Posts Tagged ‘ loretta chase ’

Review: The Devil’s Delilah

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.
The Devil'a Delilah Cover
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  Accordingly, Devil and Delilah (and Devil’s unpublished manuscript) are on their way to visit Delilah’s mother’s great-aunt, Lady Potterby, who has agreed to give Delilah a London Season.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.

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Review: Viscount Vagabond

Viscount Vagabond is a Regency romance by Loretta Chase, who is usually a must-read author for me.  I’m honestly not sure if Vagabond and its sequel, The Devil’s Delilah, are simply so old that Chase hasn’t developed the style that makes me love (the majority of) her books, or if I’m just cynical enough lately that they fall flat for me.  They’re not bad books, by any means, but I just can’t find many nice things to say about them.  Perhaps they’re simply too formulaic, typical bland Regency fodder.  Perhaps I need a break from historicals and should go find a nice paranormal or cyberpunk romance to read instead.Viscount Vagabond cover

Hrm.

Anyway, back to the book review.

Our Vagabond Viscount in question is Clarence Something Maximilian Demowery (there might be two Somethings in there instead of just the one), Viscount Rand.  Insert lame joke here about Lord Rand being v randy.  Raised as the younger son of the Earl of St. Denys, Max was v upset when he was dragged back from America like a recalcitrant schoolboy because his older brother died and he was now his father’s heir.  There was also something vague about his father ‘buying off’ the American lady Max wanted to marry so he had no excuse not to come home.  Given six months of ‘freedom’ before he is expected to settle down and be all respectable, Max seems to have spent most of that time living in the Regency equivalent of a slum and being all debauched and disreputable.

Our heroine, Catherine Pelliston/Pennyman/Pettigrew (no relation to Wormtail, I assume) ran away from home to avoid an unwanted marriage while her abusive alcoholic father and brand-new stepmother were away on their honeymoon.  Catherine’s brilliant plan was to throw herself unannounced at the feet of her former governess and beg for shelter, or something, but instead she finds herself falling for the time-honoured ‘tricking an unwilling girl into being a prostitute, because heavens know there aren’t enough women who would whore willingly to put food on the table’ scheme.

Fortunately for Catherine, her very first customer is none other than our randy Viscount, who she somehow manages to persuade that she’s really not there willingly.  He eventually agrees to help her escape, and pays Granny Grendle, the brothel’s madame (Beowulf, anyone?  Though Angelina Jolie was much hotter than this lady sounds) the shocking sum of fifty pounds for Catherine and all of her belongings.  He still thinks she’s a whore, though, and takes her home, where he proceeds to not-ravish her.  Possibly because he passed out drunk, the book was a little hazy about that since the scene was from Catherine’s view and she was hiding in the bedsheets at the time.

Now that Max finally believes she’s not a whore – or that if she is a whore, she’s not putting out for him – the next day he takes Catherine to the school where her former governess is teaching.  Or was teaching, rather, since she appears to have eloped with another teacher (I think?  They didn’t really say who he was) and is currently in Ireland or Scotland or somewhere else inconsiderately too far away to be of use to Catherine.

Since she wasn’t putting out earlier but he for some reason feels guilty about abandoning her, this time Max takes Miss Pettigrew, as she’s told him her name is, to visit his sister, Lady Andover, who for some reason we must know is childless but would be an excellent mother (ten bucks says Lady Andover is pregnant by the end of the book).  Catherine eventually runs away from there, too, with a ridiculous plan to sell her hair to a wig-maker to get money to go back home and resign herself to marry the man she ran away to London to escape marrying in the first place.

Luckily for both Catherine and the obvious romantic pairing, she gets lost on the way to the wig-maker’s, not knowing London at all, and is manipulated by a small streetwise boy by the name of Jemmy into taking a position as a seamstress for Madame Germaine.  While she is AWOL, Lady Andover’s husband admits that he thinks she’s some kind of second or third cousin of his, and not Miss Pettigrew at all.  So Max enlists the aid of his valet (I think) to track down the elusive Miss not-Pettigrew, who they find working in Madame Germaine’s shop as Miss Pennyman.

Then make room for another ridiculous plan, as Max attempts to convince Madame Germaine that Catherine has lost her memory and needs to get home because her family is worried about her.  Or something.  I’m not quite sure whether Madame actually believes that nonsense, or just wants Max to go away, but eventually she acts convinced enough to make Catherine leave with Max, who promptly dumps her back at Lord and Lady Andover’s.  Lady Andover has apparently decided that they should give Catherine the London Season she’s never had, and somebody – I think Lord Andover – wrote to Catherine’s father and managed to gain his blessing and the end of the unwanted engagement.

Cue developing feelings between Our Naive Heroine and Our Debauched Hero, ODH’s insistence of courting another lady, Diana Glencove, despite his developing feelings, some blackmail when the jilted fiance finds out about the whole brothel thing, and Diana running off with her childhood sweetheart after getting engaged to ODH.  And some kidnapping, since that was about the only trope that hadn’t been used yet.

For all that we’re told Catherine is a bluestocking and an intellectual, she has next to no common sense and to me, doesn’t seem that smart or knowledgeable.  Frankly, she’s a bit of an idiot, which I coud happily excuse if she were not constantly called an intellectual bluestocking by practically every character.  It’s definitely lacking the ‘show’ and with too much ‘tell’.

Despite her not-a-ravishing-beauty appearance in the beginning, Catherine quickly ‘blossoms’ into the typical bland attractive romance heroine once she has some decent clothes.  Oh, and she has a ‘tinkling laugh’ taken to ridiculous excess:

He heard a faint tinkling sound: Miss Pestilence was giggling!

Isn’t that charming, he’s given her her very own insulting, unflattering nickname!

Max, Lord Rand, is pretty much a generic Regency hero.  He has a Bad Boy Past, resents his position in Society and the accompanying edicts to Not Be Scandalous, and all the ladies have the hots for him.  I loved him in the beginning of the book, when he was being all disreputable and depraved, but by the middle he was just blandly stereotypical and seems to have lost that unique edge.  His insistence on courting Diana despite his growing feelings for Catherine make him seem to me like a bit of a jerk, and the hot/cold/rude ways his feelings and thoughts so only solidify that opinion.

I liked Lousia, Lady Andover – and would have won that bet about her getting pregnant – and Jack Langdon, one of Catherine’s Inevitably Disappointed beau, but they were really the only good parts in the book.  The sub-plot about Diana Glencove’s romance with that other guy whose name wasn’t important enough to remember seemed tacked-on and unnecessary – we’ve already established the hero is a debauched rakehell jerk, breaking off an engagement wouldn’t shock too many people.

The scenes with Jemmy were superfluous and he seemed to simply exist as a miniature deus ex machina or to demonstrate how Socially Aware and Kind To Those Less Fortunate Catherine and Max are (I say put your money where your mouth is and adopt the kid, but of course he’s still a servant by the end of the book).

Honestly, while overall it’s not a bad book, it’s not a terribly good book, either.  It’s a light read, and others might enjoy it, but I can’t say I did.  Not recommended.

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