The Devil’s Delilah by Loretta Chase is the second of two books featuring the same general cast of characters. It is the direct sequel to Viscount Vagabond, which I reviewed here. I get the impression that Devil and Angelica’s story from this book, and Louisa and Edgar’s story from Viscount Vagabond may have their own novels, and I suspect there’s a sequel with Lord Berne’s comeuppance, but I haven’t read any of them and don’t have the inclination to go searching right now.
Following his rejection by Catherine in Viscount Vagabond, Mr. Jack Langdon is on his way to visit his reclusive uncle when a chance encounter in a wayside inn is the first step towards becoming embroiled in the drama surrounding the notorious ‘Devil’ Desmond and his lovely daughter, Delilah.
Delilah is of marriageable age and, following Devil’s brush with illness a few years before, has decided that she wants to get married. Preferably before the memoirs that her scandalous father has written are sent to the printing press, and the family becomes even more unwelcome in Society. Accordingly, Devil and Delilah (and Devil’s unpublished manuscript) are on their way to visit Delilah’s mother’s great-aunt, Lady Potterby, who has agreed to give Delilah a London Season. And who just happens to be a neighbour of Jack’s uncle. It’s a small, small world.
Matters are complicated when Jack’s good friend, Lord Berne, decides that he is in love with Delilah – at least enough to make her his mistress – and the publishing business interested in printing Devil’s memoirs declines to take his refusal as an answer.
Loretta Chase is an author I usually very much enjoy, and I picked up this book and its predecessor specifically because of that, so I suppose my expectations were set rather high. Overall I enjoyed this book, certainly more than I did Vagabond, though I did have a few problems with it.
My main issue was Jack’s ‘character switch’ mid-way through the book. He began the story as the gently befuddled, absentminded bookworm he was in Viscount Vagabond, not terribly interested in Grand Romance or Overwhelming Passions after his brush with heartbreak in Vagabond. About half way through the book, Jack undergoes what seemed to be a rather unexpected character-change, and once in London he has turned almost completely into the typical urbane, debonair, ‘alpha male’ romance novel hero. Added to this, the strong, passionate heroine quickly became pushed to the sidelines and a spectator in the adventure.
Since I had been looking forward to a romance with a strong female lead and an untypical hero, I was quite disappointed when a story that had seemed so promising quickly turned into the usual affair. Since I was already half-way through and fond of Delilah, I kept reading.
Another aspect of the book that left me feeling less than pleased was Jack’s friendship with Tony, Lord Berne; for all the times I was told, by Jack and by the author, that Jack and Tony were good friends (or ‘bosom-bows’, as Delilah later terms it), I didn’t feel this friendship was ever really shown. In what little we view from Tony’s perspective, his feelings towards Jack were more sneering and dismissive than anything else, while Jack seems to view himself in the role of perpetual doormat who must cede to his friends’ passions rather than compete, even when the ‘prize’ is Delilah. Quite frankly, I couldn’t see that Tony and Jack liked each other enough to be friends.
I might have been willing to put aside Jack’s change in character as ‘scratching under the surface’ to show something more in line with the occasional hint from Vagabond that Jack wasn’t constantly as befuddled as he seemed, but even Jack’s allegedly closest friend didn’t seem to know that aspect of his character or to think of Jack as anything other than an eccentric bookworm.
The ending of the book was vaguely satisfying in that all of the plot lines were tied off and I wasn’t left with any real questions (other than whether Angelica and Louisa had their own books, and if there was one following about Tony), but the resolution felt somewhat lacking, perhaps because it was told to Delilah after the fact rather than being shown. At least in Vagabond, Catherine played a role in the ending of the drama.
I don’t feel that this book has lived up to Chase’s previous works. It’s not a bad read, by any means, but I don’t think it will be going into my ‘keep’ pile and I can’t recommend it with the same fervour that I would some of her other works.