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REVIEW: Devilish by Jo Beverley

Dear Mrs. Beverley,

At last, Rothgar’s story. I think that you did a good job considering the fact that you’d built Beowulf Malloren, the Marquess of Rothgar into an almost superhuman figure over the course of the other four books in this series. He needed a strong woman to balance him and he got it in the person of Diana Westmount, Countess of Arradale.

I do admit to loving Diana in Secrets of the Night. Especially when she manages to best Rothgar not once, but many times over the course of that book. Something that not many men could claim to have done. And I enjoyed the fact that that is what Rothgar freely admits first caught his notice about her. Her strength and courage. She both grows and slightly falters in their book though. The growth comes from her association with Rothgar and seeing the halls and places of power in London. She has exercised power in her own sphere as a peeress in her own right (a rare and, for most men of the time, unsettling creature) but it is not until she sees the glitter and intrigue at court that she both fully comes to appreciate her place in that world and grows up some. As Rothgar says, she had only played games with power before.

She falters in the tendency to become distracted at key moments and moon over Rothgar. Over and over. She knows what is at stake but can’t seem to keep her mind focused. I also hated to see her wings clipped by the constrictions on her actions that occurred over the course of the story. I know that as a Countess in her own right, she had far more officially sanctioned power than most women of the time could even dream of but it still galled my 21st century mind a bit. But this was balanced a bit by her prowess with a pistol and bow. I had to laugh at Rothgar’s exasperation when he asked her “just who was supposed to be protecting whom here.” I wonder if they would ever fence together?

On to Bey. What a dark, à©minence noire. We got to see Rothgar using his power in the previous books but this one showed not only that but also the monumental daily responsibility of his position in the world of Georgian England. It wasn’t all Hellfire clubs and minuets for the great men of the time. The burdens that came with those aristocratic ranks were heavy and Rothgar, with his need to control everything around him, feels that even more than most men. I enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes view of what was involved with all that and watching him interact with the movers and shakers of the age. The French bit was a trifle silly but I think it served to show that Rothgar was not only important on his own lands and in England but was also a figure of some European influence.

However, I felt that his capitulation to marriage came a bit quickly. He’d fought falling in love and marrying for years and then fought against Diana to the point of pain then, suddenly, voila!, the shell cracked and he was willing to risk marriage and children. Yes, life is a risk, and Diana’s research showed that there weren’t any other loonies in the Malloren family but I didn’t really see anything that might have lessened his fear of passing on insanity. And I would also have liked to have seen him “taken with a violent passion upon that virginal bed” in the fluffy pink and white spouse’s chamber at Arradale.

It was nice to also see the other Mallorens and spouses again even if you did skirt dangerously close to nauseating happiness and fertility moments when the clan first descended on Arradale for Brand and Rosa’s wedding festivities. And we got to (Finally!) meet Hilda and her husband Steen. I was beginning to wonder if they were just collective figments of the Mallorens’ imagination. I think the fact that I originally read this series over a short period of months instead of waiting the nine years it actually took you to write them helped me not to build Rothgar to such mythic proportions and I do feel that you wrote his story in the only way that you could to remain true to his character and the times.

So, while this has both pluses and minuses, they all balanced out to a B grade from me. And for 5 books in an entire series to maintain such high grades is astounding.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

5 Comments

  1. Jayne
    Apr 18, 2007 @ 20:02:30

    Those interested in information about Georgian England need to stop by Mrs. Beverley’s website and check out this page. And in keeping with our posts on freebies from authors, it also has a short outtake with Rothgar and Diana.

  2. Jo Beverley
    Apr 22, 2007 @ 18:07:42

    Thanks, Jayne. It certainly was a tricky book to write.

    I was trying to stay as close as possible to the realities of the time and so the historical characters are pretty well true to character. The king really was very conservative about women (quite likely was terrified of them, secretly) and the Chevalier d’Eon was that strange.

    I never planned for him to be in the book, but I needed the French Ambassador for a walk-on. When I found out he was acting ambassador, I think I swore. You can’t use d’Eon as a walk on!

    I liked Steen. I liked that he wanted to keep his family far away from Rothgar because he wants a quiet life.

    Glad you found the series overall to be enjoyable. Hope you enjoy the next two.

    Jo :)

  3. Jo Beverley
    Apr 25, 2007 @ 13:24:07

    I should have mentioned that Rothgar’s change of heart doesn’t seem easy to me, and issues linger over the next two books, though as extremely minor elements. The real question behind all this, and I think it’s present in the book, is at what point wisdom pushes a person to override caution, or should it ever.

    IMO, of course.

    BTW, there’s a list of my on line bits of writing here.
    http://members.shaw.ca/jobev/miscwrit.html

    Jo :)

  4. Jayne
    Apr 27, 2007 @ 04:33:00

    Now I wonder how poor Steen ever managed to screw his courage to the sticking point and ask for Hilda’s hand in marriage. It must have been a frightening prospect to be the first to marry into that family!

    Hmm, I must google the Chevalier to learn more of his strangeness.

  5. REVIEW: To Desire a Devil by Elizabeth Hoyt | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Oct 28, 2009 @ 04:01:31

    […] this book suffers somewhat from the “Devilish” syndrome wherein readers eagerly await a final book with a promised hero who then must live up to […]

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