Daring The Devil
by Leslie LaFoy, historical (1999)
Bantam, $5.50, ISBN 0-553-58042-6


Halloween is around the corner. Looking for a romance perfect for the creepy-crawly theme? Look no further. A really twisted serial killer in on the loose in 1800s Charlestown, and our heroine Darcy O'Keefe and her love Aiden Terrell are neck deep in the carnage and terror. It's not that gruesome a read, however, but it is taut, gripping, and it's a pretty fine romance too.

Darcy is a pickpocket on her first day on the job. Her father's death has left her family totally penniless and Darcy pickpockets to help her mother and siblings survive. Unfortunately, in her inexperience she chooses the wrong target: Aiden. Soon, the game is up.

Aiden has an even worse history. His stepbrother Jules has massacred his entire family in a fit of psychotic madness and is now enjoying a career as a globe-trotting serial killer, sending his mementos to Aiden in a cat-and-mouse nya-nya-can't-catch-me game. Aiden needs to find a way to infiltrate the underdark criminal world of Charlestown to seek out Jules, and now that Darcy has fallen into his hands... you can hear the gears in his mind turning already.

Here is where, of course, we get some Pretty Woman elements thrown in (cue romantic muzak as Aiden buys Darcy new clothes and teaches her fancy manners). Aiden and Darcy get more interesting in each other as their shared personal space becomes smaller with each page.

Here is where the book falters a bit. It is as if the author isn't sure whether to turn out a full all-out serial-killer-we're-gonna-getcha story or Pretty Woman. Jules is always there, trying to meddle, but he is inconsequential after Darcy and Aiden get this close together. It's not exactly an abrupt transition from Jack The Ripper to Pretty Woman, but it is rather distracting, nonetheless, to read of these two people traipsing around modiste shops and getting all twisted up about sharing the same sleeping arrangements when I know there's a psycho on the loose.

But despite it all, Darcy is a very wonderful heroine. Her transformation to a courageous, self-confident woman is simply a delight to read. And her relationship with Aiden is well-drawn, so full of chemistry that when they do some heavy breathing, I had to fan myself.

Sure, the hero's quite overbearingly arrogant at times, the plot could be tightened up here and there, but there's no denying Daring The Devil is really fun and yes, it is romantic too. It's not perfect, but it's just nice.

Rating: 82


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