Lady Julianne Bradley feels like a bird in a gilded cage. Her parents care nothing for her feelings, merely expecting her to meekly marry a man of her father's choosing. All she longs for is a little adventure and a man who'll love her for who she really is. The only man she really wants, though, is Bow Street Runner Gideon Mayne, whom she met several months ago while he was investigating a case that brought him into her social sphere. After sharing a scorching kiss with him in the garden at a party, Julianne yearns for more before succumbing to her father's wishes. Inspired by the latest novel read by her book club, the Ladies Literary Society of London, she concocts a story about hearing ghostly noises outside her bedroom window, leading to her father hiring Gideon as her personal bodyguard until the culprit can be found. But when the threat turns real, can Gideon save her from a serial murderer who's killing off ladies of the ton?
Gideon Mayne has been attracted to Julianne since the day he met her, but he knows that as a mere investigator, he's not good enough for the likes of a pampered society princess. However, when Julianne's father hires him to protect her, the closeness to her proves nearly unbearable. But it's not until he begins to learn that nearly everything he thought about her isn't true and that she possesses hidden depths that he really begins to fall for her. A few stolen moments of passion aren't nearly enough. Gideon wants to make Julianne his, but when the ghostly killer seems to have set his sights on the woman he loves, can Gideon keep her safe? And if he does, how can he ever convince her father that he's better for her than the titled, wealthy gentlemen vying for her hand in marriage?
Thus far all of the books in Jacquie D'Alessandro's Mayhem in Mayfair series have been delightful reads, and Seduced at Midnight, the third installment is no exception. The series centers around four friends who've formed a book club, whose reads tend to inspire and/or parallel other events in the story. In this one the ladies are reading a fictional, salacious, ghost story titled The Ghost of Devonshire Manor in which a lady falls in love with her ghostly lover. It makes our heroine, Julianne, long for a love like what is depicted in the book, while at the same time, a mystery plays out in which ladies of the ton are being robbed and murdered by someone the papers are calling a ghost. That's because no one knows how the culprit is gaining entry to the houses and he doesn't really leave any evidence behind. Julianne has a crush on Bow Street Runner, Gideon Mayne, whom she met two months before when he interviewed her about another crime that happened in the previous book, so she uses the ghostly murderer to engineer a story that she hopes will keep him close to her. But soon she finds that she's become a target of the real ghost. It all made for a very fun, deeply romantic, emotional, and sexy read.
As the daughter of an earl, Julianne, like most aristocratic women, is expected to marry a man of her father's choosing. However, her father is an exacting man who has no care whatsoever for her feelings or wishes, and her mother is no better. She's like a bird in a gilded cage, who has everything she could ever want from a material perspective, but nothing that she truly needs. What Julianne longs for is someone to genuinely see her and accept her for who she really is. And she wants a man who will love her like her two good friends' husbands love them, not just someone who's looking to make an advantageous match. Thus far all of the men who've come courting have left Julianne cold, but not so of Gideon Mayne. He's starred in her romantic fantasies ever since she met him two months ago, and she'd dearly love to get to know him better. But even after her father hires Gideon to be her bodyguard and she seems to be getting part of her wish, she knows that a real match between them is all but impossible, because he's so far beneath her station. Most people see Julianne as a shy, aloof young woman, but inside she's very passionate about a lot of things: books, music, her dog, and especially Gideon. She longs for adventure, and I love how she takes chances with her heart and unselfishly gives all of herself to the man she loves. Not only do we share a name, but Julianne and I share a lot of personality traits, so I related to her extremely well.
Gideon has been equally enamored of Julianne ever since meeting her, but he knows he can't entertain thoughts of being with her. However, when Julianne finds him alone in the garden at a party while he's investigating the "ghost," she proves a temptation he can't resist, but after sharing a steamy kiss, he knows he must put her out of his mind. Not only is a Bow Street Runner marrying a lady of the ton simply unheard of, but his background growing up with a father who was a thief makes him an even more unpalatable match. Despite that, all of his good intention go up in flames when Julianne tells him she heard ghostly noises which takes his investigation to her home. From there, actual threats are made against her, prompting her father to hire him to keep her safe. The close proximity wreaks havoc on his self-control, especially after Gideon starts really getting to know Julianne and finds that she's anything but the spoiled, pampered princess he originally thought she was. Gideon is a good and honorable man, who always tries to do the right thing. I love how he sees the real Julianne and genuinely appreciates her. And I also love how protective he is of her, even to the point of verbally defending her against her parents and wanting to do more. He totally loses his heart to her, which makes the knowledge that he can never actually be with her all the more painful.
Seduced at Midnight has a number of secondary characters to round out the cast. From Sleepless at Midnight, we have Sarah and Matthew. Because of her feminist sensibilities, Sarah proves the most compassionate of Julianne's friends when they discover that she has feelings for Gideon, while her husband plays a minor role in helping Gideon with a few things. Then there's Daniel and Carolyn from Confessions at Midnight. Daniel's role is similar to Matthew's while Carolyn, at first, isn't entirely supportive of Julianne and Gideon but eventually comes around. Emily, the last of the four friends, is pretty appalled when she discovers her friend has fallen for a commoner. She actually comes off as a bit shallow, but at the same time, she seems to protest a bit too much about Logan, the handsome American businessman who also provides Gideon with some assistance and whom she's paired with in the final book, Tempted at Midnight. In the epilogue of this book, they're seen in the aftermath of what appears to have been a steamy kiss, which is chronicled in the bonus short story, When Emily Kissed Logan. I'll be very interested to see if Emily lightens up and how these two resolve their differences. There are also lords aplenty vying for Julianne's hand in marriage, and most of whom eventually fall under suspicion as the perpetrator of the crimes. Finally, we have the two most adorable characters of all, Gideon's dog, Ceasar, and Julianne's dog, Princess Buttercup. I've certainly read a number of romance novels with romances for supporting characters, but I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've read one in which the romance was of the canine variety, which was just too cute for words.
Seduced at Midnight was simply a wonderful read all the way around. I loved both Gideon and Julianne and related to them both. Their romance is emotional and heartfelt, and I appreciated that the author didn't offer easy solutions to them getting their HEA. The secondary characters are equally as wonderful and I loved getting updates on our past couples and a glimpse of what things might be like for our final couple. The mystery was perhaps a bit predictable, but it didn't detract from the fun of getting to the reveal. Not to mention, there's some delicious steam, with a couple of the hottest, not-quite-all-the-way love scenes I've had the pleasure of reading. I enjoyed every minute I spent on this book, and very much look forward to the final volume to see if it makes the series a clean sweep of perfection.
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