by Stefanie Sloane, historical (2011)
Ballantine, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-345-51739-5
Stefanie Sloane's The Devil In Disguise is yet another first book in a series, this one revolving around yet another boyband of titled spies called Young Corinthians. Like every male member of the Ton, William Randall, the Duke of Clairemont, is part of an elite spy organization. He also has a nickname, with his being Iron Will. He's the angst-ridden playboy cliché in the Young Corinthians, by the way, which he demonstrates by making a grand entrance in this story, lustily playing the hungry calf to the cow that is his mistress.
In this story, Will gets his secret mission. You see, the French are now targeting heiresses of London! After all, there is nothing more effective to cripple England and bolster the finances of France than to kidnap heiresses, one by one. The Young Corinthians have received news that Will's French archenemy is charged to kidnap our virtuous maiden Lucinda Gray, and it is up to Will to stop him. How will he go about thwarting this brilliant plan of the enemies? The official plan is to get Will to court Lucinda under false pretenses, so that he can stay close to her and keep her safe. Without telling her that she is in danger, of course. As Will says, what's a little guilty conscience? So what if Lucinda's reputation lies in tatters by the end of the mission - it's the fact that she's safe that counts!
Meanwhile, Lucinda is another cliché. She doesn't want to get married, because guys who flatter her bore her, and all she wants to do is to play with horses. In a non-dirty way, of course. So, if the original plan is not convoluted enough, now Will approaches Lucinda with another brilliant plan. He'll pretend to pose as her suitor for three months, telling her that this is his plan to thwart his mother's attempts to get him shackled to a bride, and he'll give her his horse, the one that she has always wanted, in exchange.
Do you see the logic in all that nonsense? Because I certainly don't understand why they can't just tell Lucinda that she's in danger and then ferret her off into a safe place for the time being. But I guess, if that is the plot, then Ms Sloane won't be able to show off her impressive knowledge of the most tired clichés around and her remarkable ability to toss every one of them into this story. Reading this story is like eating cold baked beans - there is hardly any flavor to savor, just the dry taste of stale old clichés baked lukewarm and served without even a little seasoning.
Ah, but if only this book is guilty of being merely bankrupt of freshness. There is that icky problem of a plot that never makes sense from start to finish. A plot that is completely cracked stupid, making sure that this book is dead on arrival. It's like the story of a hen that flies - all seems good, until I pause and realize that hens can't fly and therefore the whole story becomes a hundred times more stupid as a result. The character development also doesn't make much sense. Will, supposedly a hardened spy who has done everything and a cynical playboy who has shagged every woman in town, is soon mooning over Lucinda like he's never seen a woman before, and Lucinda is doing the same as well. Of course she soon learns of the truth behind his courtship and throws a fit for the wrong reasons. And on and on, this story goes, following the formula but never making any sense in the process. Sure, The Devil In Disguise is a deadly bore of a read, but it is also at the same time a fundamentally nonsensical story that should have never been given the green light.
To add salt to the injury, this book has been proofread by... I don't know, a drunken baboon, I guess. Weird uses of capital letters are present here, with my favorite being "his Groin" on page 35. There are weird instances where sentences are repeated consecutively, ruining the flow of an already wretchedly dull story. There are also weird typographical errors or use of wrong words galore. Still, these errors are a blessing in disguise, because they often jolt me awake or make me laugh every time I am close to dozing off while reading this book.
Honestly, this book is a deadly dull bore of an illogical mess, with the dry narrative riddled with sloppy errors. I can only in good conscience recommend The Devil In Disguise to people who for some reason need things to fill up a big hole in a landfill.
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