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Review: Tempt The Devil by Anna Campbell

Tempt The DevilTempt The Devil
Anna Campbell
Avon Books
2008, 359p
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.

7/10

Book #5 of 2014

AWWW2014

Tempt The Devil is the first book read and reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014!

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Claiming The Courtesan – Anna Campbell

Claiming The CourtesanClaiming The Courtesan
Anna Campbell
Avon
2007, 375p
Bought for my Kindle

To the Duke of Kylemore and everyone else in society, she is known as Soraya and she is the most sought after courtesan. For years the Duke had fought to make her his lover and a year ago he finally succeeded with a one year contract that guaranteed she was exclusively his.

Now the Duke has decided to fly in the face of tradition and make Soraya his bride. She doesn’t exactly greet this suggestion with the enthusiasm he expected and he gives her a day to mull it over. When he returns for her answer he finds the house he provided for her stripped of all its contents and Soraya….gone.

Kylemore is incensed and vows to find her. When he does, he discovers that Soraya is no longer and instead Verity Ashton stands before him. She was forced by dire circumstances to enter the life of a courtesan at fifteen and she always intended to make her choices carefully so that she could retire early from her “career”. She wants nothing more than to now live a peaceful life, a peace that is shattered when Kylemore tracks her down and then kidnaps her, taking her to his very remote Scottish estate.

At first Verity longs of escape, although the remote location and dedicated staff make that almost impossible. But night after night, as Kylemore takes her back into his bed, she begins to realise that when the time comes, she may never be able to leave. Kylemore is difficult, plagued by the demons of his childhood and the instability of both his parents. But although he is demanding, he is also passionate and a lot lurks beneath his polished surface. Verity can’t see a future for them, with him as a Duke and her as a former courtesan but leaving such a man twice is going to prove very difficult.

I love Anna Campbell’s historicals but they’re not for the faint-hearted. They’re not your usual historical romance and this one which is I think, her first, is a little more difficult to navigate than most. Her heroes are almost always terribly damaged and are capable of pretty horrible acts, most of which tend to be forgiveable because of circumstances/the grovelling at the end/etc. However there’s no denying that this one….well….it’s a little….

Rapey.

When I was about to start my first year at university, I moved into one of the residential halls on campus. In the first week they gave us a big sexual harassment talk – most of us were 18ish, living away from home for the first time in our lives. They gave us what we fondly called the “sexual harassment cube” which was exactly what it sounds. A cube that you could manipulate to put different sides together, all of which basically told you what meant no (for the record, everything but YES, means no. No means no, I’m drunk means no, I’m asleep means no, I don’t want to means no, I am unsure means no, I’m unconscious means no, I feel pressured means no. IT ALL MEANS NO). The Duke of Kylemore could’ve benefited from possessing one of these cubes because quite frankly, he isn’t aware that a lack of verbal consent means no. Unfortunately, sexual harassment cubes didn’t exist then and although he paid for a year of Soraya’s services, that year was up. I’m assuming here that during the contract, Soraya had to submit to his advances, regardless of whether or not she felt like it – that’s what a courtesan does, although it’s probably more enjoyable for everyone if they’re enthusiastic. However, when he kidnaps her, she’s not playing that role anymore, so his taking her when she’s sort of in two minds about it (she doesn’t want to, but her body kind of does but she doesn’t give her consent or take part really) gets uncomfortable. For pretty much everyone concerned. Kylemore is concerned because later on, he feels guilty about it but it also doesn’t really stop him from doing it again. Verity is concerned because although she didn’t want to like it, she did, because she desires Kylemore and they’ve always had chemistry. And I was trying to read this taking into account the time and situation of when it was set but part of my mind was still saying “sexual harassment cube, sexual harassment cube”.

Get past that and there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on here. Justin, the Duke of Kylemore has had a pretty heinous upbringing and his mother still provides plenty of fodder for his emotional retardation. He has perfected the sort of veneer he needs to get by in society but at the same time, he also doesn’t seem to particularly care about it. It’s a ritual he goes through, something that he does because he’s supposed to and he’s willing to give all of that up in order to marry Soraya/Verity (before he kidnaps her). He was aware of her from the time she first arrived on the scene and although she had two protectors (lovers) before him, he waited for five years until he was able to secure himself as her protector via a contract for an extremely exorbitant price. When he kidnaps Verity, she tells him that the woman he is obsessed with is no more, that Soraya never really existed, she was just something Verity created (maybe because that way, it was someone else who was the courtesan?). Kylemore refuses to believe that Verity and Soraya are two separate people and sets about reconciling her to the fact that Soraya is a part of her and it’s okay for her to embrace that. It’s all quite progressive in some ways (if you ignore the regressive rapeyness).

This isn’t my favourite Anna Campbell (it skirts a little too close to a line I don’t believe should be crossed) but I appreciate the way in which she constructed this story and the characters. She excels at writing people who are flawed in many different ways and she always puts a new spin on the historical romance idea. I purchased this eBook as a 3in1 and I’m looking forward to reading the next two stories in the volume.

7/10

Book #334 of 2013

AWW2013This was the 115th book I read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge in 2013.

 

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Captive Of Sin – Anna Campbell

Captive Of SinCaptive Of Sin
Anna Campbell
Harper Collins AU
2009, 356p
Won from Booktopia in a giveaway

Heiress Lady Charis Weston has fled a miserable future in an attempt to make it on her own, just for three weeks. Suffering from the effects of a beating, she hides herself in a stable but is discovered by Sir Gideon Trevithick. Gideon has just returned to England after a horror imprisonment in India and he knows that when he stumbles upon Lady Charis – posing as a woman named Sarah – that he cannot leave her alone. She faces many dangers as a young woman alone attempting to travel to Portsmouth and even though he risks ruining her by taking her with him, it’s a far better option than leaving her.

He takes her to his family home and they spend some time there before it becomes obvious that Charis’s two stepbrothers, who are looking for her, will stop at nothing to find her. Gideon is a very recognisable figure at the moment and so he comes up with a plan. Sending a decoy to Gretna, they elope to Jersey where she can remain safe for the few weeks time needed under Gideon’s protection. However Gideon knows they need to make their marriage a real one – if her stepbrothers suspect it’s not then everything they’ve done will be for nothing.

Charis has fallen in love with the deeply honourable but also damaged man who has risked much to rescue her. She desperately wants to help him and to remain with him forever. But Gideon has terrible demons that plague him, demons that stop him getting close to another person, even being able to touch someone. Despite the way that he desires Charis, it is torture for him to attempt to lay a hand on her, his mind sending him straight back to the hell he experienced in India. But Charis is a patient woman and she has a plan to help Gideon move past this horrible affliction and allow them to finally find happiness together.

Every now and then I really crave a historical romance and when I won this one from Booktopia in a twitter competition recently it didn’t take me long to take a break from my review pile and give it a go. Lady Charis Weston is one of England’s wealthiest heiresses but her inheritance comes with a bit of a problem: her money goes to her husband if she marries and to her if she reaches 21 unmarried. Her two stepbrothers are desperate to get their hands on her money to pay off debts and so they are attempting to force her into marrying a wastrel and they’ve made it very clear that they will stop at nothing to see it done. And as her legal guardians, they have the ability to force her hand, no matter what her wishes. With just three weeks to go until she’s 21, Lady Charis flees her home after a savage beating, determined to lay low until she is of an age when her inheritance can become hers alone. It’s a horrid and dangerous situation that she’s in, alone on the road travelling with no money and when Gideon finds her, she’s reluctant to go with him, knowing just how vulnerable she would be. She poses as Sarah, a commoner to make herself less desirable and to encourage less questions and eventually agrees to allow Gideon and his two companions to accompany her to Portsmouth, where she wants to go.

Gideon is a hero, recently rescued from being tortured for a length of time in India and he’s a bit of a mess. He can’t be touched or touch someone else – it makes him physically ill, although he can find some sort of relief in violence in the heat of the moment. He has an honourable heart though and wants to protect Sarah/Charis from whatever it is that she’s hiding from. He knows there’s more to the story and when two men turn up on the doorstep of his family home looking for her, he begins to put the pieces together and realises that he’s going to have to go even further to protect her.

Characters have demons, and then there’s Gideon. His demons are like no other that I’ve ever read and it is awesome. The reveal is slow, you witness his reaction to being touched, his desperation for it not to happen, the aloof way in which he holds himself around Sarah/Charis even after it becomes clear he wants her sexually, even after she declares that she’s in love with him. When Campbell reveals what it was that happened to Gideon, why he cannot bear contact it all makes so much sense. The descriptions of what happened to him aren’t vivid – those are saved for his reactions. But it allows the reader to put themselves in his place in India, to imagine the horror of what he went through and that is so much more powerful, I think. Because quite frankly it’s very difficult to imagine something worse than that for someone’s mental spirit. It’s a miracle Gideon came out of that hole with the ability to speak and think coherently still in tact.

I love that Charis takes the upper hand in deciding that the time has come for her husband to be able to touch her – she pleads, cajoles and then downright infuriates him into it. It isn’t easy and at times it isn’t pretty either – it’s refreshing to read some love scenes that don’t go perfectly. Despite her wanting to help him overcome this, she’s naive and she often misunderstands his inability for reluctance, or lack of interest. The reader is party to both Charis’s thoughts and Gideon’s and we see firsthand his torture at wanting to be with her, but being physically unable to because of the memories that each touch brings, overriding even his strong desire. Despite her uncertainty, she still keeps trying, she still keeps putting herself out there for possible rejection and humiliation all to be able to help him overcome what has tormented him so badly. And she proves to him that she can love all of him, even the ugly, scarred parts that he dare not show anyone else (inside and out).

I loved everything about this story – definitely need to read more Anna Campbell. I’ve read two novels and a novella now and there’s still plenty left to track down.

8/10

Book #146 of 2013

AWW2013

Captive Of Sin is book #62 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013

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Seven Nights In A Rogue’s Bed – Anna Campbell

Seven NightsSeven Nights In A Rogue’s Bed
Anna Campbell
Harper Collins
2012, eBook
Bought for my Kindle

Sidonie Forsyth has made the ultimate sacrifice for her sister, who has incurred gambling debts with one of the most notorious scoundrels. When faced with the choice of paying up in money or paying up in his bed, Rebecca went to Sidonie for help. She doesn’t have the money and if she went to the rake’s bed, her abusive husband would kill her. Sidonie never intends to marry so she agrees to go in her sister’s place and spend a night in the bed of Jonas Merrick at Castle Craven.

What Sidonie finds at Castle Craven is not what she expects – Jonas Merrick is scarred and not handsome but he leaves her alone. When she would leave in the morning, he negotiates that she stay for a week. He will spend the week trying to get her into bed and she will spend the week trying to stay out of it. There’s something about the arrogant but yet desperately vulnerable and insecure man that draws her. Even though she knows she carries a secret that could change Jonas’s life, she doesn’t dare voice it. Not yet.

Jonas is used to being a loner. He’s been denigrated as a bastard his entire life, tolerated because he’s extraordinarily rich but not respected. Despite the fact that he has made a sport of bedding many beautiful women, he never forgets the fact that he is scarred so hideously. Sidonie, innocent Sidonie, does not fear looking upon his scar and the seven days he’s going to spend attempting to seduce her into his bed could have a devastating impact on the heart that has been frozen against love and kindness for so long.

When I read Anna Campbell’s Christmas novella The Winter Wife recently, at the end it contained the first chapter of this book, which I devoured. I knew before I’d finished the first page that I had to read the entire thing and soon – so as soon as I had access to my Amazon account, I downloaded a copy to my computer and transferred it to my kindle. Have I mentioned that my parents don’t actually have proper internet? Yes, I’m holidaying in 1997.

The novel starts with Sidonie arriving at the derelict Craven Castle – Jonas Merrick is expecting her sister Rebecca. In order to forget the cruelty of her husband, Sidonie’s sister finds her fun on the gaming tables and she has run up a considerable debt to Jonas Merrick. Jonas has been tortured and wronged by Rebecca’s husband (his cousin) for as long as he can remember and he knows Rebecca can’t pony up to the debt cash-wise. Cuckolding his cousin would give him great satisfaction and pleasure. Unfortunately, Jonas isn’t in possession of all the facts and it’s Rebecca’s sister Sidonie who is shown into the dining room. He couldn’t be more surprised and he’s ready to dismiss her in favour of Rebecca but then he cannot help but be a little interested. Sidonie is somewhat trapped – she doesn’t want to be ruined, even though she has no plans to marry. But she does want to save her sister’s life.

It is a battle of determination and wits, in a way. Jonas wants Sidonie, who interests him more with each passing minute. Jonas also fascinates Sidonie. She isn’t repulsed by his devastating scars, like many women of society. She doesn’t ever plan to marry, because she’s seen the way women are property and she will be no one’s property and beholden to no one. But she does quickly develop a strong attraction to Jonas and with each passing day, it gets harder for her to withstand his seduction, especially the more she learns about him. The love that grows between them is fragile – Jonas is so incredibly flawed. He presents a façade of not caring about his bastardry and the taunting he has received because of it, not to mention the disinheriting. Likewise he seems to care little about the scars that blemish his face, until Sidonie picks up on the devastating vulnerability that drives him to put mirrors everywhere and blindfold all of his lovers in bed. Sidonie wants to show to Jonas, to prove to him, that she doesn’t care. That she loves him regardless, or even because of, the things he has faced in life. However all the while the secret she keeps hangs over them and you just know it’s going to come out at the worst time, when Jonas has finally placed his faith and trust in her! This leads him to question everything, given the already fragile self-confidence Sidonie had managed to weave together for him and Sidonie always knew that once the secret came out, Jonas would be unlikely to forgive her for keeping it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book – the rest of it lived up to the high standard set in the first chapter. I do love a deeply flawed hero and Jonas was written so well – his vulnerabilities were beautifully done and it was impossible not to feel for him at many stages in the book. Likewise Sidonie was a well-constructed heroine, although her devotion to her sister did grate on me slightly towards the end of the book, especially the way in which her sister repaid her sometimes.

I am definitely delighted that Anna Campbell has a lovely decent-sized backlist for me to track down and enjoy now and I’m looking forward to the other Sons of Sin books once they are published.

8/10

Book #218 of 2012

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The Winter Wife – Anna Campbell

Winter WifeThe Winter Wife
Anna Campbell
Amazon Digital Services
2012, eBook
Bought for my Kindle

Sebastian Sinclair, the Earl of Kinvarra and his bride Alicia have been married for eleven years, separated for nearly a decade. Wed at 21 and 17 respectively, the young couple had several misunderstandings early on in their marriage that led to a rather insurmountable distance springing up between them. Alicia gathered all of her courage to leave her handsome, wild husband and he immediately disappeared overseas for some years. In the time since Sebastian’s return, they’ve met briefly in polite society very rarely, exchanging a few words and then going about their separate business.

Now Sebastian has discovered his estranged wife appears about to at last take a lover. He finds her and her hopeful lover in dire circumstances, their carriage having overturned. When the gentleman accompanying Alicia realises who it is that has stumbled across them, he flees, leaving Alicia to Sebastian’s mercy.

Sebastian is older now, and much wiser. He’s full of guilt for the rough and impatient way he treated his shy and nervous young bride all those years ago and although he hasn’t bothered her since she left, he’s not about to sit back and be cuckolded either. When he’s left alone in the snow with Alicia he is determined to do the right thing, unlike he would-be lover and see her to safety.

Sebastian isn’t the only one who has grown up and changed. Alicia too, has changed and faced with this new, mature version of her husband she begins to see her own faults in the breakdown of their marriage. Previously she has always blamed Sebastian and his callous behaviour but now she can see where she went wrong. Trapped in an inn with Sebastian now, Alicia sees a chance for them to, as adults, right where they went wrong years earlier. The passion that has always been there is still there for her, she just needs to test the waters and see if her husband still wants he after she rejected him years ago.

The Winter Wife is a holiday novella from Australian author Anna Campbell that I happened to see another Aussie author Cathryn Hein recommending on twitter. I was looking for cheap holiday reads at the time to put on my kindle for my three week holiday interstate so I snapped it up. This is my first Anna Campbell read but it will definitely not be my last! This novella is short but well rounded and provided me with a fabulous morning read in my hotel room on the one night my husband and I had away from our children, leaving them in the care of my parents for the first time.

Sebastian, the Earl of Kinvarra and Alicia were married through a family arrangement when both of them were very young, Alicia in particular. Both of them were initially very impressed with what they saw but very quickly the situation deteriorated and Alicia ended up leaving her husband, the two of them living apart. Sebastian went overseas on a tour and when he returned they saw each other very occasionally in polite society and did no more than exchange a few words. Unbeknownst to the other, each of them regret their mistakes made during the early days of the marriage, although Sebastian has had longer to regret his actions. Alicia has always steadfastly blamed Sebastian but when she is forced to spend time with him one snowy winter’s night, she begins to realise the role she had in things going wrong. She was immature and unable to talk to him, instead choosing to freeze him out, which to a young, virile and proud man, was possibly the worst thing she could do. Sebastian regrets his impulsiveness and his lack of control, but even now after 10 years apart it seems that he still suffers from the same lack of control – which is why he chooses to sleep in a chair when they are forced to take a room together at an inn.

I do love a good reconciliation story! And this one is so fun – we get both points of view, the focus switching between Sebastian and Alicia, which really works as it helps give the reader a clear understanding of both characters, their mistakes and regrets when the other is not aware. Sebastian has matured enormously and he seems to be the one that suffers the most with guilt and regret – Alicia has mostly been fueled by anger and resentment. It isn’t until she is forced to deal with this Sebastian, rather than the memory of the 21 year old that she married, that her outlook begins to change.

Apparently this is an extended version of a short story that was published in an anthology so if you’re an avid Campbell fan then this may seem very familiar. It also includes the first chapter of Seven Nights In A Rogue’s Bed, which is I think, Campbell’s most recent release, and I read that after finishing this and all I can say is I must have that book now! I am buying it as soon as I can get on to my amazon account!

This was a fun, well constructed story that was perfect for what I was after. It’s short but not without dept and character development and it makes me super excited to read her full-length novels.

8/10

Book #279 of 2012

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