2008, European Historical Romance (1830s [Victorian] England and Scotland)
Avon, $5.99, 394 pages, Amazon ASIN 006133927X Part of a series
I've never read a Sophie Jordan romance before, and if Surrender to Me is any indication, I will not be reading any more. Aggravating martyrs for leads, a cookie-cutter villain and pasteboard history all made for a frustrating read.
Lady Astrid Derring is Martyr #1. Her good-for-nothing husband - a duke, no less and one step ahead of the law for forgery - left her high and dry years ago with no money, but estates and family members to care for. Astrid foregoes meals so that the servants may eat, only venturing out to ton affairs when hunger forces her to a ball's buffet table. She has friends who have married wealthy peers, but she refuses their help, preferring to wallow in her martyrdom. She receives an anonymous letter that her husband is alive and in Scotland, about to marry a wealthy heiress. Astrid decides to rush to Inverness and stop the wedding, to save some poor woman from her own fate, and give Bertram a good piece of her mind. She'd do better to save it - she doesn't have enough to spare.
Not far from her destination, she is accosted by highwaymen but saved from a Fate Worse Than Death by Griffin Shaw (aka Martyr #2). Griffin is a Texan whose parents were Scottish immigrants. He is on a pilgrimage to find his relations and learn if a secret his mother told him about his family is true. Griffin is injured saving Astrid and she nurses him through his fever at an inn and then hies off to stop her no good husband's wedding. This puts Griffin out for some reason, and he follows her, catching up with her after she's had a nasty meeting with her husband and witnessed his murder whilst hiding beneath a bed. Now she is the prime suspect, but never fear - Griffin will save her!
These two are, apparently, nothing but jinxes, for every calamity that has touched their lives - or the lives of anyone in their vicinity - is their fault. It's Astrid's fault that Bertram left her, that his family is hungry, that Griffin was injured, that Bertram was murdered, yada, yada. Woe is she! It's Griffin's fault that his mother died, that he was estranged from his father, that some unknown woman in the street was killed in the battle of San Jacinto, that Astrid isn't safe, yada, yada. Woe is he! Stop with the self-flagellating, already! It's not attractive.
Adding to the characters' unattractiveness is Griffin's high-handedness and outrage that Astrid doesn't trust him and put herself completely into his care on the basis of a few hours acquaintance. And then there's Astrid's inability to keep her mouth shut. She's one of those people whose outrage is so great that she is incapable of self-editing. Griffin calls you his wife in order to keep you safe from a band of ruffians? "He's not my husband!" You recognize the voice of the man who killed your husband? "You killed Bertram!" I mean, it got to be ridiculous. How many ways could Astrid's ungoverned mouth put her in danger? It turns out many.
And then there's the time period, which was difficult to pin down until Griffin mentioned that he'd fought in the Texas War of Independence, which puts it in the 1830s - Victorian. But then there are all those Scotsmen running around in kilts, and clan feuds, and castles, giving the Scottish portions of the book a distinctly Medieval feel.
Surrender to Me was just a mess from beginning to end. I was glad to finish it.
-- Cheryl Sneed
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