Season for Surrender by Theresa Romain
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Publisher: Zebra Historical
Publishing Date: October 2, 2012
Paperback: 368 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Alexander Edgeware, Lord Xavier, has quite a reputation—for daring, wagering, and wickedness in all its delightful forms. But the wager before him is hardly his preferred sport: Xavier must persuade a proper young lady to attend his famously naughty Christmas house party—and stay the full, ruinous two weeks. Worse, the lady is Louisa Oliver, a doe-eyed bookworm Xavier finds quite charming. Yet to refuse the challenge is impossible—he will simply have to appoint himself Miss Oliver’s protector.
Louisa knows her chance for a husband has passed. But she has no desire to retire into spinsterhood without enjoying a few grand adventures first. When Lord Xavier’s invitation arrives, Louisa is more intrigued than insulted. And once inside the rogues’ gallery, she just may have a thing or two to teach her gentlemen friends about daring.
When Louisa Oliver accepts the invitation to Lord Xavier’s notoriously scandalous house party, she is hoping to use this as a turning point in her life. She has recently been surrounded by scandal when her fiancé chose to marry her stepsister, Julia, instead of her, and before Louisa decides what she wants to do next with her life, she wants to have a little fun. Accompanied by her rather free-spirited widowed Aunt, Louisa does have a secret motive. Not only is she hoping for a kiss under the mistletoe, she wants to see if Lord Xavier is the horrible rake she thought him to be. She does not want to believe that Lord Xavier would truly betray his friend by feeding the scandal of her betrothal to the London papers and if he wasn’t responsible, she wants to do what she can to mend the fences between him and her new brother-in-law, James.
Lord Xavier did not want to invite Miss Oliver to his notorious house party. Miss Oliver already thinks the worst of him. She believes he threw her reputation to the scandal pages. Although his reputation won’t let Lord Xavier turn down a bet, he can do what he must to protect the young lady so he can win the bet, and by inviting some upstanding Lords and Ladies along with the more scandalous characters, he can save her good reputation.
Louisa soon sees that there is more to Alex then his Lord Xavier persona, and after spending time with Louisa, Alex starts to wonder if might just be more to life then just scandal and notoriety. But Alex isn’t alone in his notorious plots, and the Marquis of Lockwood isn’t ready to move on and he isn’t wiling to allow Alex to move on either, and Lockwood wants to win the bet between them bad enough, even if that means ruining the reputation of Miss Oliver.
THOUGHTS AND MAYBE SOME SPOILERS:
I was looking forward to this story and I am sorry to say I was disappointed on a few points. First, from the description, I was expecting a story that was a little sexier. Not that I was expecting erotica, but from the book quote that she knows her chance for a husband has past and who goes to a scandalous party for a grand adventure, I had anticipated a bookish and intelligent woman, positively ancient at say 24, who was pretty once your removed her owlish glasses, an undiscovered treasure, invited to this scandalous house party on a bet and who’s true self is discovered by Lord Xavier and feelings grow between the two. I was all wrong with my assessment.
My second disappointment is once I switched mental gears that she was an innocent miss with a chaperone and the party was changed from the scandalous setting to more upstanding citizens, I saw the potential in this story, but the way it was written the characters just came off as awkward and the whole story just fell flat.
Lord “Alex” Xavier isn’t an older, jaded rake, disappointed with life or women in general. He’s a man-boy who never grew up, who thinks of nothing but parties and shocking the ton. He was orphaned as a baby (and there were no indication of who raised him and it was left more like he was raised by servants), and never knowing love, his interpretation of love is the attention he received from the ton over his scandalous behavior. Although my favorite heroes are the dark, tortured souls who appreciate a smart, thoughtful woman (see Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters), I can work with the man-boy once we see that he has had enough this lifestyle for some time now and after speaking with Louisa, and her pointing out that she sees the man behind the reputation, he wants to figure out how to become more.
I found it bizarre that as part of his Lord Xavier persona, Alex is constantly choosing his expressions which he has numbered in his head, “He adopted Expression Five: haughty distain.” Alex’s character falters when he gets confronted by the Marquis and since he is not an experienced man of the world, but a man-boy, he gets scared and makes bad decisions instead of thinking things through and/or talking with the very intelligent Louisa and her Aunt/chaperone.
Louisa will never get a husband and will be a spinster because her fiancé decided to marry her sister? Am I missing something? When did being left at the alter equate up there with getting pregnant out of wedlock? I mean, in for a penny, in for a pound. If she can’t get a husband simply because one man changed his mind on an arranged marriage, she might as well walk in, strip naked and have her way with a whole house full of rakes. Come on, really?? She is also described as quite pretty and although a shy girl who likes to read (guess reading if frowned on), she is sociable and quick witted. Why is she set up for a future as a spinster?
Her behavior is especially awkward in this story. She is attracted to Alex and she had decided she wants to be kissed at this party. She spends time with Alex and makes him start to see more in himself and makes him want to do more with his life. But when she gets a very steamy kiss from him, she then starts talking about how it doesn’t mean anything since he’s a rake. So she makes him feel good about himself, kisses him passionately and then tells him it doesn’t mean anything since he’s such a slut – What?? This leaves not only Alex, but us as the reader, feeling very confused. She’s young and innocent so her first passionate kiss SHOULD mean something, and her turning around and telling Alex he’s a slut and his kisses don’t mean anything is contrary to the trust and respect that she is building with Alex.
They also end up later in the book alone with the library and another passionate kiss turns quickly into Alex’s hand up her skirt, and after a quick thrill, she gives him another of those “doesn’t mean anything because you’re a slut” speeches. Again, leaving Alex, and us, reeling. I must say, it has been a while since I was 18 years old having a make out session, but I am very sure it didn’t involved a kiss and then a hand straight up my skirt. They really didn’t even have any foreplay here, no touching, no nibbling…from kiss straight to hand up the skirt. Awkward! Awkward! Awkward!
Plus our antagonist (the Marquis) gets very violent, very quickly. He tries to scare Louisa into leaving by being fresh, which she rebuffs, and then when he realizes Alex is starting to have feelings for Louisa, he demands to have a “taste” of her and if Alex refuses, he will “violate her.” Where does that come from? He goes from being a foppish boy to rapist in seconds over a $10 bet.
Very disappointed in what could have been a very nice story of a man-boy who finally wants to grow up and be a man, and who finds the right woman to show him that there is more to life. It was just badly done.
Received ARC from Kensington Books. Thank you.
“It’s fine,” she said in her crispest voice. “If you like to be called Xavier, I will—”
“Alexander,” he interrupted. “That’s my Christian name. Or you could call me Alex. I think I had a nurse once who called me that.”
He looked puzzled again. “It sounds odd to my own ears. Yet is is my name.”
“All right,” Louisa said. “Alex.”
He gave a final twist to a button, then nodded. “That’s settled, then. So. What were you looking at, Louisa?”
“Oh dear. That Louisa is going to take some getting used to. Alex.”
“I could call you something else instead. I’ll return to Miss Oliver, if you’re repenting our agreement. Or sweeting. Or muffin.”
Louisa choked. “Muffin? If you call me that in front of my aunt, I believe she’d die on the spot a happy woman. You’d fulfill her desires for gossip and matchmaking at once.”
“A large burden to place on a mere two-syllable word,” he murmured. “The idea is tempting. So. Books, muffin. Is there something you’d like to look for, muffin?
“If you call me that again, muffin, I’ll be looking for something to throw at you.”
He gave a sidelong glance, a lopsided smile, then crouched to study the shelf she’d been looking over when he entered. “I’m not sure what these are,” he said. “They look like ledgers.”
He tugged one from the shelf, handling the old binding with such care that Louisa wanted to stroke his rumpled head. “This one seems to be an old book of receipts.” He held the book at arm’s length. “Do look. Is this a set of instructions on how to make muffins?”
Louisa turned her head away to hide her smile. “You are a wicked man.”
“Simply because I tried to decipher an old cookery book, I am deemed wicked? Dear, dear. You are a harsh mistress, muffin.”
He closed the book and gingerly slid it back onto the shelf, then pulled out its neighbor. “Let’s see if there are any more muffins in this book.”
“I warned you, I will throw something at you. Your vocabulary is lamentably small, my lord, if you can only think of—”
“Right, yes. Not my lord. Alex.”