Seduction: A Novel of Suspense - M. J. Rose Much appreciation and thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC copy of Seduction, which is probably one of the most haunting and evocative books I've ever read. The expected publication date for this title is May 7, 2013.

As a big fan of the fantasy and historical fiction genres, I have to say I love it whenever I come across authors who experiment with ways to incorporate elements from both in their stories. Seduction definitely fits the bill. The book is not your typical historical novel in that much of it actually takes place in the present. Its plot also contains a pretty hefty paranormal component.

Events in the book unfold through a couple different storylines. In the present day, mythologist Jac L'Etoile arrives on the Isle of Jersey--where famed novelist Victor Hugo once lived for several years during his time as a political exile--in the hopes of studying the island's Celtic history with her old friend Theo Gaspard. Interspersed through her story are chapters from Hugo's secret diary in which he chronicles his grief at the death of his daughter in a drowning accident, as well as his subsequent obsession with contacting her spirit by participating in hundreds of séances. These separate narratives are interwoven to form an intricate tale of mystery and suspense, linking together these characters and perspectives separated by more than a century and a half.

What I love best about this novel is its unique and unusual blend of aspects from so many genres. Seduction is the latest in a series of books called The Reincarnationist, which centers around topics related to paranormal phenomena as well as spiritual themes like past lives and the idea of an immortal soul. At its heart, the book can be considered a mystery novel, with the aforementioned historical fiction and fantasy elements. But it also has a bit of horror in it too. Quite a few scenes unsettled me and sent chills down my spine, especially the ones involving Victor Hugo's séances and his encounters with a malevolent spirit implied to be the devil himself, called the Shadow of the Sepulcher. There's a spooky vibe throughout the whole book for sure, which are enhanced by the rich details the author gives of the old architecture and the ethereal beauty of the sea and caves on Jersey.

So much seems to be going on in this novel. Maybe too much. Granted, it all comes together in the end, but the book started slow while it attempted to establish all the characters and the setting. It also made for a rather scattered reading experience trying to keep track of what's going on in the present as well as in the past, and things only get even more muddied with Jac's visions and the addition of a third side storyline partway through the novel.

Not to mention, Jac's character has a pretty complicated history to think about as well. The book touches upon her psychological disorders and troubles with hallucinations, which is what led her to befriend Theo when they were teenagers being treated at a Swiss clinic together, but there is also so much about her past that doesn't seem to be explored much. To be fair, my guess is that a lot of this was probably covered in The Book of Lost Fragrances, the book that came before this one, in which Jac is also the main character. However, I did have to wonder if we really needed so much about her pining for her past lover. All the references to him and what they shared, heartbreaking as they were, felt a bit superfluous, since none of that had to do with the story at all.

In any case, despite all that, Seduction can definitely be read as a standalone. If you're like me, you might even be tempted to pick up the previous book, to find out more about Jac L'Etoile who makes her living as a TV mythologist, but actually comes from a long line of famous French perfumers. In fact, her character's experience with making perfumes and identifying scents is what probably gave me a whole other level of appreciation for this book.

Like I said, M.J. Rose is fantastic with the details she puts into describing the setting, but truly it's her description of scents and odors as a main storytelling device that really struck me. I've never thought much about smells in the books I read, until this one came along. It's very effective when used here, too. Since olfactory triggers can often make the mind conjure up very clear imagery and activate vivid memories, this makes it perfect for Seduction which deals so much with remembering and reliving past lives. Overall, I felt this novel was very cleverly written and put together, and that's just one of many reasons.