Avon has got to get a grip on their titles. I don’t even know who The Devil is in this book. The heroine? Her incredibly patient guardian? Didn’t they just use this on a Sophia Nash title? Avon, please. Stop. It’s not cute. It’s The Billionaire’s Greek Baby ridiculous now. Between The Devil And Ian Eversea (hereafter referred to as Book Nine) is the latest entry in Julie Anne Long’s wallpaper historical series about rich warring families and a couple who allegedly show back up in book ten or eleven. (Put me down for Team No Reunion). I’ve read maybe five of these and as usual Long frustrates me. There’s so much she does well that the big failures fall even harder.
Book Nine is incredibly forgettable. Tansy, our briefly Americanized orphan, could have been a heartbreaking story. She’s lost her entire family to various strains of illness and violence. She’s returning to England intent on creating a life that matches her dreamy childhood memories. Tansy has self esteem issues that manifest in her desire to charm every man she meets. Tansy beguiles them for amusement then drops them gently to the floor. She’s a Hermetically Sealed Heroine playing at being a rake.
Ian is the true rake of the book, the Lothario begging for reformation. We meet him (of course) taking his leave of one unforgettable woman and planning to make his way to the next. Ultimately it’s Tansy who will open his eyes to the cruelty of his game, even as he opens his eyes to hers. It feels like a shallow realization. Tansy and Ian are a reality tv version of character redemption. Nothing truly tests them but their own selfishness. Tansy’s losses have neither grounded her nor deepened her. There’s no reason to believe either of them won’t balk at the first fence in their path and hie off across the field.
Despite Tansy’s guardian loathing Ian (for very solid reasons) Ian and Tansy end up in the bedrooms next door to each other. Because if I have a seducer in the family and a vulnerable wealthy ward I am absolutely going to put them together in the deserted section of the house where hijinks may ensue at will. Because why not? Who would even consider checking on that? Tansy makes friends with the kitchen staff, as you do, because the kitchen staff lives to humanize the inhuman aristocratic characters. Knowing your waiter’s name is way more important than being a decent person.
Neither Ian nor Tansy are very decent. They’re both selfish children. Ian learns that he needs Tansy to be happy, because she satisfies needs in him that aren’t being met by his endeavors. Tansy learns she needs Ian because he was harder to get than the other boys. Plus they had sex. So, you know. Predictable things happen predictably and the curtain closes. But wait – what about Olivia Eversea?
Olivia lives in the same house as Tansy. Tansy decides she’s an enemy because she is equally beautiful. Tansy barely speaks to Olivia, who barely speaks to her. Why would Olivia bother to befriend the anti social and obviously fake arrival? Tansy wants to play games and keep score. She wants to turn the head of other women’s love interests despite not wanting them herself. Where’s the upside for Olivia in that relationship? Since Long makes the bizarre choice to have Tansy interact almost solely with male characters (except the cook) despite living in a house full of women, Olivia goes about her day.
There’s a point in Book Nine meant to show Tansy’s growth. Men begin sending more floral offerings to Tansy than Olivia. One morning Tansy removes the cards from her daily bounty and tells the footmen to deceive Olivia. I wanted to slap her face off. Does she think Olivia is stupid? Does she think Olivia is so rude as to never send thank you notes for these gifts, notes that require cards? Does she think her pity will impress Olivia or that Olivia, whom she knows not at all, would appreciate such a gesture? She’s been trying to take Olivia’s man, sleeping with Olivia’s brother and she thinks giving Olivia cast off flowers is a good olive branch? Oh, Tansy. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out of Olivia’s life.
Final Assessment: Readable style can’t overcome shallow leads in a better than average mistorical. B-
Series: Book 9 of Pennyroyal Green
Source: Copy provided for review.