I adored this book. Absolutely adored to little bits.
Also, Jessica Trent is extremely, extremely cool and capable and awesome and may now be my favorite romance heroine ever.
I shall not summarize the plot because really, there isn't much of a plot. There's Sebastian Ballister, Marquess of Dain, also know as Beelzebub. This would have got me rolling my eyes, as pretty much every single Regency hero has got some sort of godawful Satanic nickname (what's with that? Do they all belong to the Hellfire Club or something?), except Dain is a real jerk. He's got the typical romance novel reasons as to why he is a complete jerk (past trauma, etc. etc.), except the wonderful thing is that everyone in the book realizes he's a complete jerk and no one thinks it's romantic at all.
In some ways, Dain is a giant whining child at heart. I'm sure I'm making him sound extremely unattractive, but it's just so immensely refreshing to have the author and the heroine call the hero on being a jerk instead of somehow thinking that it's horribly romantic or to excuse it by saying that the hero had a horrible childhood or something. Jessica understands that Dain is flawed, and she understands why he's flawed, but she has backbone enough to realize that it doesn't excuse said flaws or make it so that he can simply wallow in his flaws.
And then, there is Jessica Trent, virginal bluestocking spinster, except unlike any virginal bluestocking spinster that I've ever seen or read. Much as I love Dain, I adore Jessica, and have I mentioned before how absolutely cool she is? She falls in lust with Dain right off, and instead of being flustered and virginal about the sexual attraction, she somehow manages to turn the tables so that it's not just her reputation at stake, it's Dain's reputation as well. I especially love her grandmother Genevieve, who sometimes has the role of the yenta character, except it makes complete sense, as Genevieve is exceedingly practical about sexual attraction and a bit of a romantic. Also, watching Genevieve and Jessica interact is priceless.
I am not in any way fully expressing just how cool she is and how much I love her, because a) I'm not doing a good job and b) I had so much fun watching her and being completely delighted by her. She's a wonderful heroine whose brains don't turn to mush because she's in love or in lust.
I also love how the usual gender roles in a romance are reversed here -- Dain is the rather high-strung, emotional one who needs careful handling, and Jessica is the one who uses sex and sexual attraction to get what she wants. This part especially was very nice, considering that I am extremely sick of the hero always having the upper hand when it comes to sexual attraction; here, Dain is just as bewildered and baffled as your standard romance novel heroine.
And yet, despite all these wonderful, wonderful things, I still haven't hit on what may be my absolute favorite bit about the book, which is that I can actually see the hero and the heroine not only falling in love with each other and getting married, but also living with each other and growing old together and forming an actual marriage. While the book does stop with the big declaration of love, Chase manages to work the big declaration of love with the ironing out of relationship issues. Dain's clearly not ready for marriage as a relationship, and Jessica realizes this, and a big part of the second half is getting him around that. I very much liked that while there was a bit of an external plot element for the second half, that the big chunk of it was to further character development and growth. Chase makes me think of Jessica and Dain as real people who work with each other and actually interact, as opposed to many romance novel couples, who I keep thinking will fall apart after the initial attraction wears off.
- magicnoire's review