From the BLURB:
Only one thing could convince Sir Tobias Aldridge, an incorrigible libertine, to profess undying fidelity to a woman he's just met. Revenge. What better way to get back at an enemy than by stealing the scoundrel's sister? Not that Toby finds it a chore, seducing a beguiling, sultry beauty freshly arrived from the West Indies. When the prize is Isabel Grayson, vengeance is doubly rewarding.
Isabel is determined to marry a wealthy, powerful lord and become a lady of influence, using her rank and fortune to fight social injustice. Sir Toby, with his paltry title and infamous reputation, is unsuitable husband material-but he makes her blood race, her heart pound, and her long-buried passions come to the surface. If she can reform the charming devil, she'll get exactly what she craves: society's respect. But it's a dangerous gamble. For if Toby wins this battle of persuasion, Isabel could lose her heart.
The plot of Dare’s third novel totally surprised me. Reading the blurb I thought I had a fair idea of what to expect from the book. Toby Aldridge, jilted groom of Sophia Hathaway (now Grayson) would exact revenge on Gray by wooing his little sister. That is so far from the actual plot it’s not even funny!
As it turns out Toby is the one craving love and acceptance – after being abandoned by Sophia he’s feeling a little bit raw. Furthermore he’s a bit sick of his rakishnesss. His exploits have been monitored in society rag ‘The Prattler’ and by Toby’s estimation he is nothing more than a bit of frivolous fun for London’s debutantes. Toby even laments the loss of Lucy’s girlhood crush on him;
“And if I did offer for you,” he asked, “would it be so very horrible?”.
He hardly knew what murky pit of his soul that question had crawled out from, but he knew it wasn’t aimed at this girl. It was meant for Sophia, and Lucy, and every other young lady who’d grown out of loving him and married some other man.
Furthermore, Toby genuinely adores Isabel (‘Bel’) and it is a bizarre case of love at first sight. What a shame. I was actually looking forward to a thoroughly raked male protagonist. Jeremy in ‘Goddess of the Hunt’ was supposedly a real cad when in London, and of course when we meet Gray in ‘Surrender of a Siren’ he is a quasi-pirate with a lady at every port. But really we never witnessed Jeremy’s caddishness because he was on his best behaviour at his friend’s holiday house. Likewise, when we meet Gray he has reformed himself into a gentleman – and is putting his best foot forward, not least of all to impress Sophia. Toby is the one male character who really has every reason to be behaving badly and it turns out he’s more interested in finding happily ever.
Isabel ‘Bel’ Grayson is a bit of a drip. In contrast to pretty much every other female character in regency romances, Bel doesn’t want a love match. In fact, Bel thinks falling in love with her husband would be a huge inconvenience and get in the way of all her charity work. Bel is kind of like those students in High School who were on the Greenpeace/environmental committee – forever pestering you to sign petitions to save the one-legged Swedish mountain goats from over-bleating, and other such nonsense. She’s ‘holier-than-thou’, and happily perched on a pedestal of high-mindedness.
I just didn’t like her. The same way I didn’t ever really warm to the ethereally beautiful Sophia Hathaway, I couldn’t muster much sympathy for the exotically beautiful Isabel Grayson. She laments throughout the book that men appreciate her full body – large breasts, flared hips. I liked Lucy Waltham so much because she was an awkward tomboy on the cusp of womanhood – initially overlooked by Jeremy and Toby because of her reed-thin frame and oddly proportioned face she had yet to grow into. As for Bel; I can’t really muster a whole lot of concern for a female protagonist whose biggest hassle in life is dressing her Double-D’s.
Once again, the younger Grayson brother – Joss – steals what little limelight he is given. In ‘Persuasion’ Joss gets a love interest; Hetta Osborne was introduced in ‘Goddess’ as the daughter of the local doctor on the Kendall estate. A proficient surgeon herself, Hetta’s moral outrages about women’s liberation are far more interesting than all of Bel’s opinions combined. It’s just a shame that Dare seems to have decided to wrap up Joss’s story as a secondary plot in ‘Persuasion’. He’s an interesting enough character that he could have easily carried his own novel – and I for one would have loved 300+ pages detailing the sparky romance between him and Hetta. Their chemistry was my favourite part of ‘Persuasion’ – their scenes are full of heat and a genuine pleasure to read.
I did appreciate that Lucy & Jeremy made an appearance in ‘Persuasion’. I missed them in ‘Surrender’, but Dare makes up for their absence ten-fold. Lucy is a total scene-stealer, and her reappearance was fantastic… I even cried a little.
I do intend to read Dare’s ‘Stud Club’ trilogy (‘One dance with a duke’ comes out May 25, 2010) – but I have learnt my lesson to not go into her books with high expectations. Dare is still a very green author. Her trilogy books came out very quickly – ‘Goddess’ in June, ‘Surrender’ in August and ‘Persuasion’ in September this year. That’s not a whole lot of time between each book for Dare to gauge readers’ reactions. I can also appreciate that it is a tall order to capture lightening in a bottle twice. ‘Goddess’ was a superb read and a brilliant kick-off to Dare’s romance writing career, and she is no doubt still on a learning curve with her subsequent novels.