Zebra, $4.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0869-9
Historical Romance, 2010
Millicent Armstrong and James Rutherford have known each other for about ten years. James is one of her brother’s best friends and he has always been the kind and gallant gentleman in her eyes. It is inevitable that she will decide that she’s in love with him. When she stole a kiss from him on her eighteenth birthday, James realized that he has, er, feelings for her too. But she is his best friend’s sister and he is determined to ensure that his future wife will be miserable living with him, so he will never be the right man for her, and he fled.
The story then cuts to two years later. Three seasons and some twenty rejected wedding proposals later, Missy is still determined to make James hers. Encouraged by the recent success of a penniless miss who used her wiles to land herself a wealthy titled husband, Missy decides that this time she will apply the same skills she observed Miss Adelaide Bash used on her future husband, to ensure that James will stop thinking of her as his little sister.
As far as premises go, this one is a pretty common one in historical romances set in 19th century England. The thing is, this story is powered by the heroine’s silly antics and the hero’s absolute recalcitrance. The story is predictable. Because Missy keeps throwing herself at James and James is more whiny than strong, you can imagine what will eventually happen, I’m sure. Then Missy will decide to be a martyr, not wanting to trap James in an unwanted marriage – despite the fact that she has him exactly where she wants him to be – and, eventually, she will be trying to get James to love her. Meanwhile, James just won’t. He won’t. He won’t.
The problem here is that James is behaving like a blistering idiot on a foundation based on shaky logic at best. Okay, so his parents were miserable because his mother decided not to put out regularly to his father. James decides that, because of this, he would rather retain his self-respect than to give his wife his heart. And from this, he somehow comes to the conclusion that he cannot give Missy the love and fidelity she deserves. I can only suppose this is because he equates self-respect to unbridled promiscuity. I don’t know about anyone else, but marrying a woman who is obviously infatuated with him and is willing to put out to him everytime and everywhere seems like a dream come true for someone with his background, but tell that to James. He is like, oh no, he’d rather marry an ice queen. Is it just me or marrying an ice queen is a surefire way to ensure that he has a marriage similar to his parents’?
And because so much of Sinful Surrender is about James taking his time to come to his senses, I have a hard time mustering the patience needed to keep turning the pages without wanting to go medieval on James’s head with a rolling pin. He’s supposed to be the older and wiser person in the relationship, but instead, he comes off like this addled big weenie of a cry baby. Missy is silly and a bit of a stalker, but I actually think she’s too good for an immature ass who allows his stupidity to treat the person who loves him poorly.
From a technical standpoint, this one is an easy read, cleanly written and all. Were not for the big baby running around in the role of a romance hero, this one would have been a very familiar but still decent read. As it is, Sinful Surrender has me thinking that someone should have given the hero a time-out by page 100 and knocked some sense into him.