Devil May Care
Devil May Care by Melanie George is a romance between an angelic woman and a devilish man. I found myself unable to get into the Victorian setting, and it ended on an extremely sour note.
Lady Eden Spencer is a convent-raised orphan planning to become a nun. But Mother Superior tells Eden to go live a little before making her decision. Taking this directive literally, Eden seeks out the most notorious rake in London, Damien Sinclair, the Earl of Blackstone, and offers to hire him to show her the sinful side of life – keeping a proper distance, of course.
Damien, a tormented man who has striven all his life to live up to his rakish image, refuses Eden’s money but accepts her offer, and proceeds to take her, properly disguised, to a variety of improper locales. Along the way they fall in love, but there are numerous obstacles in their way, including a nasty villain and both protagonists’ feelings of unworth.
There’s lots of humor and witty repartee, and both characters are well-drawn and rather interesting. Sometimes this reminded me of a much lighter version of Upon a Wicked Time by Karen Ranney, one of my favorite romances. So what’s not to like?
First of all, this set-up stinks. Why would Eden imagine that going to whorehouses and gaming hells with a confirmed rake was what Mother Superior had in mind? A line from the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer springs to mind: “Does the word ‘duh’ mean anything to you?”
Second of all, I may use Buffy slang, but it’s quite disconcerting when Victorian characters do it. These people will suddenly say “’Nuff said,” or “How boring is that?”, instantly killing whatever authenticity the setting might have had.
There are lots of little continuity problems that are irksome as well. For instance, at one point Damien dons beggar’s clothes so that he can follow Eden. When she encounters him, we learn that his stench nearly knocks her over. Yet only a few pages later, he’s about to kiss her and she’s leaning into it. Ew! Am I supposed to have forgotten that he stinks?
Then there’s Eden’s religion, which I could not figure out. She wants to be a nun, crosses herself with holy water, and goes to confession, which to me spells “Catholic.” Was she Catholic? I don’t know. Could she have been Church of England? No idea. I don’t know that much about the Church of England in the 1880s, but I am a well-educated reader, and if I can’t tell, the author should have explained it to me. Possibly this won’t bother many readers, but I really wanted to know if members of Church of England had convents and said Hail Marys, as these do; and if Eden was a Catholic, I wanted to know if this had been a challenge for her in society. No information was forthcoming from the author, and that was frustrating.
All this probably sounds very nit-picky. But I sincerely had a difficult time learning to care about our hero and heroine, because I was frustrated and irritated every time something happened to break the spell.
In spite of all that, I would have given this book a higher grade were it not for the author’s treatment of Eden’s cousin, Reggie. I thought Reggie was far and away the book’s most interesting character. He is openly and, pardon the expression, flamingly homosexual. Sample Reggie speech:
“I was having the most delicious dream. The statue of David had miraculously come to life, except it was after hours and all the tailor shops were closed, so he had to remain in the buff. At ease in his nakedness, David beckoned me closer and then asked if I’d like to meet Goliath. Well, who could resist such an invitation as that?”
Who indeed? Reggie is hilarious, and becomes compelling when we learn that Damien has protected Reggie from violent hazing by their peers. And then, on the second to the last page, the author gives Reggie a surprise twist. Not only does it ruin Reggie as a character, not only does it make no sense at all, but it’s totally unnecessary, and is completely insulting to me as a reader. Aaaugh!
Probably some readers will enjoy this romance between two tormented souls who don’t believe they deserve love. I kept getting pulled out of the story by little things that didn’t make sense, and the ending just infuriated me. If you take a chance on Devil May Care, I sincerely hope you enjoy it more than I did.