Ballantine, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-345-50687-0
Historical Romance, 2009
This may sound like a backhanded compliment, but it isn’t: in Surrender of a Siren, author Tessa Dare has come up with the most adorable story involving a dingbat heroine that I can remember in a long time. It is very hard to dislike this book, at the very least.
I confess I wince a little when I realize the plot of this story. Still, be careful of that Ms Dare – she plays dirty. You see, Sophia Hathaway thinks that she is such an unfortunate darling. Feeling stifled by rules heaped upon a lady and wanting to escape the pressure of making an advantageous match while giving her parents the finger, she breaks off her engagement shortly before the story begins. She invents a French artist that she is supposed to have eloped with and makes sure that everyone knows of her “elopement”. Therefore, Sophia has ensured that she has ruined herself completely.
Her plan? To secure passage on the Aphrodite, which she doesn’t know at first used to be a privateer ship until the owners decide to go straight, and travel under the guise of Jane Turner, a spinster destined for Tortola where she is supposed to become a governess. Were not for our hero Benedict Grayson, she would have become bar lech fodder, so there you go. He takes her in – his black half-brother Josiah is the captain – and the well-behaved crew (barring the bad guy who insists on disciplining the crew using the lash) all take to her. Gray doesn’t want to seduce her, but you sure, she does seem to be very eager to be seduced nonetheless…
Story-wise, there isn’t anything unexpected here. The hero claims to be an amoral wretch who is nonetheless blissfully shagged out after sleeping with an innocent woman, one who somehow manages to possess the wisdom to look into his soul. Still, Gray and Sophia could have dragged this story to the finish line on the strength of their personalities alone. I have my doubts about the set-up used by the author to introduce her main characters to each other, but there is no denying that these two characters are lots of fun together. Their banters, arguments, and shared moments sparkle. I can definitely see the chemistry and the attraction between them. Therefore, never mind that the plot is a bit dodgy and Sophia isn’t usually the kind of reckless heroine I’d like to see more of – have a marvelous time reading this thing.
I also like how Gray is genuinely a bad boy without the author trying too hard to peg all kinds of sad little boy issues on him. Ms Dare has the right idea here on what really matters in her story: she shows me how love causes Gray to want to and try to grow up instead of trying too hard to justify Gray’s past antics to me. Still, I feel that the author has thrown too much at Gray in the last leg of the story. Indeed, so many things happen in this part of the story that I feel tad breathless trying to catch up with Gray’s many mood swings, his epiphany, and the resolution to Sophia’s silly runaway stunt.
Surrender of a Siren has the kind of plot that usually makes me cringe, but it turns out to be a most charming read. I’m starting to imagine that Ms Dare could write something to persuade me to endorse Adam Lambert for President if she puts her mind to it. Be assured, I’d have my guard up the next time we meet.