Review

Swoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them

by Betsy Prioleau

At first glance, SWOON looks like light entertaining reading. But author Betsy Prioleau isn’t merely aiming to entertain; rather, her goal is to get to the heart of what has made the men who women desire --- and swoon over --- tick. She quickly dispels expectations of text that is mere fluff with an almost academic presentation of a number of historic Casanovas and the varied qualities among them that made them what they were. She dives right into her narrative, beginning with a modern (and unknown) lady-killer. She digs to get to the root of his secrets before drawing the reader onto a path of discovering the “It” quality that makes some men such revelatory seducers.

SWOON is not a dating or pick-up guide, but it does provide some insight to those reading it for advice. It turns out that while many great lady-killers throughout history have possessed some of the characteristics Prioleau details, it is unnecessary to have all of them. This undoubtedly will be a comfort to modern men who aren’t great dancers or poets. In fact, there are really only a few qualities that are necessary to bring a man to the fore of seduction. While cooking and expert wordplay are valuable, they are expendable. Caring, attention and sincerity are found in Prioleau’s champions --- and they are the keys to being a one-in-a-million lover.

"For those reading the book for more than its entertainment value, the credibility [Prioleau's] research loans the work is a boon. It is also rather unusual to encounter a book that is enjoyable on both sensual and cerebral levels."

Prioleau covers her bases; she includes information from evolutionary theory, literature, history, popular culture, and primary sources (often in the form of interviews with men who have been identified by anonymous women as Lotharios). For those reading the book for more than its entertainment value, the credibility her research loans the work is a boon. It is also rather unusual to encounter a book that is enjoyable on both sensual and cerebral levels.

In spite of her extensive evidence and convincing rhetoric, Prioleau’s account is prone to a couple of pitfalls. This reviewer found her narrative to be contradictory at times. She comes out swinging against the evolutionary theory that claims women are looking for physical specimens to fulfill the provider role of the square-shouldered Ur-Man. Yet she is willing to consider that the emphasis women put on intelligence and artistic pursuits have caused the development of these skills within the male sex. She returns again and again to some historic figures (such as Franz Liszt, the original Casanova, and Gabriele D’Annunzio), which makes some of her points start to feel like anecdotal evidence rather than the widespread patterns she purports them to be.

One can feel that Prioleau reduces the individual female into a single amorphous being --- all desiring the same thing (or slew of things) from men. Of course, the knowledge that she wrote an earlier book on the female version of this archetypal character, called SEDUCTRESS, helps dampen this objection. And the pleasure the book offers proves valuable enough to make the suspension of this complaint worthwhile.

The best part of SWOON is that Prioleau does not demand complete comprehension or revelation. There is a certain dread in reading a book that categorizes what women want. It would be easy to go too far one way or the other; to tell the reader something obvious or to suggest something unbelievable. Either way, the results would prove to be a decided turn-off. Instead, she closes with the rather uplifting idea that really anyone could be a ladies' man --- that it doesn’t take great wealth, good looks, or other typically sighed-after characteristics. Rather, it seems that men must learn to trust their own instincts before they can love a woman as she should be loved. Personally, I think that this is applicable to both genders, which makes SWOON all the more valuable.

Reviewed by Rebecca Kilberg on February 8, 2013

Swoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them
by Betsy Prioleau