It’s not easy for a woman with neither money nor family to make her own way in the world, but as one of London’s premier fortune-tellers, Jenny Keeble has managed precisely that. All she has to do is smile sweetly, listen carefully, and tell her clients precisely what they want to hear. It works...until Gareth Carhart, the scientifically-minded Marquess of Blakely, decides to prove that she’s a fraud.
At first, all Gareth wants is to free his gullible cousin from Jenny’s clutches. But he discovers that she’s clever, spirited, beautiful, and not at all the conniving liar that he initially imagined. Still, there’s nothing logical about his attraction to her, and so he refuses to give in to it. He’s vowed to ruin her, so he will—even if he has to break his own heart in the process.
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There’s a method of mathematical proof called a “Proof by Induction.” Induction is a method of logical thinking, and it’s closely releated to another kind of logical thinking (deduction). The scientific method (please discard all that hypothesis/test crap you may have learned in junior high; it is wrong and insulting, as many junior high teachers think that “testing” a hypothesis means proving it is right, rather than trying to prove it wrong, which results in some horrible misunderstandings) itself is a method of inductive reasoning. The basic idea is: Observe once. Observe again. Repeat observations. The more you observe something, the more likely it is that you can predict future behavior. Thus: The sun rose yesterday. It rose the day before yesterday. And so forth and so forth; we can conclude that it is very likely to rise tomorrow. Inductive reasoning is the essence of scientific inquiry.
And that’s where the title Proof by Seduction comes from. It combines both the hard rigor and finality of proof with the languid sensuality of seduction. As an added bonus, it’s an awful pun that will make scientists the world over glare at me and stalk off in disgust. I did not mention this little tidbit to anyone while the book was on submission, because I was pretty sure that if I told them that the title was great because it was a horrible scientific pun that nobody would get, they would change it instantly to something less dorky. Now I’ve snuck it by them, and it is too late! Mu ha ha!
The nitpicky amongst you will note that Gareth, as a scientist, really only employs the method of inductive reasoning, not ever a proof by induction. This bothered me to no small extent, but ultimately “Proof by Seduction” is a much, much better title than “Proof by Seductive Reasoning” and elegance won out over the desire to have an arcane pun that was both arcane and nitpicky.
While I’m making confessions to the nitpicky, I should admit that there’s a point in the book where Gareth claims, rather haughtily, that cold can’t flow. Gareth could not possibly have been so sure of this in 1838, as the notion wasn’t really spelled out until Clausius’s 1857 work on the kinetic theory of heat, and probably wasn’t widely accepted until after Maxwell/Boltzmann in the late 1800s. Nonetheless, the equivalence of heat and motion was posited before Gareth’s time. For those of you wondering why cold can’t flow, heat is essentially the movement of particles: the hotter things are, the more particles move. So if you put something cold next to something hot, the fast-moving molecules in the hot thing run into the slow-moving molecules in the cold thing; this slows the fast-moving molecules down (making them colder), but it makes the slow-moving molecules move faster (making them hotter). Thus, heat flows from hot to cold in that kinetic energy is transferred, but cold is the absence of motion, and an absence cannot flow. This is a drastic oversimplification of the process, but you get the idea.
I agonized for months over whether I should include that line, as it was anachronistic, but since everyone I talked to always thought I was crazy for worrying about it, and since the theory had been posited before 1838, even if it hadn’t gained anything like wide acceptance, I eventually left it in.
All by books get code-names while I am writing them. Proof is code-named Ornithology, for Gareth's interest in such.