by Alexandra Hawkins, historical (2010)
St Martin's Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-312-58019-3
Sophia Northam is in London for the first time in her life. Her two useless brothers would have been happy to stash her in the country, but her childhood friends managed to drag her to London despite her brothers' displeasure. Sophia is gorgeous, but she is deemed to be of poor marriage material due to her poor eyesight. When she was a child, she was hit hard in the head by the same nutcase who murdered her parents. As it happens, she just has to catch the eye of the nutcase's son, Gabriel Housely.
Gabriel Housely, the Earl of Rainecourt, is called "Reign". I guess "Raine" is considered... too unmanly? He has an issue with women because, more than eight years ago, his wife revealed that she was carrying another man's baby, which was the only reason her parents arranged for her to marry Reign in the first place. She died after an argument with Reign, and since then those other people in the Ton consider Reign a murderer even as they invite him to their parties and such. After all, everyone loves a notorious alpha male! Aside from the Evil Whore Wife thing, Reign also has to deal with his Mad Murderer Father thing, so it is actually quite surprising how... likable he is in this story.
There isn't much of a plot in Till Dawn With The Devil - this is a pretty short book for a good reason - and yet it is a far more readable effort compared to the author's debut effort due to the lack of an overlying stupid plot. In this one, what passes as plot is a series of misfortunes that befall Sophia due to her useless brothers' efforts to marry her off in order to pay off their debts, and even so, the drama happens in the second half of the book. The first half sees Reign chasing after Sophia and the two of them bonding over their nasty family members.
As I've mentioned earlier, Reign is actually a pretty sweet guy towards Sophia. He has the trappings of a clichéd donkey hero, what with his Madonna/Whore complex and all, but he is protective and gallant when it comes to Sophia. Sophia has some tendencies to martyr herself, but when push comes to shove, she fights back. These two have some believable tender moments between them, which is good for the romance.
The story becomes more excessively melodramatic, so you do not have much tolerance for purple prose and campy soap opera shenanigans, you may want to approach this one carefully. After all, we are talking about a story where both the hero and the heroine have family members that are just plain Crazy with a capital C. For me, however, there is just the right amount of campy melodrama to keep me amused.
If I have a complaint, it's how the hero and the heroine have it too easy. I'd think Sophia would pause to wonder whether their kids would be inflicted with madness, since Reign's father was definitely insane. At the very least, shouldn't she be a little bit more hesitant about hooking up with someone whose father murdered her parents? Meanwhile, Reign has a lot of access to the Ton for someone of his infamy. Is his wealth that great an incentive to get these people to keep inviting him to their parties? For all the bad history between their families, Reign and Sophia never really let the past interfere with their attraction to each other even a little, and I find that hard to believe.
Ultimately, Till Dawn With The Devil is pretty rough around the edges but still readable. It comes off very well when compared to the author's previous book, though, so the author should be given plenty of credit for effort this time around.
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