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Seduction by M. J. Rose

I loved this story combining myth, history, and psychotherapy. I know – not the first combination you might think of! But, it worked brilliantly for me. I thought it was intriguing and exciting.

Part of the story takes place in the 1850s, on Jersey, where Victor Hugo spent part of his self-imposed exile. Hugo is still consumed with grief for his daughter Didine who drowned some years before. His emotional turmoil, and sensitive nature leave him open to the idea of trying a séance to contact his dearly departed. He gets more than he bargained for when an insistent voice calls to him, luring him with promises and offering a bargain.

In the present, Jac is also lured to Jersey with the promise of Celtic ruins and a hidden cave containing evidence of Druidism. Jac’s career hunting down the kernels of truth amongst world myths makes this an opportunity too good to pass up. Her long-term therapist Malachai does not think it wise however; the invitation comes from someone Jac used to be very close to a long time ago. Malachai is convinced she is in danger from the association, but his reluctance to explain fully along with Jac’s natural obstinacy mean he has no chance of stopping her.

And so the stage is set for secrets and mysteries to unfold across the ages. A third story emerges, from an ancient time on the island. There are also stories within stories, as Jac has a troubled past herself that she needs to make peace with. As does Theo, Jac’s companion from the therapy centre they both attended as teenagers and the man whose influence on her Malachai fears. The stories are all revealed slowly, but nothing is kept hidden just to create extra tension. The book flows very well, and the changes of viewpoint seem to come at natural points in the story.

The mythology is so interesting, as is the Jungian psychology and the past-life theory. Jac had suffered from hallucinations since childhood, which get worse at times of particular stress. Malachai believes that past-lives are a reality, and that Jac might be able to access hers – but she is utterly resistant to such an idea. Her approach to life is cynical and mistrustful; she doesn’t research mythology to make it real but to explode its mystical elements. On Jersey she may just have to rethink her approach.

There are some lovely supporting characters, especially Theo’s aunts who share a home with him. They are a direct link to the past, and to the history of their family. Coincidentally there is perfume-making in their family, as there is in Jac’s. Scent plays a vital role in the book, triggering, evoking and creating memories. Jac is incredibly sensitive to smell and can discern the individual ingredients that make up any perfume. The layers of scent add to the atmosphere of the story.

The only thing I do not like about this book is its title. It doesn’t adequately capture the essence of the book for me. There is seduction within in it: the seduction of the senses. But, it’s more than that, it is a battle between reason and the mythic, it’s about daring to open yourself to something beyond the rational, and having the strength to retain a grip on what’s real and right. But, title aside, Seduction is a very enjoyable and compulsive read.

Thank you very much to Atria Books for allowing me to read Seduction in advance of publication via NetGalley. The book is published 7 May 2013 in Hardback.


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