With a title like Lady Seductress’s Ball, I was expecting Eliza Knight’s novella to be a steamy novella without much plot. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised that this short erotic story concealed a happily ever after.
Olivia, Countess of March, has been having erotic dreams of Tristan, the Earl of Newcastle… while she’s been waiting for her husband, the Earl of March, to just up and die already.
Her behavior isn’t quite as vulture-like, or maybe harpy-like, as it sounds. Her parents’ deathbed wish three years ago was that she marry the much older March. They thought it was safe. Olivia has found it stifling. She behaves with exacting propriety, but is miserable inside. And she is utterly alone.
Tristan, the man she dreams of, also dreams of her. Olivia doesn’t know it, but he would have offered for her. But in the midst of her first season, her parents’ sudden death and her subsequent marriage to March quashed all his hopes, too. Three years later, he still burns for a woman he cannot touch.
Until one evening, when March is feeling a little better, Olivia holds a dinner party, and invites several friends. Daringly she invites Tristan. For a few brief moments in the garden, they acknowledge their mutual desire for each other, but go no further than heated caresses.
Weeks later, Olivia receives an invitation from Tristan to Lady Seductress’s Ball. One night in the country when anyone who is invited can indulge any sexual fantasy with whoever they choose. The only requirement is that she arrive masked.
Will she go? And after an entire night indulging in every fantasy she has ever dreamed of, can she return to a life of duty and obligation? Can love (and lust) conquer all?
Escape Rating C+: The story was trying to have its cake and eat it, too, in the romance vs. erotica sense, and squeeze it into 70 pages. There wasn’t quite enough space. That Olivia might lust after someone other than her husband, made a lot of sense. He wasn’t much interested or interesting, even before his illness. But there isn’t enough relationship between Tristan and Olivia to show them falling in love with each other. I’m glad there’s an HEA, but why does it happen? There’s just not enough space to develop the “sex into love” plot, and we don’t see enough of their previous acquaintance to see why they might have already been in love before the opening scenes of the story.