How could I resist a book whose blurb starts with “Greta Zwieg forges masterpieces.”? Especially a romance? That’s like not having to choose between strawberries or chocolate and getting strawberries dipped in chocolate! I love art, as you’ll likely know if you’ve read my blog, love romance, and love the intrigue that’s promised with forging masterpieces.
Set in Salzburg in 1805, Greta Zwieg is forging her uncle’s collection of masterpieces to keep them safe from Napoleon’s ravages. Or at least, that was the original plan. Her greedy uncle starts to sell the copies and Greta’s caught between loyalty for her family and her own ethics.
A romance wouldn’t be complete without a hero, and Portrait of Seduction gives us Oliver Doerger, valet to his half-brother Christoph Venner (whom you will have met in Song of Seduction, Carrie Lofty’s excellent earlier novel). Oliver’s keeping his origins secret to spy for his brother, and in the course of his duties, saves Greta from a perilous situation. Both he and Greta are enamoured of each other, but as Greta’s a high-born lady and Oliver’s just a valet, there’s no way to leap those obstacles without immense scandal.
Until Oliver, Greta had hardly noticed any of the servants, and she doesn’t know what to make of her attraction to a valet. Class lines are not so easily crossed, and Oliver has secrets he needs to keep. Napoleon’s approaching army gives the book an urgency to their attraction and it smoldered on the pages as I was reading. Lofty very carefully dances between giving the reader what they want and holding back to build tension. Oliver and Greta kiss, but though they both want more, they’re kept from consummation.
This is one of my favourite books of the year; I might even go back and re-read it in a couple of months, when I fly to New York for RWA’s national conference. (And I see that Carrie Lofty is doing a workshop….I know where I’ll be!)