Zebra, $4.99, ISBN 978-0-8217-7974-3
Historical Romance, 2007
I’m somewhat slightly disappointed at first when I discover that Surrender to Sin is not hysterically “LOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!” funny like the author’s debut effort Simply Scandalous. But this is still a very funny farcical romp that once again pairs two silly characters whose chances of being a lead character in most other historical romances would be a big fat zero.
Cary Wayborn, in many other historical romances, would be the dandy that we are all supposed to laugh at. Cary embodies everything that the usual romance hero isn’t – for example, he’s slave to fashion as much as he is a trendsetter, he genuinely believes that it is his right as a nobleman not to pay the tradesmen since they are middle-class folks who should be grateful that he even patronizes their establishments, and he has no qualms about playing footsie with a virgin. He’s a stereotype of a romance hero on the surface (have taken part in the war against Napoleon) but he’s also a stereotype of a typical self-absorbed nobleman. He is trying to be a responsible fellow in this book and tend to his long-neglected estate, but he’s also so much in debts that he’s not sure how he’s going to come up to scratch.
Abigail Ritchie is his cousin as her mother is a Wayborn. A distant cousin, I believe. Her branch of the family is not exactly one that the other Wayborns talk about much, since her father is in Trade. Big Red Ritchie, as he is known, is one of the richest men in England. The brusque Glaswegian gentleman’s Ritchie Fine Spirits produce scotch that even the Prince Regent can’t get enough of. She is a cute mix of a sheltered bookish miss and a merchant’s daughter. She is shy and she tends to stammer in the presence of a cute guy, but she can also estimate accurately the value of any object of value and turn a business transaction into a profitable one.
I don’t know how to give a synopsis of how these two meet without giving away some of the hilarious developments in the story. Let’s just say that it involves Abigail’s broken engagement that caused a scandal, a case of mistaken identity on both characters’ part (don’t worry, the mistaken identity causes plenty of amusing moments but there are no moments of big misunderstanding when everything is revealed), and plenty of foolishness on everyone’s part. There are some very comical secondary characters here, including an overbearing companion of Abigail who ends up taking control and giving everyone, including Abigail, orders.
I normally can’t stand heroines like Abigail. She is a doormat here as she, being shy and often uncomfortable dealing with aggressive personalities that unnerve her (which include hot guys like Cary), ends up being bossed around by everyone. She is also clueless and without a sense of humor, which makes her an easy target for jokes and teases from other people including – especially – Cary. Normally I’d cringe when it comes to heroines like Abigail, but in this story I find her clueless outrage with regards to the teasing directed at her (most of which go right over her head) too funny at times.
The last third or so of this book is outright farce as the two silly fools from the previous book show up and completely hijack the story from Cary and Abigail, who are reduced to playing secondary characters in the tomfoolery that follows. This last third would be either very painful to read if you don’t enjoy the author’s brand of comedy or a laugh-a-minute riot if you do. What’s more impressive is that normally I won’t believe that such a pairing of Cary and Abigail will last, but here I actually believe that they just might.
The plot isn’t the strongest here as the author’s agenda seems to focus more on comedy, but I personally find this book more coherently plotted than the previous one. But alas, I find the last book more funny and entertaining. This one is entertaining, mind you, and I laugh a lot, just not as much as I did while reading the previous book. Still, this one has stronger storyline and character development, so with all strengths and flaws considered, I think this book comes up about equal to the previous book. Which is to say, I adore Surrender to Sin. Write faster, Ms Lejeune. I want more of that crazy kind of funny.