest for the missing jewels, Giles and Audrina must contend with Audrina's kidnapper and ex-lover, who is threatening blackmail. Taken individually, or even two at a time, these combinations of love stories and villains and treasure hunt could make for a strong and memorable story, but, tackled all at once, it diluted a lot of this novel's potency.
Season of Desire is Book 4 in Theresa Romain's The Holiday Pleasures Series. To find out more about Theresa Romain and her books, click below: