The Southern Devil
I picked up The Southern Devil with great optimism. It has many things that usually draw me to a book: a Western setting, steamy love scenes, a female who isn’t delicate, adventure, and a childhood connection between the hero and heroine. Sadly, each of the things I looked forward to are seriously flawed. The extremely purple love scenes and internal dialogue did nothing to help the grade either.
Jessamyn Tyler Evans is trying to buy back her family’s horse farm in Tennessee. Her family lost their money when her father became sick and they needed the fortune for his treatment. Because of a clause in the original sale, Jessamyn has a way to get back to her beloved home and horses, she just doesn’t have the money. When an uncle passes away and wills her a map that might lead to gold, Jessamyn has Morgan Evans arrange for their journey to search for the lost treasure.
Morgan and Jessamyn’s connection is rather complex. They grew up together as playmates along with Morgan’s cousin Cyrus. It was widely accepted that Morgan and Jessamyn would marry when they were of age. However, during the Civil War, Morgan was a spy for the Confederacy, Cyrus a Union officer, and Jessamyn a Union supporter. Morgan grudgingly came to town to complete an assignment and stayed with Jessamyn and her father. When Jessamyn learned that Morgan was a spy, she chained him to a bed in the attic until his information would be useless to the rebel cause. After a few amorous encounters that left Morgan begging, he decided to pull out one of the worst plot contrivances ever: seductive revenge. He vowed that one day he would have Jessamyn begging for completion. Trouble is she went and married his cousin, Cyrus.
It is nine years later and Jessamyn is a widow when she runs into Morgan again, who is in the right place at the right time to play the part of her husband in order to search for her uncle’s gold. Jessamym’s cousin also has a copy of the map, and there is a race through the Colorado Rockies to find the gold. Along the way, the two somehow fall in love between love scenes and near-miss catastrophes engineered by the ne’er-do-well cousin.
The characters are not fully drawn, the writing is choppy, but it was the love scenes that really grated on my nerves. Normally when I read purple prose in a book, I can find the humor in it, but the liberal use of “cream,” “carnal,” and “core” had me cringing. How can you take a scene seriously when the heroine wonders about the hero “feasting on her ecstatic intimate flesh” and then berates herself for her “carnal foolishness”? Foolishness indeed! And the way she would describe her “cream” made it sound as if she might have some medical issues. Way too much dripping going on.
As far as the plot goes, Morgan’s reaction to Jessamyn tying him up and more or less taking him prisoner for a few days does not ring true. It seems that his biggest concern is his bruised masculine pride, rather than anger over having his mission thwarted. The rest of the plot is just as shifty, never making much sense. There is a private club that Morgan belongs to that taught him all about “carnal foolishness.” And don’t even get me started on Jessamyn. She is just a basket of contradictions, being portrayed as a ladylike tomboy. She reminded me of a pale copy of Rebecca in Lorraine Heath’s Sweet Lullaby.
The Southern Devil did not receive a grade of F because of the last two chapters – the only ones I enjoyed, maybe because Morgan and Jessamyn finally sounded and acted like real people. And, the ending did wrap up nicely without the loose ends that riddle most connected books these days.
This is the third book in a series. Donovan, from The Irish Devil, plays an important role as Morgan’s employer, so if you have enjoyed the past two selections, you may have a different reaction. I, however, cannot recommend this one.
|Review Date:||October 14, 2006|
|Book Type:||American Historical Romance | Frontier/Western Hist Romance|
|Review Tags:||Frontier Romance | Frontier/Western Historical Romance | Reconstruction era | Western romance|