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REVIEW: A Lady of Persuasion by Tessa Dare

Dear Ms. Dare:

coverA Lady of Persuasion brings home all the characters in the previous two books in the trilogy as the previous protagonists play a part in the romance of Sir Tobias Aldrige and Bel Grayson.   Sir Tobias was jilted at the end of book one, Goddess of the Hunt by Sophia, the heroine of Surrender of a Siren.     In an effort to save some face for himself and to allow Sophia to reenter society should she come back from her lark unmarried, Toby played the part of a rake.   He might have been jilted, but it was because he was not ready to settle down.   The truth is that Toby is very angry at being jilted and it causes him to have self esteem issues.   He can get young ladies to fall for him, but they fall out of love with him, seemingly just as easy.

When he spots Bel Grayson at a party, he finds that she can be the perfect instrument of revenge against Benedict Grayson, Bel’s older brother.   Bel doesn’t want to marry a mere sir.   She has plans to effectuate reform in London and must have a powerful, titled lord to aid her causes.   Toby convinces Bel that his  notoriety  will work just the same way and extracts a promise of marriage from her.

Gray becomes enraged as does Bel’s and Gray’s half brother, Josiah, the product of their father’s liason with an African slave.   The two are ready to string him up, while Sophia, beset with guilt urges everyone to stay calm and wait and see.

I had a hard time liking anyone of the characters in this story.   Bel I didn’t like because I found her to be priggish, inconsistently so.   She was said to have a social reformer zeal and she certainly refused to eat any ices made with sugar not from her own slave free plantation, but she didn’t seem to worry about any other of the social injustices that took place. I.e., she never questioned where her textiles came from, the treatment of servants, and many other social issues.

She adopted the chimney boy as one of her causes but it seemed more like she needed a cause and took up the first good one she could find.   She urges Toby to run for Parliament and plans to use him to make changes that she wants to see enacted.   What those changes were seemed to be less important than Toby’s placement in society.   In sum, I found her social piety unconvincing.

I didn’t like Gray at all because he acted like an ass toward Sir Toby. Given that it was his wife that jilted Sir Toby and not the other way around, I wasn’t sure what Gray’s problem was other than he liked to play surly older brother.   Sir Toby’s willingness to play a role to ensure that Sophia could come to London and not be disgraced affected Bel’s prospects. Without Sir Toby’s actions, it would be easy to see Bel and her family be persona non grata within society, particularly with the half-brother African living in their home and being in charge of the Grayson shipping interests.   Maybe he should have been more repentant, or at least, accommodating.

Sophia was probably the worst for me.   It never really sunk home in Surrender of a Siren how truly awful her actions were. I was too caught up in Sophia’s need to be “free and live life” mantra.   It was hard to face up to what a selfish wretch Sophia was.   She thought nothing of anyone but her own needs and even in A Lady of Persuasion I felt her vaguely unrepentant.   She paid not one cent on the crime she committed.

Interestingly, however, this made Sir Toby out to be not villain but victim.   From Sir Toby’s point of view, he focused on Gray as the bad guy so that he would not have to face the idea that there was some defect that prevent nice young ladies from falling in love with him, for keeps. After all, Lucy was able to transfer her life long crush to Jeremy and Sophia fled England and risked social ostracism in order to NOT marry him.   

The romantic conflict is very real. It was very poignant when Sir Toby asks Bel whether she can love him for himself and not what he can do for her. Toby needs someone to love him for who he thinks he is but because of his love for Bel, he tries to become a better man. I question whether Bel really understood this; whether she could see past her own myopic fear of love. From Bel’s standpoint, she cannot love because her mother loved too deeply and was hurt by Bel’s father’s philandering ways. Bel doesn’t want to be that kind of victim. She is afraid her love will turn her mad like her mother. Bel’s fear about love isn’t about Toby; it’s about her and whether she can open herself up enough to accept Toby’s love.

There is also a sweet secondary romance between Josiah and a friend of Lucy’s who is a female physician.   Josiah, a man who lives with prejudice of others, has to come to grips with his own.   It’s hard to characterize this as an interracial romance, though, because so much attention is paid to the female physician’s “otherness” and not very much on Josiah’s.   I kept wondering whether Josiah would be accepted at society parties and whether anyone would do business with Grayson Shipping with him in charge.   I would have liked some discussion in the book on those points because I kept wondering about it and it brought me out of the story.

The prose in this story is of a very high quality and Sir Toby, who I found to be a flibbergibbet of a man in Book 1, Goddess of the Hunt, was certainly redeemed.   At it’s core, there is a tender romance. You really are skilled at making characters fully alive for me, else I wouldn’t have such a strong reaction.  I cannot get away from the fact, though, that it really affected my enjoyment of the Surrender of a Siren.   If I had read A Lady of Pleasure and not the previous two, I would probably give it a B- because I disliked the character of Bel.

Best regards

Jane

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

This book was provided to the reviewer by the author. The reviewer did not pay for this book but received it free. The Amazon Affiliate link earns us a 6-7% affiliate fee if you purchase a book through the link (or anything for that matter) and the Sony link is in conjunction with the sponsorship deal we made for the year of 2009. We do not earn an affiliate fee from Sony through the book link.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

6 Comments

  1. SonomaLass
    Oct 12, 2009 @ 16:15:28

    Interesting response, Jane. I have to agree that I thought Gray was a jerk in this book — he was my least favorite of the three heroes anyway, being SO very alpha, not at all my type. But watching him have to eat his words was pretty sweet, when he realizes that no matter what HE thinks, this is the man who makes his sister happy.

    One thing I like about all these heroines is that they are very young, and they grow up a lot during the course of the books. For each of them, the process of falling in love is intertwined with the process of self discovery, and I like how that works. I found all three heroines horribly annoying in the beginning, kind of like I feel about most teenage girls at least some of the time. In the end, I felt that was a welcome change from the unbelievably wise youngsters in some historical romances.

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  2. Lori
    Oct 12, 2009 @ 16:36:38

    This was my favorite of the three books. I found Bel difficult to like because she was priggish but on the other hand her fear of being like her parents was truly terrifying to her.

    I didn’t necessarily like Bel but I understood her and the struggle she had with her childhood. She even said that her father deserted her in his paramours, her mother deserted her in her insanity and her brothers physically deserted her. She had a lot of issues to work through.

    I wasn’t crazy about Gray in the second book but his reactions to Toby in this book were funny.

    And Toby was a brilliant hero. He was laugh out loud funny, he was tender, he was fighting his own insecurities. And it was enjoyable watching his machinations to avoid what he thought he didn’t want when it was exactly what he needed anyway.

    I’ve never been a fan of historicals but these books brought me into the fold. I found all three well written, fun, sexy. Tessa Dare has become an auto-buy for me now.

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  3. May
    Oct 12, 2009 @ 19:24:26

    I didn’t get Grey in this book, and it took away from my enjoyment overall because I kept trying to figure out WHY he was being such an ass to a man who was saving the reputation of his wife and who could have really F-ed up Grey’s life. I also agree about the heroine – she seemed to be a do-gooder one minute, just another lady the next.
    She started to do the borderline TMI thing that some historical authors love (birthing details, etc), but overall I did enjoy and would grade about a B-. I can’t wait to see what Tessa Dare comes up with next – I do adore her writing.

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  4. GrowlyCub
    Oct 13, 2009 @ 02:04:01

    I hated the heroine in this one and almost stopped reading. I cannot for the life of me figure out why Toby wanted anything to do with her and was a bit worried that he’s only ‘in love’ with her because he couldn’t stand the idea of being stood up again.

    I’m not sure why I was able to tolerate her after a certain point, but she became less annoying, or maybe it was just that Toby became so interesting I was able to overlook her.

    In the end, I was left with the impression that Toby deserved a *lot* better than what he got. I really didn’t see that Bel learned anything or grew and I certainly agree that Sophia was totally unrepentant.

    I never finished book two (stalled on page 165) and I don’t think I will. I couldn’t like either Sophia or Gray in their own book and reading ALoP they only grew worse.

    Overall, I like GotH the best and really wish Toby had gotten a heroine who actually deserved somebody so self-less instead of this ‘do-gooder’.

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  5. Diana
    Oct 13, 2009 @ 09:29:12

    I love Tessa Dare’s writing – but, damn, her characters. Wow. I don’t think I have ever felt a connection with any of her characters, male or female. I’m at a loss as to how such a talented writer keeps creating such deadbeat, awful characters over and over again (Grey, Bel, Lucy, Sophie). They don’t even feel “real” to me, or even organic; her heroines and heroes just give me a headache.

    Also:

    From Bel's standpoint, she cannot love because her mother loved too deeply and was hurt by Bel's father's philandering ways. Bel doesn't want to be that kind of victim. She is afraid her love will turn her mad like her mother.

    Can we please retire this trope? Forever, if possible? When I read this, I just rolled my eyes. SO overused as a romantic plot device; it just seems like lazy shorthand for “instant conflict”.

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  6. Magnolia88
    Oct 14, 2009 @ 12:21:45

    I liked this book sorta (I think a B- is about right), because I enjoy Dare’s writing . . . but boy, I really didn’t like either Bel or Toby very much.

    I didn’t like Bel much for the reasons discussed in the review. But I also found Toby pretty shallow, even more so than in the first book. Yes, he did a good thing when he protected Sophia’s reputation but other than that, I didn’t find much to like about him. But worse than that, I felt no spark or chemistry between Bel and Toby at all. I never understood what he saw in her, or vice versa.

    I didn’t like Sophia in the second book and she didn’t improve in this one either. She is just so unbelievably self-centered — oh I’m so beautiful! So very rich! Woe is me! Gag. She never seemed to have a clue how awful her behavior was, both to Toby and her family.

    Gray, otoh, I loved in the second book but I agree that in this book, his hostility towards Toby made no sense at all. I found it sort of funny though, and I thought he just hated Toby because Toby had been engaged to Sophia. No, it didn’t make sense but jealousy is often quite irrational. He just couldn’t stand the thought that Toby had come so close to marrying Sophia and that’s why he didn’t like Toby.

    It’s funny to me to read on that other thread that readers found Lucy to be the “unlikable” one, because I much preferred her to either selfish Sophia or priggish Bel.

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