REVIEW: Surrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare

Wednesday, September 30, 2009 1:00
Posted in category Review

book cover Limecello’s review of Surrender of a Siren by Tessa Dare
Historic romance releaseded by Ballantine on 25 Aug 09

I’ve enjoyed Tessa Dare’s previous stories, both Goddess of the Hunt, and Legend of the Werestag. Unfortunately, I did not like Surrender of a Siren as much. Initially I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. Although Sophia grew on me in Goddess… that didn’t really translate for me in Siren. A number of factors combined just made me rather indifferent to the book. Then again, everyone kept calling it the “goats on a boat” book… and of course … who could think of anything but “Get these mutha effin’ goats off this mutha effin’ boat!!!” That actually gave it a positive association for the humor- and I did like all the parts with the goats. Anyway, onward!

Sophia Hathaway is a great character in Goddess of the Hunt. She’s smart, spritely – in that she has a puckish sense of humor, is beautiful, perfect, and a good friend. You want to hate her there, but just can’t because she’s so much fun. Maybe Sophia needs female companionship to shine, or something, but being the only woman on the boat with the book taking place with the characters sailing across the ocean…. not so good.

It pains me to say, but I couldn’t help but think “Sophia sucks as a person” near the end of the book. She’s clueless, selfish, spoiled, knows it …and doesn’t particularly feel bad about it. In fact, there’s a part where Sophia reflects on her failings as… well a person, really, and then goes “oh- well but it’s ok because now I’m in love with Gray!” While I can see the logic that she doesn’t have regrets overall, I didn’t like that she brushed off everything. Although Sophia does redeem herself slightly in the end, I was too annoyed with everything she’d done to let it go. I didn’t feel her final act truly excused what she did throughout.

Benedict “Gray” Grayson is a character I had difficulty understanding. I know he’s supposed to be the “good guy” because… well he’s the hero. But to be honest, my first impression of him was someone who was rather smarmy, and this continued throughout the book. There’s a scene where he and Sophia talk about how many women he’s been with, and he honestly has no idea.

Other than being physically attracted to Sophia, I’m not quite sure why he’s drawn to her. (Although he does admire her easy camaraderie with the crew members.) I felt bad for Gray because he does what he thinks is best for his family, and others, but has trouble explaining his actions so those he’s helping aren’t necessarily grateful. I thought it was noble, and rather sweet how sentimental Gray truly is, and the relationship he has with his half brother Joss. Grayson is the golden boy you initially have a hard time liking, but as his character is revealed, he grows on you.

The setting didn’t help my like (dislike) of this book. Ships and transatlantic journeys are not sexy. You can’t bathe for days if not weeks – or longer – it smells, it’s hot, there were goats in the next living quarters… I think the overall tone affected how I felt about it as well. Sophia and Grey didn’t trust each other. Grey and Joss had conflict. There was conflict between the crew and the Grayson brothers. It was draining. Mostly, the fact that Gray and Sophia had such a tenuous connection made it difficult for me to believe in their romance. Sure, they were physically attracted to each other (in basic terms, they were both the most attractive people of their sex on the boat). The crew was supposed to be charming, but other than Davey they didn’t really have much personality. Also, pirates – or privateers, which is what they really were… aren’t appealing. Scurvy? Not sexy. (Yes, I realize I may have over thought things.)

However, the ending really did a lot to change my mind about/redeem the book. While Sophia fleeing was not entirely unique, I did like the reunion scene. And the courtroom scene before that was nice too – Sophia “regained” her self assurance, and “used her powers for good” – which was a pleasant turn of events. The flow of the book, and tone were nice – it’s well written, but I couldn’t get over the slow plot, and my dislike of the characters. While I get the title, I also don’t think it’s  that fitting, and it always felt a little strange for Gray to be calling Sophia “Sweet” and “Siren.”

I did like the descriptions of the ship, and felt that the journey was quite realistic. The day to day life, hailing of other ships, and dealing with natural disasters – lightning, storms, they were exciting, and kept Surrender of a Siren from being like every other sea-faring historical book. The vignettes of Sophia sketching the crew of the ship were also nice. It felt like Sophia was more herself at those times. Otherwise, I didn’t find the whole deception plot, and her flight from England very engaging.

I know I’ll read A Lady of Persuasion because I’m very curious as to what Isabel Grayson’s character is, and how her story will play out… but I’m not sure about Tobias Aldridge, based on the blurb in Siren. I think what didn’t help was the fact that I found the beginning of Surrender of a Siren somewhat slow. I started reading it, but put it down for a while. In a way I enjoyed the interaction between the secondary characters, or the Gray and Sophia’s interaction with the secondary characters more than their interaction with each other. This isn’t my favorite book by Ms. Dare -if you read Goddess of the Hunt it’s an interesting follow up (Lucy has a cameo appearance at the end), and I definitely think you should read it if you plan to read A Lady of Persuasion as well.

LimecelloGrade: D+

Summary:

Desperate to escape a loveless marriage and society’s constraints, pampered heiress Sophia Hathaway jilts her groom, packs up her paints and sketchbook, and assumes a new identity, posing as a governess to secure passage on the Aphrodite. She wants a life of her own: unsheltered, unconventional, uninhibited. But it’s one thing to sketch all her wildest, most wanton fantasies, and quite another to face the dangerously handsome libertine who would steal both her virtue and her gold.

To any well-bred lady, Benedict “Gray” Grayson is trouble in snug-fitting boots. A conscienceless scoundrel who sails the seas for pleasure and profit, Gray lives for conquest—until Sophia’s perception and artistry stir his heart. Suddenly, he’ll brave sharks, fire, storm, and sea just to keep her at his side. She’s beautiful, refined, and ripe for seduction. Could this counterfeit governess be a rogue’s redemption? Or will the runaway heiress’s secrets destroy their only chance at love?

Read an excerpt here.

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