Ivy, $6.99, ISBN 0-8041-1975-9
Historical Romance, 2004
Let’s see, the heroine of this book is Lizzie Carlisle. The cover art looks like those of Liz Carlyle’s Devil books, which incidentally shares a same word with the title of Gaelen Foley’s Devil Takes a Bride. Am I missing something here, or are Gaelen Foley and Liz Carlyle having some friendly in joke thing going on between them?
Devil Takes a Bride sees Gaelen Foley following a direction in her writing that she hinted at during Lord of Ice and Lord of Fire, books which come off like a Jet Li movie set in the Regency era: melodramatic and often over-the-top external conflict elements, some skanky scenes, and phraseology that at times feel awkward, unintentionally hilarious, and often too purple. I’m not sure if I like this new direction. The author has always displayed a perchance for melodrama since her debut, but she seems to be ramping it up even more here.
Lizzie, last seen in Lady of Desire getting heartbroken by Alec Knight whom she had a crush on for a long time, is still nursing her heartbreak by retreating to Bath and becoming the Dowagess Viscountess Augusta Strathmore’s companion. I wonder whether I will ever come across a heroine that nurses her heartbreak by partying and painting London town red. Anyway, in between trying to hate or cry over Alec, Lizzie still manages to find time to be angered by Augusta’s nephew, Devlin Strathmore, who never drops by to visit Augusta. She writes him a note that leads him to believe that Augusta is on her deathbed and he quickly drops by, only to be annoyed by Lizzie’s deception even as he becomes fascinated by her.
But as it turns out, Augusta really does die and her will predictably orders Devlin to marry Lizzie if he wants to get his hands on Auntie’s money. I don’t know why all these dingbat older women in these stories always believe that forcing their useless wards to marry certain women for money can lead to happiness, but I guess this Will to Love plot device must be very easy to write or something. Devlin however is a member of the ridiculously skanky group the Horse and Chariot Club – of which I’m just grateful that it doesn’t involve actual horses, although I’m sure they are writing that down in their to-do list as we speak – in some plot that is related to him seeking revenge on the deaths of his family (after the usual soul-searching sabbatical to America, the Land of Hope, that is) and Lizzie will soon be dragged into Devlin’s mess.
The plot is quite over-the-top and there are times when this book dips into campy moments. The writing can be quite overblown (“… stalking swiftly toward the house, he was wild and wind-tousled, dripping with the elements, his chiseled face flecked with mud and cold with hellbent will…”), which only adds to the whole campy and lurid atmosphere of this story. I could have enjoyed this book so much and probably would have if the characters behave a little more consistently.
Lizzie is quite a question mark in that she can be coquette and nervous at one page and then energetically doing the nasty with Devlin the next without any credible transition in character. Devlin is said to be a tough and ruthless guy whose macho man antics among the Native Americans are supposed to be formidable, but he caves in like a wimp when push comes to shove. He is such a disappointment because he is more whine than action. The characters don’t seem to behave like consistent people as much as they are acting according to the requirements of the plot.
As a result, Devil Takes a Bride doesn’t have that solid, cohesive feel to it. It doesn’t feel like a story about characters I can care about. It’s just two underdeveloped characters stuck in an over-the-top plot that’s filled with two-parts campiness, two-parts luridness, and one-part overblown prose. I don’t know, things don’t come together well as they should have in this book. I can’t help feeling that I’m reading a book that isn’t complete in one way or the other.