by Elizabeth Hoyt, historical (2009)
Vision, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-40694-9
Elizabeth Hoyt's To Desire A Devil is not a story as much as it is a concept expanded into story length without much effort made into trivial things like logic and credible characterization. It's all about the hero behaving like a Neanderthal mule and the heroine joyfully playing the martyr in exchange for the scraps of his affection.
To Desire A Devil is the final book in the author's The Four Horsemen series, but all newbies need to know to catch up with this book is that our hero, Reynauld St Aubyn, was thought to be dead all these years. The title had since passed on to a relative, the uncle of our heroine Beatrice Corning. Beatrice has played her uncle's companion and the host to his political soirees until she realizes that time has indeed passed and she is now twenty four years old, on the shelf. Then again, she has been holding out for true love ever since she saw the portrait of Reynauld in the house so the whole thing is moot. Girlfriend here is as obsessed as a teenage girl determined to marry Zac Efron after seeing a High School Musical poster.
So one day Reynauld shows up at her doorstep, alive. Don't ask me how he turns out to be alive. Apparently two Native American tribes defied logistics to capture our hero, and then decided to keep him alive while letting another bloke wear his clothes and torching that bloke like some Christmas martyr, and our hero then befriended a trapper and then he did his Dances With Wolves thing and not once in those years did he tell any White guy he met that he was the heir to a fabulous title and fortune in England and he'd pay anyone who would help him get back to England. I guess all I need to care about is the constant reminders of the anguish he had experienced in America - the ones which he apparently endured for years because he lost his ability to tell people who he is - so that I will press my hand to my heart and melt into a puddle because such a wounded man is so hot.
Of course, Reynauld needs bedside TLC, which Beatrice offers even if she has to force him to gnash his teeth at her - because she finds him hot, remember - and Reynauld proceeds to get even more mulish because his former comrades suspect that he was the traitor who betrayed them all years ago. He proceeds to make his case by behaving like a dyspeptic buffalo in a china shop. Beatrice is like, ooh, he's so hot. Even when he's growling and grabbing her hand roughly, she knows at once that he can't be the traitor.
Beatrice shivered at the confirmation of her fears. She remembered Lord Vale's warning in the hall: Be careful. Still, she wet her lips and said, "I think anyone who truly knows you would realize that you don't have it in you to be a traitor."
It's amazing just how much Beatrice can glean of Reynauld's personality just by gazing into those beautiful eyes in that portrait of his. She is quite an ungrateful wretch as well, because she is soon giving Reynauld details of her uncle's plans to ensure that Reynauld will not get back his title. Never mind that her uncle has taken her in all those years ago and given her shelter, food, and more - dude, Reynauld is so hot.
Because Reynauld is a dyspeptic bulldog with very little in terms of charisma and brainpower, the author has every other secondary character in this story actively advising, cajoling, and even lecturing Reynauld into admitting that he loves her. Meanwhile, despite all the crappy things he has said and done to Beatrice, she comes to this realization on page 313:
She knew that she could do just that, but Reynauld would not let himself love.
And still it didn't seem to matter. Beatrice had discovered that one's love needn't be reciprocated in order for it to thrive. It seemed her love was perfectly happy to grow and even bloom in the complete absence of his. There was no controlling it.
I don't know about anyone else, but the above makes me feel quite depressed on behalf on Beatrice. Why is she settling for less like this? I mean yes, so the guy had been through hell in the colonies, but that doesn't mean one can overlook administering some rabies shot to him, no?
The plot revolving around Reynauld's "death" and the traitor is just not well done at all, and the identity of the villain is a complete let down. The hero is a one-dimensional cliché of a mule that doesn't experience any natural emotional growth on his own. He has no character development, instead he has a sob story in place of a personality. Meanwhile, the heroine is a one-dimensional selfless and understanding dingbat who goes to such extremes just because she saw his portrait one morning and found him too hot for words.
Ms Hoyt has really dropped the ball here, I tell you. To Desire A Devil is an illogical story featuring flat clichés in the lead. What happened?
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