Saturday, March 31, 2012
Review: A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare (3 stars, historical)
Full Description: Amazon
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thoughts After Reading:
Tessa Dare's A Night to Surrender felt like something I would find as a halfway decent romcom movie. The first part of the story mostly consists of lighthearted and funny interactions between the protagonists, the last part of the story contains an excessive amount of drama, and the strength of the actual romance suffers as a result of both elements. I was very excited when I first started reading the novel, between the excellent reviews and intriguing blurb, but walked away fairly disappointed. I didn't like the relationship conflicts, I didn't like the way the lovemaking was inserted into the plot, and - while the humor and writing itself were first class - it wasn't enough to make me feel A Night to Surrender was more than an average historical romance.
I am a big fan of the spinster theme, so at first glance the characters of A Night to Surrender seemed rather promising. The heroine is a twenty-five year old miss who basically runs the small town of Spindle Cove. Spindle Cove has become an alternative of Bath, a place where mothers can take young ladies who don't quite fit in with the ton (possibly due to shy personalities, physical imperfections, or the belief that the lady is ill). It is presented to the mothers as a place dedicated to propriety and the like, but the heroine - having been one of those same young ladies herself - knows all the women need is some time and relative isolation to be themselves. She lives with her father, a weapon inventor whom she loves despite the fact that he cares more about his work than people. The hero, meanwhile, is a second son who very much believes in his career of being a soldier. He came back to England after injuring his leg, but feels his life is meaningless without being on the front line. The hero is looking for the heroine's father because he thinks the father is his best bet for getting back into the war. The heroine father offers him a deal: if the hero can assemble a militia and a put on an impressive military display within a month, then the father will pull the strings necessary for the hero to get back into the war.
The story picks up from here pretty much how you expect, and it actually starts out quite light and funny. Both protagonists have a strong, immediate chemistry (the hero lusts after the heroine almost constantly), and they find they enjoy each other as they butt heads and trade witty banter. I did like that the characters restrained themselves enough to at least build up the lovemaking gradually, with the relationship not being fully consummated til about the middle of the book. However, the hero didn't even start to admit his obsession with the heroine might be love until after the heroine's virginity was lost. Much more significant than that pet peeve, though, is that the romance storyline never really grabbed me. I've ranted before about romance conflicts with an easy-out for the author, and Dare does the exact same thing here. The main conflict for the protagonists is that the hero feels that he absolutely must go back to the war. It doesn't matter that he loves the heroine, has a hard time being away from her, doesn't think he should take her with him as a soldier's wife (although he later changes his tune on that), that Spindle Cove means a tremendous amount to his supposed love, he's still adamant about planning on going back to being a soldier. It's one of those conflicts that seems ridiculous upon close inspection because it can be fixed at the snap of the author's fingers: all the hero has to do is realize his priorities. Another thing that really bugged me had to do with the small conflicts involving the hero and heroine. They would get into these fights (usually having to do with the heroine "defending" Spindle Cove and the hero "defending" the militia) which were usually solved by them becoming involved in some sort of lovemaking and then suddenly everything turns out alright. It became one of those relationships where I wondered how "in love" the hero and heroine really were, and that definitely suggests failure in a romance novel.
The main reason I checked out Tessa Dare's A Night to Surrender in the first place was in anticipation of reading the sequel, A Week to be Wicked. But, after my experience with A Night to Surrender, I'm not sure I want risk reading the next book. I did feel Dare wrote well and started out with quite a bit of good comedy. As a romance story, however, I felt A Night to Surrender was decidedly lacking.