Surrender to the Devil
Series: The Scoundrels of St. James, Book 3
Author: Lorraine Heath
Release Date: June 30, 2009
List Price: $6.99
Read: July 4-4, 2009
Author Homepage | Amazon.com
One of the best historical romances I've read this year!!
Surrender to the Devil is the third book in Lorraine Heath's The Scoundrels of St. James series (and overlaps time-wise with the second book, Between the Devil and Desire). I wasn't sure that I was going to like it and IMO the summary written for the book doesn't do it justice: Frannie and Sterling are so much more complicated than the lust-driven characters they are described as!
I ended up *loving* this book and definitely recommend it to all historical romance readers out there. The hero and heroine's relationship is so sweet and passionate, they have great chemistry and are absolutely perfect for each other and seem to really need one another. The supporting characters are terrific (love Feagan's gang!), the mystery of Sterling's problem was engaging (and unusual in the genre, so a nice addition), and there were *several* laugh-out-loud moments.
Although this book is part of the St. James series, I have not read the two previous ones and had no problem following what was going on. Knowing the characters, however, I think the experience is probably richer if you are already familiar with Feagan's gang from the previous books (Luke and Jack's stories).
Miss Frannie Darling (29) grew up an orphan on the streets of London, the one bright light in her life being her street "family": Feagan (their kidsman), and his "lads" Jack, Luke, Jim, and Bill. (The background I'm about to give is explained in the prologue, so I'm not giving any surprises away). When she was 12 years old, Frannie was kidnapped, sold to a brothel that specialized in virgins, and brutally raped. Despite their young age, Luke and Jack searched out the gentleman who raped her and Luke killed him. It turns out that the man was Luke's uncle and Luke's grandfather, who comes to see the boy who killed his second son, recognizes Luke and arranges for the trial to not occur and for his grandson, along with his friends, to come live with him and be educated by tutors.
Frannie is now a young woman and she finds satisfaction in the bookkeeping she does for Dodger's gaming club and joy in her real passion: her orphanage to help street children. When she meets the Duke of Greystone (Catherine's brother) at Luke and Catherine's wedding, she is completely fascinated and also extremely surprised; though she doesn't fear intimacy or passion, she has never been attracted to nor felt desire for any man ... until now. (Their first encounter at the wedding is very funny - and then very hot, lol). As Sterling determinedly pursues her, Frannie can't help but want to give in to him; she knows he will never marry her, and frankly she dislikes the aristocracy and has no desire to join its ranks, but would it be so wrong for her to take this opportunity to be with the only man who has ever looked at her like she was a desirable woman and whom she desires as well?
Sterling Mabry, Duke of Greystone (28) has been traveling extensively for many years following a terrible fight with his father. His father called him selfish for wanting to go see the world, but Sterling knew this was something he had to do (for spoiler reasons see "Comments") before he settled down and carried out his duty as duke. He has been back in London for four months now and is determined to do what he must: find a wife and produce the necessary heir and spare. Sterling is convinced that no woman can really love him because of his secret problem and therefore wants to find a wife who will give him the heirs he needs and then be content to live her own life, someone self-involved who won't want his love and will not fall in love with him.
When he sees Frannie at Catherine's wedding he is inexplicably drawn to her and decides that before embarking on the marriage mart, he must spend one night with this intriguing woman. Although he starts his pursuit with the mere goal of enjoying himself with Frannie's body, he becomes unwillingly fascinated by the woman herself and wanting only one night quickly becomes wanting much, much more.
Along with the romance between Sterling and Frannie, the story involves Frannie's attempts to save children from the rookeries and bring them to her orphanage. She goes at night searching for children whom she can help and this quickly becomes quite dangerous, since the mean kidsman Sykes is not happy that she is taking his children - and source of revenue - from him. There is also Sterling's private struggle with a hidden problem, which is hinted at from the beginning but only revealed a little into it (revealing it would be a spoiler, so it's in the "Comments" section if you want to know).
I loved Feagan's gang and cannot wait to read the other books in the series. They are extremely protective of Frannie, who was kind of the "mother" of the gang when they were growing up even though they're all around the same age. They have never forgiven themselves for what happened to her so long ago, because they feel like they should have somehow been able to protect her, and as a result, they treat her like she is fragile (one of the reasons she is so enjoys her time with Sterling is he doesn't treat her like that). Their love for her is obvious and the numerous times that they are protective of her and try to warn Sterling off are sweet, enjoyable, and highly entertaining.
MAIN CHARACTERS, Frannie and Sterling
Frannie and Sterling are so great together and they are definitely one of my favorite romantic pairs of the year. I wasn't sure I would like this book at first, since the idea that Sterling just wants to sleep with her and considers himself too good to marry her was unappealing, to put it lightly, but Sterling is *not* like that. He doesn't come off as haughty, just lonely and cynical, and although he does try to stick to only lust, from the very beginning of their acquaintance he feels more for her than just that.
There's a very gentle side to Sterling that we don't see at first, but that is slowly revealed, with what he does for Frannie and the orphans, especially Jimmy/Peter (I *loved* when Sterling paints a fake tattoo on his back for him because he sees Sterling's and wants the same thing). The scenes where he shows Frannie his sketches and later makes several drawings of her are also a treat.
Frannie is a terrific heroine; she is incredibly strong and resilient, yet also gentle, generous, and friendly. She does so much for others and has so much capacity for love, but she is not an annoying do-gooder heroine who is all smiles and sunbeams, don't worry. She is in fact an incredible mix of innocence and realism, both shy and confident, sensitive and brave. Frannie wants to be married and have her own children, but she has pretty much given up on this dream. She's also extremely smart (a whiz with numbers), which is always nice in a heroine.
There was always honesty between Frannie and Sterling, which was a nice change. Neither of them have illusions about their relationship, where it might potentially go, and where it never will (though surprise, surprise, our HEA contradicts that!! I know, you're shocked - sit down and recover). Although they first see each other across a room and find themselves attracted to one another without really knowing each other, this wasn't a book where it's all about lust and not much else. Sterling finds himself becoming lost in Fannie's goodness and optimism, amazed that she can be as innocent, open, and giving as she is, despite all she's been through. Frannie loves how gentle and sweet Sterling is with her, while also being passionate and almost hungry for her, as if she is his sustenance and salvation.
THE SCOUNDRELS OF ST. JAMES SERIES
1) In Bed With the Devil - Lucian (Luke) Langdon, Earl of Claybourne and Lady Catherine Mabry
2) Between the Devil and Desire - Jack Dodger and Olivia, Duchess of Lovingdon
3) Surrender to the Devil - Miss Frannie Darling and Sterling Mabry, Duke of Greystone (Catherine's brother)
4) Midnight Pleasures With a Scoundrel - Inspector/Sir James (Jim) Swindler and Eleanor Watkins (to be released on October 27)
Read it!! I can't wait to read Jim's story - and meanwhile, I'll read Books 1 and 2 and probably end up rereading this one also.
P.S. Frannie is one year older than Sterling and as much as I hate to admit this, I don't really like the heroine to be older. However, it's only one year and if you're put off by this, DON'T BE!! This book is not to be missed!