Tempt The Devil
Bought for my Kindle
Julian Southwood, the Earl of Erith is back in London after some time in Europe. He’s here only briefly to attend a family event and hopefully right some wrongs that he committed many years ago. While he’s here he’s looking for a little bit of entertainment. He’s finished up with his mistress in Europe and when he sees Olivia Raines, he demands an introduction.
Olivia is one of London’s most notorious courtesans and Erith wants to secure her services whilst he’s in Town. He makes her an offer which she accepts and almost immediately he has her installed in a residence with staff, clothes and a carriage at her disposal. He expects her loyalty and that she will be available when he requests it.
In their first encounter together, Erith comes to realise that the mystique of Olivia Raines is all a very elaborate sham. She doesn’t enjoy her job – in fact she loathes it and almost the entire male sex. Her innocence taken when she was still just a child, Olivia has never felt the desire to really be with a man and she goes through the motions for money, using aids so that they never suspect that she’s not enjoying it one single bit. Erith however, is not as gullible as some of her previous lovers and he insists that nothing will be used to fake her desire. He wants her to desire him for real.
He offers her a deal in that he’ll keep her secret and not report her to all of London as a sham if she allows him to show her how it really should be. Olivia can’t resist the added clause of ‘winner take all’ giving her a chance to bring London’s most notorious rake to his knees as yet another of her conquests, protecting her reputation. She has the advantage in that she knows he wants her badly and she can give him what he cannot give her…at least not yet anyway. But Erith is a patient man, in this at least. And soon both of them are playing for much higher stakes than they ever thought possible.
Tempt The Devil is the second of the 3-in-1 bundle I bought for my kindle, the first being Claiming The Courtesan. It’s another story that explores the dilemma of a wealthy, titled man of society coming to feel more for a courtesan than he strictly should. The Earl of Erith was married very young, a successful love match but he lost his wife in a tragic accident. Since then he’s been quite often abroad working in Europe and has the reputation of being a very notorious rake. Many have tried to tame him but no one has ever succeeded. Back in London for a few months, Erith immediately sets about claiming Olivia Raines as his next mistress. It takes him no time at all to find out her secret but rather than ruin her, which he has no interest in doing, he uses it as a bargaining chip to get her to stay with him.
Olivia has secrets to protect and a living to earn and she has for years, successfully portrayed herself as a gifted and enthusiastic courtesan. No one who had been with her until Erith even suspected that it was all an elaborate façade. Olivia is certain that she will never respond genuinely to a man, not after what she has been through. Erith believes he is up to the challenge of getting her to experience true desire and the two engage in a battle of wills.
This book is interesting for a romance because I think it’s one of the first I’ve read where one of the parties is actually not physically interested in the other. Olivia is traumatised by her past and although she manages to hide it in order to make her living, she genuinely does not feel a sexual desire, including with Erith at first. He patiently and persistently (but not forcefully) gets to know her and gently eases her into it, getting her past her fear and although she doesn’t exactly forget/overcome her issues of her past, he slowly begins to make progress with her. Erith is really quite a well drawn character – he’s seen as one way by society and perhaps he’s done a lot to be seen that way but he’s coming to realise the mistakes he made, the wrongs he has done those who should be closest to him. Whereas many men in Erith’s position would’ve just renounced the agreement and possibly told the world about her deception, Erith is actually quite invested in keeping Olivia with him. He believes that he can change her attitude towards sexual acts and he uses the wager to bait her just a little. They have quite a fun chemistry at times and the emotional scenes between them are just as enjoyable to read. Both of them become quite invested in the other although they also seem to know that given their positions, they can only go so far.
I felt that Olivia standing up for what she wanted at the end was brave. It was rather fitting that Erith helped her in a way, to regain her self-worth and what she deserved and that he should after that, be the one to give it to her. She wasn’t going to settle for second best. It was fun to see a little cameo by Justin, the Duke of Kylemore and Soraya/Verity from Claiming The Courtesan at the end as well and get a little tiny look into their lives after scandalising society by marrying.
Once again Anna Campbell has delivered a very different and enjoyable historical romance that really gets past the dresses and societal events and into the crux of its characters. I really like the pairing of rakes and courtesans together, it’s a nice change from rakes and virgins although each of these stories has a twist that really makes it not what it seems. Looking forward to the third one.
Book #5 of 2014
Tempt The Devil is the first book read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014!