Berkley Sensation, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-23748-9
Historical Romance, 2010
Firstly, some PSA: To Save the Devil has a main plot that is a spillover from the loose ends in the previously related book To Tempt a Saint, so I’d strongly suggest that you read those books in order. You can try reading this one as a stand alone, but it may take some effort to catch up on the family secrets of the Jones family.
In this one, our hero Will Jones is on the case of trying to get to the bottom of his brother Kit’s disappearance three years ago. Our hero, a Bow Street Runner, impersonates a French nobleman and infiltrates an auction in a brothel as part of an undercover mission when he realizes that the woman being auctioned, “Helen of Troy”, shows signs of being drugged to make her more agreeable to being sold to the highest bidder. Will can’t in good conscience leave such a woman to her fate, so he purchases her services and run off into the night with her.
The first thing Helen says to him after being freed is that she never asked for his help. Yes, she’s that kind of heroine. She is in London despite being a sheltered imbecile to risk her limbs and maidenhead to get to a pimp and retrieve some incriminating letters used to blackmail her mother. Helen doesn’t seem that close to her mother and her melodramatic attempt to die in the name of natural selection is because she wants to keep her father unaware of her mother’s indiscretions. Yes, Helen is that kind of heroine. The rest of the story will see her either pulling off stupid stunts so that she will have to be rescued or lecturing Will to let her assist him so that he can then assist her back.
Will correctly pegs her on page 82 as a nitwit who attracts calamity, but Helen isn’t strong when it comes to the self-awareness department, so such words will never break her, oh no. In addition, it takes only a few pages from a raunchy novel – pages without any naughty action, bewilderingly – to get Helen so hot and bothered that she nearly loses her virginity to Will within hours of their initial acquaintance. Because Will correctly describes Helen, Helen is therefore a heroine deliberately written to be this big of an imbecile. Now I know that Ms Moore can’t use the excuse of demonic possession during a Tales from the Crypt moment to explain the hideousness of Helen.
The sad thing is that after all of Helen’s glorious attempt to get herself killed, her subplot boils down to pretty much nothing. She doesn’t learn anything or grow from the experience and she doesn’t benefit from being closer to her mother or anything like that. How sad, that Helen, going all this far and getting not even a pat in the head from her mother. But that’s what counts as a “good heroine” nowadays, I guess.
Oh, and despite having the intelligence of a broken Atari machine, Helen is a wise tantric sex guru when it comes to understanding Will. She doesn’t put out for money because that will make her a ho, instead, she puts out because she senses that Will needs some hot shag to heal the wounds in his soul. Helen may be as dumb as a doorknob on a good day, but you can always count on her to spread like peanut butter to the boys that are blue.
It goes without saying, I’m sure, that Will is a far more intelligent and capable character in this story. His attraction to Helen is a bizarre one, comprising of him lusting after her even as he knows that she is a dumb bunny. Maybe he likes them dumb and buxom, like some guys out there? At any rate, while the romance is dull, his subplot is easily the most interesting aspect of this story. The mystery of Kit’s disappearance is nothing special as it is strung together by some very familiar tropes such as the pedigree-obsessed old coot villain, but it is nice to see functional people working on a mystery. That is a nice reprieve from Helen’s constant badgering of Will to let her pull off more stupid stunts in the name of pointless martyrdom.
To Save the Devil would have been a readable book if Will had been allowed to do this thing without being bogged down by Helen’s obnoxious presence and braindead antics, but alas, there is rarely any escape from Helen. She’s pretty much everywhere, being wrong and stupid and annoying and keeping secrets unnecessarily all at once. This book should have been retitled Save Me from Those Bloody Imbecile Heroines.