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sealA SEAL’s Seduction (Uniformly Hot SEALs Book1), by Tawny Weber, from 2013, is a Harlequin Blaze. I knew what I was getting into, but it was up next on my Kobo reader. I decided to read it for tips on plot and character growth.

Blake is a Navy SEAL. His team’s just lost a member, and he’s on leave. When a sexy woman he meets on the beach turns up again in a bar, why not have a little fun? A steamy beach encounter leads to a dirty weekend at her place.

Alexia is a scientist, and sort of dating someone in her field. But he doesn’t excite her “girlie parts,” not that she’s given him the chance. He’s a geek. That good looking guy on the beach, on the other hand, might be fun. When she finds him again in a bar, she goes for it. She has a rule about not dating military types, but for some reason, which I forget, she assumes the muscular hunk in a bar frequented by military types is not with the military. After the hot weekend, she learns who he is, and refuses to see him again. When dramatic circumstances bring them back together after eight months, there is more sex and more misunderstandings until they finally talk, and then all is well.

The plot is simple enough. Random sexual encounter leads to lasting relationship. Unfortunately, it was never clear what happened during that sexual encounter that led to enduring desire. There were a few too many coincidences and contrivances, and the resolution was weak.

Blake is the standard wounded soldier who finds solace in a relationship. That’s personal growth, but I always wonder about the long term effects of the trauma. And although he didn’t forget her during the eight months they were apart, he had sex with “plenty of women.” I guess that means a) he’s so manly and sexual that he has to have it regularly and b) his connection with Alexia must be really strong if it’s endured with all those other encounters.

Alexia’s initial goal is good sex, which is fine, but her desire to seek that from a muscular stud in a bar instead of the ordinary guy she is dating leaves her looking shallow. I’m left wondering why the author did this. The existing suitor seems like a sub-plot that never got developed. Alexia undergoes some character growth, in that she learns she can be happy with a military man, but apparently the solution is one part Zen, one part keeping secrets, and one part pretending to be someone you are not. Two-thirds of that is the opposite of what a strong and independent woman would do. She changes, but hardly for the better.

Although she started out obsessed with satisfying her “girlie parts,” she doesn’t date anyone while they are apart. So maybe she’s not that sexual after all, and can’t be that strongly connected if she hasn’t tempted herself with others? Or is this just a tiresome old double standard?

Elements such as setting are sometimes awkward. We learn that Alexia has just moved into her condo, and everything is still in boxes. Then Blake is cooking her a deluxe breakfast. So the kitchen is all set up? There’s a quick mention of getting food from a neighbour. If a guy with three days beard, dirty clothes, and reeking of sex showed up at my door early Sunday morning and asked for food, I’m not sure how keen I’d be to share. (I might welcome him…but that would be a different type of story.) As with the existing suitor, it does not seem important to the story that Alexia has not unpacked – so why not just have her fully moved in, with a well stocked kitchen?

The kitchen scene reminds me of how little these character talk. Yes, it is romantic when a guy cooks for you, but a gentleman asks what you would like, and maybe even asks permission. Just because I’ve given you the run of the bedroom doesn’t mean you get the run of my kitchen – that’s a personal space. And there’s no talk of birth control.

It’s hard to say which is more jarring in a contemporary romance. The spontaneous encounter where the guy is not only willing to wear a condom, but has one (or two, or three) handy; or the spontaneous encounter where nobody spoils the mood by bringing up birth control or health concerns. It is eventually mentioned that Alexia is on the pill, but when they meet up again, she’s had no opportunity to take her pill for five days. Perhaps we are meant to think they were so overcome by lust they both forgot?

Perhaps I am being picky because I don’t care for the emphasis on sex in the Blaze line. Or perhaps I noticed these flaws more because the story didn’t resonate well for me. Weber writes good sex and action scenes, and has some snappy dialogue and situations, particularly early in the book. Unfortunately, after a solid and hot opening, it becomes less and less satisfying. The dull suitor points out that “relationships based on sexual heat don’t last. They flare hot and intense, and burn out just as fast.” He has a point, and the story’s attempt to make this relationship last feels forced. My bubble bath rating is dollar store vanilla, but I did get tips on plot and character growth.

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