Surrender of a Siren
Just to let you know: It was really, really close.
Sophia Hathaway is a spoiled, selfish, pampered heiress to social-climbing parents. At the beginning of the book she has abandoned her aristocratic fiance at the altar and, with her art supplies in one trunk and four dresses in another, she boards a ship for the Caribbean, pretending to be a governess. You see, Sophia doesn’t like rules or regulations and she sure as hell doesn’t care for the strictures that being a baroness entails. So, with a few weeks left until she gains control of her inheritance, she runs away for a taste of uninhibited independence.
Benedict (Gray) Grayson is the owner of the ship – not the captain, as his brother (the captain) needs to remind him – and, after a lifetime of privateering, womanizing, and all-round scoundrelizing, has just turned over a new leaf. But how can he do that when there is a delectable passenger drawing insightful portraits of the crew and getting under his skin?
This is not a swashbuckling pirate romance, although Ms. Dare handles the action scenes very well. Rather, it’s a layered character-driven novel, with a fine supporting cast and excellent writing. I’m also darn happy to report that Sophia and Gray transcend any cliched elements and own the story from page one. I initially found Sophia such an unsympathetic character that I was surprised to realize partway through that I actually liked her. Her flight doesn’t just stem from rebellion – she feels dishonest and fraudulent, hiding her true nature and deceiving her friends, family and fiance to the point of feeling alienated. But during the voyage Sophia comes into her own, developing amazing depth of character, and the journey was as surprising to me as it is to herself.
Gray. Well, Gray is Hot. He’s a red-head with changeable eyes that reflect the sea. He comes from a semi-aristocratic background and has sacrificed much (including honesty) in the past to secure the fortunes of his family, which includes a mulatto half-brother (Joss, the captain of the ship and a superb secondary character). He’s a rake already in the process of reforming when he meets Sophia, and tries really, really hard not to touch her. Gray, in short, is absolutely fantabulous, and the author maps out a wonderfully subtle journey in Sophia and Gray’s relationship.
But there are enough things to bother me that kept the book from DIK status. There’s an element to Sophia’s self-perceived alienation that didn’t quite strike the right tone with me. And there were moments when I knew, and Sophia knew, and bloody Gray even knew that Sophia needed to open her mouth and talk, but didn’t because of fear of rejection. Finally, the epilogue is a little uneven, a combination of sweet-tooth happy ending and set-up for the next book.
I’ll admit, I was really torn over the grade. However, although I can’t give Surrender of a Siren an A, I can say this: There were many opportunities for the book to fall on its face, and instead it soars. Ms. Dare is a good one.