I feel I owe a lot to Jude Deveraux. She and Julie Garwood are the two authors who got me hooked on reading romances. Deveraux’s Knight in Shining Armour and her Velvet Quartet were among the first romances I ever read and they made a lasting impression on me. I’ve been disappointed by her last few endeavors, so it was with a great amount of trepidation that I picked up her latest offering, Temptation. I was pleasantly surprised though and did let out a relieved “Whew!” when I finished it.
Temperance O’Neil is something of a do-gooder. She fights in New York for women’s rights and tries to help as many women as she can make better lives. She’s become something of a celebrity, and it’s not really clear exactly how she is helping these women. She has a forceful personality and can work a crowd but she doesn’t do any real deeds at first. When Temperance’s mother comes home married to a Scottish businessman, Temperance’s world begins to tilt on its axis. Angus believes that Temperance has no business gallivanting around, making a nuisance of herself and trying to win women more rights. He’s very old fashioned and even though he believes Temperance is on the shelf (she’s 29 after all), he tells her that unless she comes to Scotland with him and her mother, he’ll cut her off without a cent!
Temperance eventually gives in and goes, but she makes Angus’s life hell. Finally Angus decides to send her to his nephew, James McCairn, to serve as his housekeeper. James is Laird of his clan, and Angus tells Temperance that if she can find James a wife, he will allow her the freedom to go back to New York and give her an allowance to live from. She accepts the challenge. But James is not what she expects and neither is his home. The dwelling itself is a ruin; it’s falling down around James’ head but he doesn’t care. To him, the house represents everything bad about his past. James is an extremely hardworking man who spends all his time trying to make his village into something, yet he doesn’t truly get involved with his people. To Temperance, it’s a challenge. She starts by cleaning up his house, and then she starts on his village. She begins to see how she can truly help people out of the goodness of her heart rather than using them to become a celebrity. She and James, of course, become quite attracted to each other along the way.
As the plot advances we discover that the reason Angus wants James to marry has to do with a will stipulation. James’ father has stipulated that James has to marry before his 35th birthday – for love. James had been married once before but his wife died. In truth, even if she had lived, the land would have reverted from him as no one believed theirs was a love match. If he doesn’t marry, the land will go to his younger brother Colin, supposedly a gambler – gambling, it seems, is a family weakness. Angus fears that Colin would destroy the land. He is trying as hard as he can to get James married, without letting him know why. Temperance does not know of this stipulation either – she is simply trying to fulfill her part of the bargain.
Temperance is a great heroine in that she changes through the book. She can’t really see it herself, but the reader does – and James does as well. It’s not until she meets another social reformer that she realizes what she was and how snobbish she had become. It’s truly an epiphany for her. James also changes throughout the book, and though his most important change doesn’t come until the end, it’s very poignant. The supporting casts of characters are also strong. They range from Grace, who learns confidence and runs her own business, to Temperance’s mom (who is not really what she seems), to Angus’ sister Rowena.
Two things were a problem for me, however. For one, I didn’t like Angus. I understood that he was supposed to be old fashioned, but he was too tyrannical; at times he was just plain mean. There was also a lengthy separation for the hero and heroine. While it took place off stage, it was still a problem.
Jude Deveraux is at her best when she writes historicals, and this book is no exception to the rule. I definitely recommend this book to Deveraux fans, and fans of this period in history. After a couple of duds, it’s great to see Deveraux back on her game.