By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
I have enjoyed what I've read so far of Julie Anne Long's Pennyroyal Green series, but Between the Devil and Ian Eversea really didn't work for me. I formed a visceral dislike of the heroine--well, both main characters, really, but mostly the heroine--very early on, and it took most of the book for me to overcome that animus enough to root for her happy ever after.
Titania "Tansy" Danforth is an orphaned American heiress who has to marry well in order to secure her inheritance (which, of course, will then not be hers at all, but rather her husband's--but that's a legal reality which the story entirely glosses over). In order to meet suitably eligible bachelors, she's come to stay with her late father's friend, the Duke of Falconbridge, whom Long's readers will recognize as the new husband of the youngest Eversea sister, Genevieve. (Falconbridge and Genevieve's story was told in Long's What I Did For a Duke.)
Tansy is seriously annoying. She is Mary Sue beautiful on the outside--blonde, blue-eyed, statuesque (snore)--and vapid and shallow on the inside. In her first scene, the newly-arrived Tansy's introduction to Falconbridge and Genevieve is interrupted by a lovesick swain crooning to Tansy outside the window. This Italian stud fell in love with her on the crossing from America and followed her to the Eversea estate, and Tansy tells Falconbridge, with wide-eyed innocence, that she has no idea why the fellow would do such a thing. Except that it turns out that she absolutely does know why: she invited Giancarlo's attentions, enjoyed his flirtations, and completely led him on, because the sea voyage was boring and Tansy likes to be the center of attention.
Once installed in Sussex, Tansy's self-absorbed coquettishness continues. She isn't happy unless everyone acknowledges that she's the prettiest girl in the room. She flirts and flatters incessantly, determined to turn the heads of every bachelor around, even if some of those bachelors aren't "eligible" (including at least two men who are already engaged to other women). Don't get me wrong: I like a confident heroine who knows how to handle herself around men, and I know it's the men, not Tansy, who are breaking their commitments, and that they don't have to return her flirtations. Yet there is a competitiveness to Tansy's behavior. She is jealous of other women, and she collects suitors in order to build herself up and "win" a competition that no one else is playing. Worse, she doesn't appear to notice or care that she's hurting people and wrecking relationships in the process.
So, who is the perfect match for this princess? Why, jaded rake Captain Ian Eversea, of course! Long's readers will know Ian from previous books in the series as an inveterate manwhore whose most notable prior accomplishment involved getting caught in bed with Falconbridge's fiancee (prior to Genevieve) and being forced to climb out of her chamber, naked, and do the ultimate walk of shame back to his lodgings. Even within the pages of this book, he sleeps with two other women before his attentions become snared by Toxic Tansy. Like Tansy's flirtations, his sexual adventures are conquests without affection or deeper emotion, so in a way, maybe these two are perfect for each other.
To be fair, neither Tansy nor Ian are as one-dimensional as this review makes them out to be, and that's why I kept reading despite my dislike of both characters. Tansy is an orphan who was never secure in her parents' love, and I suppose her flirtatious behavior can be more charitably characterized as a damaged, lonely girl's misguided attempts to secure the affection she so desperately craves. Ian is a veteran tormented by memories of war, determined to hold himself aloof because he's already suffered too much loss in life. When they finally come together, their courtship is believable, though it fell flat for me because I disliked them both too much to care very much if they found happiness together.
One quote I have to point out from this book, in the vein of WT-everlasting-F: Tansy wins a marksmanship contest and explains, "Americans. We're born knowing how to shoot things, I suppose. All those bears and wolves and Indians from which we need to defend ourselves." (page 160). Yup, she did just list "Indians," along with wild animals, in the category of "things Americans like to shoot." I'm sure Long, through Tansy, meant this as a joke, but hoo-boy, did I not find it funny.