Season for Surrender by Theresa Romain was published on October 2, 2012. I received an advanced reader copy from Kensington.
I’m late! I’m late!
Sometimes I read a book, I write down on a to-do list to review said book, and then months go by. This is one of those times.
Alexander Edgware, Lord Xavier, has quite a reputation—for daring, wagering, and wickedness in all its delightful forms. But the wager before him is hardly his preferred sport: Xavier must persuade a proper young lady to attend his famously naughty Christmas house party—and stay the full, ruinous two weeks. Worse, the lady is Louisa Oliver, a doe-eyed bookworm Xavier finds quite charming. Yet to refuse the challenge is impossible—he will simply have to appoint himself Miss Oliver’s protector…
Louisa knows her chance for a husband has passed. But she has no desire to retire into spinsterhood without enjoying a few grand adventures first. When Lord Xavier’s invitation arrives, Louisa is more intrigued than insulted. And once inside the rogues’ gallery, she just may have a thing or two to teach her gentlemen friends about daring…
This book is about two characters, Alex and Louisa, trying to change the course of their lives by revealing to each other and then the world their true selves.
Alex loathes his reputation but does not know how to get out from under it even as it crushes him:
Oh, he’d made himself essential, but only in the most inconsequential ways. He was a paste necklace of a person: suitable for parties and masquerades, but not appropriate for occasions of genuine significance.
Louisa, in the wake of a scandalous broken engagement, is tired of her contained, boring life and her matching reputation:
Surely anyone who’d met her would already have catalogued her, based on her awkward Season: Wallflower. Lacking in conversation. Paltry fortune. A triple failure for a marriageable young woman.
What is great about Romain’s story is that Louisa is so incredibly determined. She is smart, headstrong, fights off unwanted advances with a swift shot to the man’s groin. While she has reason to doubt her attractiveness, Romain allows no space for that because we know from almost the beginning that Alex does not doubt it. And in Louisa, Alex finds someone who makes him want to be the better man he has failed at being thus far:
He wanted to convince her of his value. She, who was the first to suspect he had a hidden stash of it.
Like all good romances, the main characters have an easy chemistry and quick, smart banter:
“You’re right,” she said. With her lips at the juncture between jaw and neck, he could feel the vibration of her voice. “I won’t want to stop. If you keep kissing me with that talented mouth, I’ll let you go on indefinitely.”
“Yet you said I didn’t want a seduction,” he reminded her.
“You don’t.” Her throat worked, and her voice sounded ragged when she added, “If you did, you’d have it.”
He drew back, staring. “With you?” His fingertip stroked her collarbone, and she tilted her head, her eyes closing.
“I’m sure you can be very persuasive,” she murmured. “And you’re not a complete fright. I’m generally able to look at you without feeling nauseated.”
She caught him off guard with that comment. It took him a full three seconds to process it, and then —
A real laugh.
This particular scene continues to develop (quite the scene, especially the way it ends, which I will NOT spoil). It includes this wonderful bit:
“In a novel,” he said, “I should lick you everywhere the firelight touched your body. And then I’d slide my hands beneath your clothing and shift it so the firelight touched some more.”
A tremor ran through her, and her eyes fell closed. “I should like to read that novel.”
This exact moment will come back around in an important, heartbreaking moment in the book.
The second half of the novel dragged a bit for me as Alex and Louisa danced around one another and attempted to define their relationship. They were also involved in plots and trying to unravel mysteries and there were times that it all felt like too much.
And so, there is intrigue, a villain, and a big, satisfying conclusion in Season for Surrender. But it’s the smaller moments in the book that are the true treasure of this novel. My favorite, I think is this moment between Alex and Louisa.
“Do you find that they have potential?” His face was all politeness. “These books, I mean. A brilliant young lady once told me I should not expect more praise than that.”
He was only teasing, she knew, though she could have held on to the world “brilliant” and petted it like a kitten.
As a woman who defines herself most frequently by her intelligence, I found this bit extremely seductive. It made me love Alex for saying that to her, knowing what it would mean to her. And made me love Louisa for swooning over the same thing I would.
I give Season for Surrender 3.5 out of 5 stars.