Saint’s Temptation is not a bad book, but it sure starts out that way. The entire first third is one huge prologue to the rest of the novel. It’s completely unnecessary, and irritating throughout. Once that’s over with, the rest is pretty entertaining. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite get over the bad start.
This is your basic lovers’ quarrel plot. When Marisa Grantham and Clayton Trevelyan first meet, they are instantly attracted to each other. Marisa and her family are visiting the Trevelyan estate, and the two spend an idyllic summer falling in love. By the time they leave for the Little Season, they are engaged. While they are sure of their love for one another, their families aren’t quite as enthusiastic. Marisa is spirited and impetuous, and Clayton is staid and bookish. Marisa’s parents insist that she keep her engagement secret so she can experience a full season. They are sure that if her love for Clayton is true, it can stand the test of time. Clayton promises to keep his distance so that there will be no rumors.
But you can guess what happens – Clayton is too good at keeping his distance, Marisa thinks he doesn’t love her anymore, she flirts with other men to make him jealous, and the engagement is broken. Clayton goes off to nurse his wounds by fighting Napoleon. Marisa spends seven seasons in London, hoping to lose her heart to someone else. They are suddenly thrust into each other’s company again when Marisa overhears two men plotting Clayton’s murder. She comes to warn him, and together they try to find the would-be murderers. In the process they get a second chance for love.
I had only minor problems with the final two thirds of the book. Clayton couldn’t figure out why he was a target for murder, even though it seemed rather obvious to me. And Marisa made the stupid mistake of telling her chatty niece she knew whose voice the killer’s sounded like, putting herself in danger in the process. But other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the latter part of the book. Marisa and Clay eventually developed as strongly written characters, and they had some great scenes together. This book is a sequel to Devil’s Honor, which features Clay’s twin brother Justin. I found the relationship between the brothers very interesting – in fact, I would have liked to see them together more.
But I hated the first third of the novel. Dragging out the initial romance and break up for such a long time was a huge mistake. The reader definitely knew the break up was coming (it was mentioned on the back cover and in a short first chapter as well), so the whole first part is spent waiting for the bomb to drop. It cast a pall over every happy scene in that part of the book. And the behavior of the characters made no sense in the first place. What parents would want their daughter to postpone marriage to a handsome, rich Earl so they could go spend a bunch of money on a season? And why would they advise her to look for someone more impetuous and flighty? Most bothersome was that Clay seemed like a big wimp during this part of the book. If he really loved her, he should have just eloped to Scotland, which she begged him to do.
The bottom line is that reading about stupid misunderstandings is pretty painful. I have enjoyed books with lovers’ quarrel plots before; two good ones that come to mind are Julia Quinn’s Everything and the Moon and Mary Jo Putney’s Petals in the Storm. But successful books like these have a very different strategy. Usually the initial romance is detailed in a brief prologue, or remembered in a flashback. That way you don’t have to hear about every agonizing moment. They start right in with the good stuff.
And Saint’s Temptation does have some good stuff. You just have to wade through that lengthy prologue to get there. If you have money to burn, you can always go buy a copy and only read the last two thirds of it. You wouldn’t miss a thing.