Surrender To a Wicked Spy
Okay, I knew that by reading Surrender to a Wicked Spy I was obviously subjecting myself to yet another spy story, a premise I usually find tedious at best. Determined to enjoy this book with no preconceptions, I soon discovered that the spy aspect of the story was the least of my concerns and that it paled in comparison to the hero’s reprehensible behavior towards his wife. I guess living for one’s country gives a secret agent permission to place his duty far above her honor.
Lady Olivia Cheltenham is a bit tall for fashion, can’t wear a ball gown with grace, and her hair just won’t stay in place. Certainly not the catch of the Season, she must make an advantageous match to rescue her family from financial ruin. Standing on a bridge at her mother’s insistence for hours one chilly, windy day, Olivia finds herself falling into the river after being pushed by someone who feels suspiciously like her mother. Capable of rescuing herself, Olivia is surprised when a Viking god jumps in to save her, only to find that he is the one who needs saving.
Dane Caldwell, Viscount Greenleigh, is the catch of the Season and is accustomed to saving damsels from danger. Now that the Season is nearly over, society’s mamas are becoming desperate and young ladies seem to drop from the sky to land at his feet in various states of distress. Leaping from a bridge to save yet another damsel in distress, he is surprised to find a rather sturdy female in no need of rescuing. Realizing that she is the daughter of a destitute earl with both an excellent lineage and a spotless reputation, Dane unemotionally decides within the hour that she will make him a good wife.
In frustration, Olivia waits for Dane on their wedding night but, apparently, he is avoiding her just as he has since their first meeting in the river. He hadn’t even directly asked her to marry him and her traitorous father hadn’t given a thought to what she wanted either. Although he gifted her with costly jewels, he didn’t pay her one single visit during their two week courtship and even ignored her throughout their wedding dinner.
Dane believes that a truly lovely woman would be far too distracting and has, therefore, chosen Olivia with the utmost care. She is precisely what he wants in a wife – Olivia is neither beautiful nor someone with whom he will fall madly in love. That she appeared unbreakable was another important factor in choosing Olivia as his wife since she must be able to accommodate his…err, sizeable package. Not wanting to frighten Olivia, he decides it is easier to shun her on their wedding night and concentrate instead on his work for England which is the most important aspect of his life, after all.
Yes, Dane’s grave responsibilities for his country must come before anyone or anything. Appointed for life, he is one of the most powerful men in the land as a member of the top-secret Quatre Royale. As I read of this all-important group of government agents on the first page of the book, I heard the hard justice-must-be-delivered music from the old Dragnet series playing in my mind. This is serious stuff and apparently gives Dane license to treat his wife with a great amount of disrespect and use her as a pawn in his undercover agent games.
The beginning pages were indeed very promising, but that initial enchantment quickly wore off. The first half of the book concentrates on the eventual consummation of the marriage with virginal Olivia playing the sex maniac and Dane, fearing he will hurt her, spending endless time pleasing her and sacrificing his own pleasure. This gentlemanly behavior in the bedroom is the exception, not the rule, and nothing in Dane’s supposedly tragic past can justify even a portion of his inconsiderate actions. I am a bigger fan than most of an alpha hero misbehaving but find I am weary of trumped-up tortured heroes. In one word, Dane is a jerk.
Olivia, while likable enough, lacked both reason and intelligence. Attempting to be the great hostess Dane believes her to be, she makes some ridiculous errors even the simplest woman could have avoided – but, to be fair, she is playing with a stacked deck as Dane expects the impossible. However, I also found even the most basic of scenes involving secondary characters filled with improbable scenarios bordering on ludicrous. I could not imagine adults acting and responding in such an insipid manner and found Marcus, Dane’s loyal friend and future member of the Quatre Royale, the only well-rounded adult in the book.
This review cannot begin to contain all my complaints even if I were allowed to enter spoiler territory. Besides the overwhelming lack of romance, the hero’s redemption comes much too late to improve the quality of the story, leaving the reader with an unconvincing HEA. Add to that far-fetched villainous plans, disjointed writing, an unbelievable ending, and a back blurb that is a disservice to readers, and you have the gist of my frustration with Surrender to a Wicked Spy.