by Brenda Williamson, historical (2007)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-188-2
A Beautiful Surrender isn't very subtle about drawing its inspiration from William Shakespeare's The Taming Of The Shrew. However, Princess Katerina of Alluvia doesn't get tamed and she remains a member of the royalty confident of her self-worth at the end of the day. Therefore, while this is a big secret story with lots of room for big misunderstanding scenarios, the end result is a satisfying story with plenty of spice and sizzle.
Katerina and her brother Balthazar have a problem. If they want to inherit the throne of their kingdom, one of them has to get married. Failure to do this will mean that the kingdom will fall into the hands of their uncle Lord Talbot. As the two siblings invite noblemen and noblewomen from near and far in hope of selecting a spouse for one of them, if not both, Lord Talbot sends Daxton to Alluvia with a plan: as the "Duke of Maltar", Dax must seduce Katerina and prevent her from marrying. As Katerina and Dax begin to see sparks and all, someone is out there trying to kill her and her brother. Dax realizes that there is more to the plot that he initially expected.
I like Katerina - she sees what she wants and goes for it. While she can behave like a spoiled little girl at times, she is a princess after all and therefore I suppose it's to be expected that she is used to getting what she wants. However, Katerina also has the brainpower to go along with the rest of her so she's fine where I'm concerned. She can't plot to save her life but she can however put two and two together just fine and she is definitely not those bird-in-gilded-cage types carrying some bizarre guilt about being born rich and blue-blooded. I'm a little bit torn about Dax, though. You see, he's clearly not the kind to go all out and hurt the woman he's supposed to deceive and betray. While this makes him a pretty appealing romance hero, it also makes him come off like an incompetent twit since he keeps going about how the fate of his country depends on him carrying out this deception. I suppose it's good that he's working for the bad guys and therefore it's fine that he's not too competent in carrying out his mission for them!
These two characters have plenty of convincing chemistry. I like how Ms Williamson tries to show me that the bond between Katerina and Dax is more than just sexual in nature by getting these two to talk a bit. When Dax's identity is exposed, Katerina reacts most reasonably instead of being silly, which only makes this story even more enjoyable to read. The sex scenes are quite sizzling especially given how Katerina is a virgin but not a complete ignorant dingbat when it comes to sex.
The plot is this story's biggest weakness. The author knows it if her characters sometimes commenting about the unnecessarily complicated nature of the plots and machinations going on in this story is anything to go by. Some of the plans of action carried out by the characters in this story do seem unnecessarily convoluted. It's a good thing that the romance is so much better than the external conflicts that I have a good reason to keep reading the story.
All in all, A Beautiful Surrender is an entertaining read that delivers where it counts the most.
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