Tempt the Devil by Anna Campbell
Olivia Raines is the most famous courtesan in London and has a well earned reputation as being both maintaining serious distance between her and her lovers and for dropping her lovers quickly and brutally. Julian Southwood, the Earl of Erith, is determined to make Olivia his mistress as he wants only the best. Olivia is not so keen on the idea and her friend Perry, Lord Montjoy, warns her that Erith possess a serious threat to her heartless exterior, but she sees him as a challenge and accepts his carte blanche. Julian quickly realizes that their relationship is not going to proceed exactly as he planned when Olivia insists on her independence. He is even further infuriated when he discovers that Olivia has only been pretending sexual enjoyment with her lovers and he informs her that he will not be falling for her tricks. He wants to awaken sexual passion in her but it is not long after this that Julian learns that Olivia's past includes rape at the hands of a debauched lord and a bastard son she gave up for her cousins to raise as their own.
It is at this point that the two both begin to feel something more than the affection between a man and his mistress. Erith is drawn to the woman underneath Olivia's cold facade; the woman who still blushes at his innuendos and who hides such a tragic past and has lived her unconventional life with courage. Olivia's heart begins to melt as Erith treats her like she is equal to the high society ladies, shows that he is willing to do anything to make her comfortable and happy, and makes her forget her sordid past. Despite her promises to never allow any man to have power over her again Olivia falls in love with Erith and he with her and the two begin to ponder if any sort of future between them is possible. Despite her determination Olivia begins to have hope that the past really is behind her and, while recognizing that marriage is impossible, she wants something more. Unfortunately the hope that both of them have is shattered when Erith discovers Olivia in the company of his well-bred daughter and in his anger he says hurtful things that neither can forget. It is up to Erith to prove to Olivia that the past really is in the past and that hope is possible for both of them.
So courtesans are apparently quite the in thing in romance novels these days but I still really enjoy the novelty of not having an innocent 18 year-old virgin as the heroine. The book does kind of cut the corner by having Olivia remain sexually unawakened and thus paving the way for our hero to "awaken" her. I guess I'll need to wait a little longer for a satisfied and unapologetic lady of the evening heroine. I enoyed how strong willed both of these characters were. Although there were times when Olivia did show some signs of weakness both of these characters were able to hold their own and I can honestly say that there weren't any times when one had the upper hand over the other. This book is very emotion driven and Campbell certainly writes about emotions very well, although after a while it got to be just too much. I very much enjoyed the scenes involving Julian and his daughter and Julian's reflections on how he has not lead the most exemplary life and has so much to make up for. I also enjoyed that the book ended up with a HEA, but in an at least somewhat realistic manner.
The book is very wordy and scenes in the novel often last over several chapters and this basically means that there are not very many scenes altogether. Since many of those scenes were sex scenes it almost was like their relationship centered around their bedroom. I really would have appreciated shorter sex scenes (for the most part) and maybe more short scenes where they did "coupley" things together. The book also kind of runs with the theme of homosexuality being created through past abuse as there is a gay character who was abused by his father and he wonders if she is a lesbian because woman who suffer at male hands often turn to their own sex. I guess I discussed my feelings on this in my review of "The Seduction of Sara." At the same time I recognized that Campbell is a very talented writer and I can understand how some people apparently adore her books, I just did not like her writing style. It seemed drawn out, wordy (again), and really just seemed to have an air of depression over it. Maybe that was the subject matter and the characters always dealing with such wild emotions, but it just did not lead to a book that I "enjoyed" reading very much.
Rating: Despite reflecting on the almost overwhelming depression that weighs this book down I knew that I really just can not give this book less than three hearts because of it's interesting plot and well developed characters.