Seduced by a word

Several authors have asked what would make a reader pick up their book. I can’t speak for others, but for me, it boils down to a single word.


Put “seduction” in your title and you got me.

I can’t promise that I will read your book from cover to cover, but I’ll stop and take notice. The whispered possibilities of the word grab my attention like the caress of a beckoning lover.

Webster’s New World dictionary defines “seduce” as 1. a) to persuade to do something disloyal, disobedient, etc. b) to persuade or tempt to evil or wrongdoing; lead astray c) to persuade to engage in unlawful sexual intercourse, esp. for the first time. 2. to entice.

By definition, seduction describes acts considered naughty. There’s something tempting about doing something a little bad and getting away with it. Of giving in to one’s darker desires. People are not seduced into performing acts of charity, kindness or generosity. They’re seduced into committing acts of sexual abandon or wrongdoing, often resulting in a loss of innocence.

“Entice” essentially means the same thing as seduce, but bears a kinder, gentler definition: “to attract by offering a hope of reward or pleasure, tempt; allure.”

But enticement doesn’t pack the wallop that seduction does.

While seduction often describes a sexual liaison, a person can be seduced by power, fame or money/greed, or outright evil. One of the best examples of seduction I’ve ever encountered in fiction occurs in author Nelson DeMille’s “Gold Coast.” In the novel, character John Sutter is an upstanding, respected attorney married to a blueblood wife. When a mafia don moves into the estate next door, Sutter, is dismayed at first, but through a series of seemingly small, insignificant choices gets sucked into the don’s life to Sutter’s ultimate ruin. The plotting is masterful, the seduction of John Sutter mesmerizing. It’s among my top ten most favorite books (And, FYI, The Gold Coast has a sequel called The Gate House).

Of course, sexual seduction plays a big role in romance novels. The heroine makes tiny concessions, each one leading her one step closer to where the hero wants her to be—in his bed. She becomes ensnared in a tug-of-war between mind and body, desire and reason. The hero gradually erodes her resistance with his persistence until she surrenders to him.

Seduction is coercive. One person plans to seduce the other.  The hero woos the heroine with the specific goal of bedding her. Often, he keeps his intention secret, cloaking it under the guise of friendship or solicitousness. The playing field upon which the hero and heroine meet isn’t level.

 So, to be seduced absolves the heroine of some of the responsibility for the sexual indiscretion.

But, not all of it.

While the one seduced claims to have been lead astray, the heroine retains the ability to choose her fate. Seduction only succeeds if the seduced wants what the seducer offers.

And she wants it. Seduction taps into the deepest needs and desires of the seduced, desires and needs the seduced may not have known—or, at least, denied–she had.

The hero and heroine dance a tango of wills. And the heroine can’t hold out forever. How can she? She’s outnumbered. She fights to resist the pull of her desires and the hero himself. Seduction caresses her senses and awakens her deep-seated desires. Her mind resists until seduction succeeds in bending her will to the hero’s irresistible goal.

Seduction is simply…seductive.

What are your thoughts about seduction? How do you view the word? Are there any words that hold special meaning for you? Post a comment and join the discussion.

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5 Responses to Seduced by a word

  1. Hey, Cara, I like to expand from the idea of seduction, which you have so wonderfully presented… seduction between a man and a woman is often, imo, a much more profound occurrence… one that can involve, of course, lust and passion… but also, the heart and the soul… and, of course, there must be a seduction of the senses and of the mind.
    True seduction, to me, goes beyond the sexual or the carnal and is beyond the ‘naughty’ element, or the idea of one person getting another into bed… though, nothing wrong with that angle and perspective… what turns me on, is seduction that comes from what I call true desire, desire that is played out with an intensity that goes beyond the idea of the forbidden.
    But, that’s just me. I much prefer intensity.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Building off what you said, Savanna, I would add that the desire in romance is mutual. Both characters are drawn to one another. The hero does not set out to seduce to gain another notch (because that wouldn’t be romantic, sexy or “seductive”), but because he is irresistibly drawn to the heroine.

  2. Tina Donahue says:

    I agree with you, Cara. Seduction is just one of those words that pulls you right in…and in such a good way. 🙂

  3. It’s funny because I never pay attention to titles. They don’t seem to “stick” with me. I’m going to be paying attention to titles with seduction now. Your post seduced me…totally. 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Some titles stick with me better than others. The ones that give me trouble are where the author has a series and all the titles are similiar. I can never remember which ones I’ve read. On a few occasions, I bought the same book twice. Good for the author, not so good for me!

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