Dark Temptation
by Allison Chase, historical (2008)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-451-22552-8


In Allison Chase's Dark Temptation, the hero Chad Rutherford has a better reason to play the "I'm a big yellow sad-faced smiley" card than most men of his kind in romance novels. You see, in the previous book Dark Obsession, he learned that the supposedly "harmless" little illegal things he did to restore the finances of his family - acting as the go-between for the local smugglers by helping them store and fence their goods - were not as harmless as he initially thought. Heavily fined for being these bloodthirsty smugglers' accomplice, Chad would lose the estate he had spent so much time trying to rebuild if he couldn't turn in the leader. It is his title that protected him from public humiliation as well as the gallows.

In the meantime, he receives a mysterious summon to go back to Edgecombe and wait for further orders from his old buddies. While wallowing in self-pity, he encounters our heroine Sophie St Clair who is determined to stick her nose where it doesn't belong. She is determined to investigate the mysterious nighttime activities of people in Blackheath Moor, and Chad soon has to tag along to save her from breaking her own neck in the process.

One thing I can say about this one - unlike the previous book, this one is definitely not boring. Chad and Sophie first meet each other in a fog-covered scene that is very well done in how creepy it is. The second half or so of this book provides some great reading despite the presence of yet another [spoiler starts] insane female villain who started out as an intelligent foil to the heroine [spoiler ends].

It is the first half of the story that is very problematic, thanks to a heroine too reckless and foolish for words and a hero who spends so much time with his head shoved up his rear end. Sophie is not only the kind of heroine who will cheerfully rush headlong into danger because she can, she actually has to be saved twice by the hero, which she repays him by telling him tartly that she can take care of herself, thank you very much. Chad spends his time wandering around being so self-absorbed in his pity party, he ends up doing plenty of stupid things as well, like [spoiler starts] initially dismissing Sophie's suspicions about her aunt's family, which turn out to be valid, because he feels that this clue is too obvious and therefore cannot be true. [spoiler ends] It is not a good thing when the hero and the heroine seem have lucked into solving the mystery instead of doing many worthwhile things to get there. There are also some signs that the author is very much aware of her characters' more melodramatic nonsense, but even then, she hadn't done enough to subvert her characters' antics - they are still tough on the old nerves.

Despite the often painful antics of the hero and the heroine, this book still manages to be a very compelling read. I don't know how Ms Chase does it, but I find myself turning the pages nonetheless despite the antics of the main characters. Therefore, all I can say is this: you may like this one, who knows, but before you start reading this one, steel yourself for some horrible stunts of stupidity from the main characters.

Rating: 80


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