Thursday, July 10, 2014

Devil in My Arms by Samantha Kane

My Experience:  A
Synopsis:  Even though she is starving and destitute, Eleanor Enderby’s quiet beauty strikes Sir Hilary St. John speechless. He expects the woman he’s searching for to be skittish and plain. Instead he finds the picture of bravery—and willfulness—in his quarry. She gives away little, but Hil can see something is terribly amiss. And though he cannot say exactly why, he is determined not to let her come to more harm than whatever it is she has already survived. 
Six months later, Eleanor believes she has finally found safety from the tyrant she risked her life to escape. Thought to be dead by society, Eleanor is ready to be reborn as someone new—someone whose life will never again be tied to the fate of one man. But her smoldering savior seems unwilling to leave her unprotected for an instant. Despite the threats he thinks he sees coming, the real dangers Eleanor faces in Hil’s arms are unmistakable: temptation, seduction, and maybe even love.

Third in a series, a review intrigued me and the sample pages hooked me, so of course, I'm reading these out of order.  I was easily able to follow the connections but as soon as budget allows, I'll read the other two for sure!

Eleanor Enderby has a new name and is working on a new persona.  Delightful, animated, witty and outgoing; as different from the old Eleanor as possible, all the better to hide in plain sight.  Her family, protecting her by fostering  this new identity, has held their breath for months.  They all breathe easier once her husband identifies a body, declaring her dead so he can and does re-marry.  The only one who doesn't believe The Plan is going to work is Sir Hilary St. John:  Brilliant Rakehell Detective.

With a past of his own, keeping secrets for himself and others, Sir Hilary is a polymath that would make the as yet born Sherlock Holmes a wee bit jealous.  Of course, this means his love life is like a garden party in February, incongruous with reality, which made him more alluring to all and sundry.  He didn't mind that, much, except for the facts of his life.  O yes, he takes himself and his work very seriously.  I enjoyed that about St. John.  He wasn't falsely modest or obscenely arrogant or socially incapable.  He did not bludgeon people with his brilliance or hide it under a bushel in fear of exposure.  The evidence of such spoke for itself.

So, it is understandable that he is disturbed by Eleanor's ability to elude him for three months.  Her response to this is priceless!

I am merely trying to put your mind at ease about my motives in seeking you out,” he explained. “I wish to know the person who can best me, who can outwit me. What flaw in me has allowed you to do so? There must be some explanation. It can’t be your intellect, which, though by no means small, is not as great as mine. You are passing fair, true, but hardly a beauty of renown. Why do you trouble me so?” 

That was not only blunt, but beyond rude,” she said without rancor. She’d been thinking the same thing. She crossed her arms and tapped her chin with her forefinger as if thinking very hard. “My intellect is too weak to help you with this conundrum, Sir Hilary. I am afraid you will have to play catch-up to figure it out. Good afternoon.” 

St. John and Eleanor enjoyed a lively intellectual seduction with verbal pleasures, witty dialog and at times, grave revelations.  St. John turns up everywhere.  Eleanor avoids him, then pushes back, chastising his determination to ruin her reputation before she has a chance to build one.  Though his suggestive repartee while waltzing utterly fails [ha!] his direct request for an assignation succeeds.  Reeling from emotional overload, Eleanor flees, determined to withstand his charm when he follows the next day.  St. John's understanding of Eleanor's fears tempers his approach, not his intentions, and he leaves the decision in her hands.  Two weeks and counting, he doubts it was one of his more brilliant ideas....

"Was he brooding? He supposed so. He thought the ladies liked that. Perhaps he should pen a note to Eleanor and let her know he was brooding. She might show up to watch.  With a sigh, he stood up and extinguished the light. It was time he went to bed as well. A man could only brood for so long before he needed rest in order to do it again the next day."

Eleanor puts an end to his brooding by boldly stepping out of her comfort zone.

"I have come to have an affair with you.... This is inconvenient to say the least. I am on the run from a vile husband, believed dead by the authorities, and trying to maintain a discreet presence here in London. I am not reckless, Hilary. I’m sensible. I’m logical. I think things through.” 
“You took two weeks to make the decision to come to me. I gathered you were a thinker already.”

Neither their friendship, nor romance is rushed nor ridiculously implausible; neither is it graphically described ad naseum.  Each encounter advances the relationship and reveals more of St. John and Eleanor, allowing them to know each other but also themselves better.  They even manage to go days without coupling like manic rabbits!

Eleanor is discovering just who she is and wants to be.  St. John is part of that, his support and encouragement is not only genuine, it is exciting; perhaps more so than he expected.  But, equally vital to her transformation is her family, her freedom and finding her way.  Her fears are not banished because she attends parties, has great sex and makes time to embroider her garters.

"She was living the life she’d dreamed of when she was a girl, before Enderby and marriage crushed her dreams. Everything about her life now—Hilary, Harry and Roger, her new friends—seemed too good to be true. She’d worn herself ragged worrying that it couldn’t last. Nothing this good could last."

And of course, too good to be true was interrupted, then threatened.  The second half of the book was light on witty banter, rather there was a believable progression of a maturing relationship addressing the mess St. John predicted in the beginning.  He was blindsided by an unexpected chain of events, so all his preparation to remove Enderby from the equation was wasted.  Therefore,  he had to begin again, with the clock ticking and Eleanor's life on the line.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the characters.  Societal expectations was a quiet backdrop instead of a glittery framework.  Conflicts were circumstance and event based, relying on the premise a widow had more freedom but less grace if she fell.  I thought the family handled things plausibly as well as compassionately, even if it did feel like a spork in the eye several times.  Her instinct to run was not too stupid to live, though a little tardy, but she was living on the assurances of others while trying to re-develop her own.

The writing was sharp, dialog engaging and intelligence celebrated in a manner that was not "rebellion" or "anti-society" for a refreshing change.  I was delighted characters that were supposed to be brilliant actually fulfilled that expectation for the most part.  St. John was believable and his gentling, not humbling, came from his own recognition, not at Eleanor's expense or prodding.  She wasn't trying to change him; he wasn't trying to fix her or the world.  Remarkable!  The secondary characters supported the story without taking over.  Scenes in the courtroom were fascinating and seemed reflective of the time.  The villain and machinations were poignantly believable.  The secret St John kept was dark enough to qualify him for the rakehell title without all that messy ex-mistress' swanning about cwap.

Focus was determinedly on the present and future.  While that will surely work for most readers; I personally felt disappointed by this.  It was not enough to count it a quibble.  Enough to wish for a bit - just a wee bit - more of how a woman locked up and deprived of every comfort and many necessities for ten years managed to cope so very well in society with little more than a few months spent in the country.  She struggles with closed doors and windows but that is the only lingering difficulty we really see.  How her mind wasn't mush from the deprivation of books, friends, even interaction with servants ... and could match wits with a brilliant intellectual wasn't really covered except by the hand wave of determined, valiant and brave spirit.  Okay, maybe it is a quibble, but a mini one.  There was a great deal packed in to this book and for the respect to time that Ms. Kane gave the couple, allowing friendship and romance to develop, instead of overwhelm, I shall let my mini-quibble go.

Those that prefer a more involved plot can find it here; those that prefer more witty dialog and humor can also find that.  It is a very satisfying blend of the two. I recommend this book for an enjoyable afternoon or early evening read.  Do Not start this book an hour before bed time and think you won't be roughing it the next day at work!

No comments:

Post a Comment