One can always count on Anna Campbell to deliver an emotional story with a bit of a different view. Tempt the Devil is set in the same world as Claiming the Courtesan, but it’s not a sequel. Another notorious woman, another nobleman and another battle of wills between to very strong people. What comes out by the end is a different sort of story from Campbell, and an unexpected ride.
Olivia Raines is bored with all the men of London lusting after her. They’re all the same, and though she’s a courtesan and used to such things, she doesn’t find any interest anymore in coaxing jewelry out of men and finding young dandies worshiping the ground she walks on. A challenge comes for her last conquest in the form of Julian Southwood, Earl of Erith, a diplomat home for his daughter’s wedding.
Olivia knows what to do to keep a man lusting after her, but she is the one who has rules to follow and when Julian shows that he bows to no rules, Olivia does everything she can to push him away. Julian, though, has his own demons to fight and with Olivia he feels the first cracks in the armor around his heart in many, many years. Though he doesn’t like her rules, he gets past her defenses as well and discovers someone worth treasuring. But can Julian give up some things that he’s gained in coming back to England from abroad to be with Olivia forever?
The potential to be a great, heart-wrenching, emotional story is completely lost in everything else that is happening in this book. Olivia’s rules hide an abused and vulnerable woman, Julian’s actions hide a scared and lost young father who can’t cope with loss. Both act badly on a number of occasions, though not at the same time. The up and down of their actions to each other demonizes one, then the other, than back again and absurd tug of war.
Olivia’s past is horrifying, but it doesn’t justify the things she does to all men, not just Julian, nor does Julian’s past justify how he’s lived his life for the last 20 years and his treatment of women in the meantime. Throw into this Julian’s rocky relationship with his children, Olivia’s many secrets, the censure of London society, Olivia going from wanting him out of her life to demanding everything over a short amount of time and Julian always thinking he’s right and should be the center of the world and it just makes a mud puddle that they’re all struggling way to hard to get out of.
Neither Olivia or Julian are likable characters through much of the book because they are good, then do something bad, then sort of redeem themselves, then hurt someone else, then . . . it just gets to be too much. I suppose I can understand what Campbell was trying to do with these characters, but it comes across as a big mess of shattered expectations, shady actions and the idea that the past justifies your actions and you shouldn’t change.
Any man in London would worship her. Yet Olivia is, quite frankly, bored of them all. Despite her many dalliances, she’s never felt true passion, never longed for any lover’s touch . . . until Julian, London’s most notoriously wanton rake, decided to make her his mistress.
From the moment he first saw her, Julian knew he must possess her. And when he discovers her greatest secret, a scandal that could ruin her reputation and end her career, he knows just the way to use this damaging information to his most delightful advantage. He offers Olivia a deal with the devil: he’ll keep her secret . . . if she allows him the chance to show her true ecstasy.
But Olivia must be careful, for Julian has a secret of his own: he will not rest until she is completely, shamelessly his.
Read an excerpt.