Desert Isle Keeper
The Devil's Delilah
The Devil’s Delilah is yet another gem from Loretta Chase, featuring one my favorite types of heroes: the cute, absent-minded nerd boy with a heart of gold. The only complaint I have about this book is that it had to end.
Jack Langdon’s vagueness is part of the reason he didn’t get the girl in Viscount Vagabond. This time around, his absent-mindedness causes him to stumble into the wrong room at an inn, where a beautiful woman is holding a man at gunpoint. The man happens to be the Earl of Streetham, the father of Jack’s childhood chum; assuming the worst, Jack immediately tackles the femme fatale. To his chagrin, however, he discovers that the woman is really Delilah Desmond, daughter of that infamous gambler and libertine, Darryl “Devil” Desmond, and she’s holding the earl at gunpoint because he has offered insult to her person.
Delilah Desmond is not a happy girl. Her father has offered to sell his scandalous memoirs to a publisher, which would ruin her chances of making a respectable marriage. This motivation initially comes off as rather shallow, but it turns out that she’s merely looking out for her parents’ interests: if she makes an advantageous match, her father won’t have to keep supporting his family with his wiles. Quickly spotting Jack’s soft heart, she enlists his help to obtain and hide the manuscript. Meanwhile, the Earl of Streetham, who has reasons of his own for getting hold of the document, recruits his preternaturally good-looking son, Viscount Berne, in a seduce-and-destroy effort.
All kinds of capers ensue. The manuscript is hidden, found, buried, excavated, stolen, stolen again. Double-dealings abound, as Viscount Berne finds himself torn between the desire he feels for Delilah and the wrath of his father, the Earl of Streetham hatches plans of his own, and Jack tries his befuddled best to help the situation. Jack and Delilah are almost irresistibly drawn to each other, but the courtship is not a smooth one. Jack continually finds himself thinking and acting as a gentleman should not in Delilah’s dizzying presence, whereas Delilah despairs of getting the bookworm’s attention. But all’s well that ends well, with a little help from the Devil, of course. The way in which the good guys recover the manuscript in the end is nothing less than a delightful bit of double-dealing.
The two protagonists are a classic example of opposites attracting. Jack is a complete sweetie, whereas Delilah is a pistol-packing, spirited young miss. Both, though, are stubborn, and the whole story actually revolves around a Big Misunderstanding: the two of them assume that the other isn’t interested. This situation would be irritating from almost anyone other than Chase, but she handles it with a deft touch; the despair and internal musing actually provide many moments that are alternately hilarious and poignant. Nonetheless, at one point exasperation did set in and I felt a strong urge to shake the two clueless lovers.
The Devil’s Delilah is tremendous fun all around, and the best thing about it is the dialogue. The best lines don’t come from Jack or Delilah, but from Devil Desmond himself. For instance, on the morning after Jack sneaks into Delilah’s room via a window:
“You had better not do that again,” said Mr. Desmond before his visitor could do more than wish him good morning. “There is hardly any foothold at all, and you might have broken your neck.”
In fact, Devil and his wife Angelica are scene-stealers and I, for one, would love to read their story.
So, all you Regency Romance fans and Chase-a-holics: suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours and immerse yourself in the madcap world of The Devil’s Delilah. You’ll probably emerge with a smile on your face, feeling more hopeful about the Regency romp as an art form and just better about the world in general. At least, that’s what it did for me. Various side effects such as grinning like a loony and occasional loud bursts of laughter are unfortunate but necessary for fully enjoying this delightful piece.