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Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Devil's Love

**** The Devil's Love by Julia London. Historical romance.

I've been slowly picking up Julia London's backlist--this is her first.

Abbey Carrington and Michael Ingram, now Marquis of Darfield, first met when she was a young girl aboard her father's ship. Michael viewed her as hellion and a nuisance. Abbey, however, was enthralled with the young man.

Years later, Abbey's father dies, and to receive her inheritance, she has to marry Michael. This comes as no surprise to her, as her father's been telling her all her life that she's betrothed to Michael, and over the years, she's received letters and gifts from him, and her whole life has been spent in preparing to become Michael's wife.

Michael, however, isn't quite as happy. In fact, he's furious. He'd agreed to the betrothal when he borrowed funds from Captain Carrington to pay off his father's debts, conditional upon his repayment. Michael had repaid the loans years before, but with the will comes news of other debts Michael hadn't know about.

As it turns out, Captain Carrington engineered the whole thing--sending the gifts and letters to Abbey himself and hiding the debts. Still, Michael and Abbey are stuck: Michael stands to lose a good portion of his estate, and Abbey her entire inheritance.

Both their reactions were realistic, if not necessarily admirable. Michael is angry and surly and takes a long time to get over that anger. It becomes clear later on in the book why he finds it so difficult, but in the meantime, he's mean and unlikeable as he does everything he can first to convince Abbey to call off the wedding, then to avoid her as much as possible. Just a warning for traditionalists: he *gasp* visits his mistress after meeting Abbey.

Abbey, on the other hand, takes a very long time to realize that her father has duped her as well, and that the Michael she'd been dreaming of isn't the real Michael. This, too, fits with her character--she's an incurable optimist, and she loved her father, so she desperately wants to believe that her whole life has not been a lie.

I very much enjoyed Abbey's pluck, probably largely because it's how I imagine I'd have reacted. She deals with disappointments and roadblocks by making the best of things, always putting on a good face, not showing how upset she is. It was wonderful to see her grow toward the end of the book, and instead of just accepting and adapting to situations, she starts standing up for herself more.

My complaints about Michael and Abbey aren't that they're not believable, but because I made myself hoarse shouting at them: Abbey to stop being so stubborn and make Michael listen to her, and Michael to stop cutting off his nose to spite his face--nothing good comes from harboring resentments over a situation you can't change.

I did have one complaint about the story itself, which is that we never really figured out what Captain Carrington's motivation was. His machinations were awfully complex for simply trying to make a good match for his daughter. Or maybe they weren't, but I'd have liked to have seen it explained.

Overall, though, it was a nice, solid romantic read, and I'm looking forward to catching up with the rest of Julia London's backlist.


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