I usually have no trouble writing reviews for books I've read and enjoyed -- and even for books I've not enjoyed, but quantifying Seduction by M. J. Rose is difficult. There is much more to the story and what is right and wrong with the book than the usual issues.
The book begins with Victor Hugo just after he lost his daughter Didine to an accident. His daughter and her new husband were on a boat when it capsized and drowned both. Hugo was miles away with his mistress. Enter guilt and anguish and the first seduction by an entity that promises Hugo can have his daughter back -- for a price.
Seduction is filled with bargains and seductions from entities and from people caught in their own turmoil and that is what makes Rose's foray into this latest blend of historical and modern day fiction so surprising and delightful. It is not the seduction at the heart of Seduction that makes the book frustrating but the balance of story lines (there are four) and the timing and placement of clues, for this book is also a suspenseful mystery -- sometimes.
Any suspenseful novel must be able to keep the reader's attention and Seduction wears on the nerves and the fortitute of the reader by hinting at suspense and secrets and then going on to detail -- in beautiful and evocative language -- the history of the landscape and the people without getting to the heart of anything. The most important clues to the solution of the mystery that point the way to the climax do not happen until well past the midpoint of the book. One's breath can only be held so many times and for so long before giving out.
I have enjoyed every book I have read by M. J. Rose, and this one is enjoyable, but frustration with the author's methods and timing did lessen my enjoyment. I put Seduction down several times before deciding that it was more important to finish reading the story (stories).
One thing Rose does very well is surprise me with the solution to the mystery, and Seduction did surprise me in the end. Rose knows how to make the villains so sympathetic they appear to be heroes. The characters are complex as are their lives and motivations, which makes M. J. Rose's books worth reading. The rich language and lush details provide a background that is as much a character as the people inhabiting the book.
I recommend Seduction with the caveat that there are problems with the pacing and balance of the disparate elements and stories. Even so, some of these characters have more stories to tell and M. J. Rose uses them to good effect in subsequent novels.