Don't Bargain With The Devil
by Sabrina Jeffries, historical (2009)
Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4165-6081-4


Sabrina Jeffries's Don't Bargain With The Devil could have been an interesting story, I suppose, but the characters behave in ways that confuse me.

In this one, we are back to the School For Heiresses series, which are books that can be read in any order because the only thing bonding them together is the fact that the heroines are students of Charlotte Harris's School for Young Ladies. It's a school where young ladies are taught to consider money as nothing important and to be outspoken - the whole thing sounds like a Mattel factory for Stepford romance heroines, and it probably is, heh.

The heroine is Lucinda Seton. She is said to be "outspoken", but for the most of the time, she behaves like a naïe but impetuous heroine determined to ruin herself in the worst way possible. Jilted by a man she thought she had an understanding with, Lucy starts out in a bad mood. The mood improves considerably when she catches sight of the man who moved into the vacant property next door to the School, although naturally she wouldn't admit it until the whole desire thing builds up in her until she can't take it anymore and she wants to get laid now.

Diego Montalvo has a plot that I won't even try to elaborate for reasons that I will soon get into, so let me just say that he and his old mentor Gaspar are in England to locate the missing daughter of the Spanish Marques de Parama. The only name Diego has to go with is - yes, you guess it, Lucinda Seton. Here is what I don't understand. Diego says that he cannot get involved with Lucy because that will only earn him her distrust. But he also decides that he needs to know her better and determine 100% that she's really the woman he is looking for before he tells her about her father, and to do this, he kisses her and even paws her here and there. She is determined to support her employer in ensuring that Diego will not remain next door to the School, but she also cannot help flinging her arms around Diego and begging to be kissed and more.

In simple terms, we have two characters too weak-willed to contain their libido. As a result, I can see, long before these characters do, the unnecessary drama that will crop up sometime down the road and therefore, I'm just waiting until they reach that point.

For Lucy, she's continuously being put in her place by Diego as well as every other character, so it's annoying how Ms Jeffries keeps insisting that Lucy is "outspoken". Lucy isn't - she's just a silly girl who is determined to ruin herself the first time she experiences desire. So much for Mrs Harris's education - the Marques should demand a refund. Diego does not have naïveté as an excuse as Ms Jeffries constantly brings up the fact that he's hot with the ladies. He comes off more like a bumbling kid determined to get laid, and if he thinks that his method of making out with Lucy is going to get her to behave positively when he drops the bombshell on her... Well, maybe those ladies are barn animals of the female variety? He keeps lying to Lucy, for her own good, of course, and I can only applaud when he decides to drug her and drag her to Spain on board his ship. Now that is the way to charm the ladies, I tell you. When all else fails, there's always pharmaceuticals.

There are other problems, such as the author using the most unwise methods to explain her otherwise predictable and familiar subplot about Lucy's heritage to the reader - the three-man confessional at the end of the story makes me laugh because that scene is so contrived and cheesy. Gaspar also has a tendency to lecture Diego about things that Diego should already know. Okay, Diego isn't the brightest person around, but the lecturing thing is a pretty obvious method of information dumping.

But really, it's hard to appreciate a romance where all the drama that will eventually arise can be seen coming from a mile away, and that the drama is caused by the characters behaving in ways both foolish and inexplicable. Don't Bargain With The Devil is definitely not one of the author's better efforts.

Rating: 56


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