November 2012, European Historical Romance (1817 England)
Random House Loveswept, $2.99, 293 pages Part of a series
Note: This eBook is available from Amazon and other eBook retailers.
There's nothing like reading a wonderful book, sitting back with a smile and thinking, "Wow! That was good." On the other hand, there is also nothing like reading a book so utterly wretched that upon reaching the end, you can only sit there thinking, "Oh my goodness! It's finally over." And that's unfortunately what crossed my mind as I clicked through the last page of The Devil's Thief.
If you miss old school romance, this book has a plot that might catch your eye. Our feisty heroine, Julianna Harte, is the daughter of a thief who somehow managed to marry well, get on the straight and narrow, and find his way into the ton. The stark realism of this situation is probably striking you already. At any rate, Julianna is feisty, stupid, and hellbent on doing good deeds. This desperate trifecta leads her to the room of Alasdair Sharp in the middle of the night. She wants to steal his priceless family heirloom pearl and sell it to pay the rent on her foundling home.
Alasdair figures out pretty quickly that Julianna is a woman, even if he doesn't know her name. He seduces/bargains with her and they share a night of passion. Happy thoughts of extending her carte blanche run through Alasdair's mind and of course when he discovers her to be a virgin, she becomes The Most Special Snowflake Ever in his eyes. Even though she has admitted being a thief, Alistair still dreams of having...something...with Julianna, so he's really hurt when he wakes up in the morning to find her and the pearl gone. Desperate to get back the family pearl and to learn the identity of his mystery lover, Alasdair enlists the help of his friends to find her. This turns out to be a good thing because I liked the friends a heck of a lot more than Alasdair or Julianna.
At any rate, Alasdair eventually finds Julianna out and what follows is a lot of drama centered on Alasdair and Julianna trying in various ways to get the pearl back. Alasdair also discovers that he still feels very attracted to Julianna and sets out to woo her, forcing her into sex while uttering such sweet nothings as, "You're to lie there and take what I give you and you're going to like it." Julianna ends up melting into a puddle of lovesickness after enough of this treatment, and while Alasdair starts acting better later on in the book, it really doesn't do enough to bring the reader past all of the creepy "Love at First Rape" sequences that we see in the first parts of the story.
From the plot description, the hero's issues should be clear. His anger at the theft makes sense, but his decision to punish the heroine with rape and rough sex does not. And then there's Julianna. She is the epitome of the TSTL heroine. First of all, she steals the pearl and it never occurs to her that trying to resell a distinctive (and very recognizable) family heirloom might pose difficulties. As an inexperienced criminal, she doesn't exactly know how to navigate London's underworld and it's only pure dumb luck that keeps her from getting killed. And then there's the rest of her life. Julianna runs her foundling home, but seems to have no business sense. It comes out at one point that the reason she lacked rent money was due to her own mismanagement of funds. In addition, even though Julianna cares for children in pretty dire circumstances, when one petty criminal tells her that some of the children in her home have been abandoned by parents unable to care for them, Julianna is actually shocked. The idea of abandoned children startling someone who runs a foundling home pretty much underscores the idea that Julianna has no clue what she's doing most of the time.
Added into all of this mix, we of course get a street urchin with a heart of gold. I suppose the list of cliches in this book wouldn't have been complete without one. If you like very old school historical romances, this one might work for you, but the cluelessness of the heroine and the nasty behavior of the hero made this one a slog for me. I ended up liking the hero's friends, especially since one of them called him out on his behavior, so I won't give this one an F, but it's still not something I'd recommend.
-- Lynn Spencer
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