Sometime during the chat last night, Sandy from Colorado mentioned how much she loves Laurie McBain’s DEVIL’S DESIRE, a romance from the 1970s, when romances were still terribly politically incorrect and romance heroes darker, moodier and often downright vicious. I found a copy of DEVIL’S DESIRE when I spent those eight rainy months in Galway — and I absolutely loved it, too! 🙂
It’s the story of Elysia Demarice, who has grown up in her aunt’s house as a despised burden. When Aunt Agathe plans to marry her off to the most repulsive man around, Elysia finally flees across the countryside, alone and penniless, but determined to make her fortune as a governess or lady’s companion in London. Yet her plans are thwarted, when she stumbles into an inn and is used as a pawn in a play of revenge against the enigmatic Alex Trevegne, Marquis of St. Fleur, who’s referred to as Lucifer even by his friends. Yet the revenge plot goes partly wrong, for when they’re compromised, Alex loftily decides to make Elysia his unwilling wife. The story that now unfolds is quite delicious: they’re both attracted to each other (of course!), but they’re also too stubborn to admit it and have to struggle through a series of misunderstandings until they finally arrive at their happy ending –with Alex grovelling! *g*. And I have to admit, this is one of my favourite grovel scenes. 🙂
What I really like about the heroine is that she’s no submissive little fluffhead, but gives back as good as she gets. Part of the joy of McBain’s novel is watching her two protagonists needle each other. E.g., when Alex is “proposing” marriage, he kindly points out to her the only other honorable way open to her now is go and drown herself. “Of course, you could always wait until you reached London, and then jump from a bridge into the Thames. Much more dramatic, my dear, and society would love it.” Marriage, he includes, is really the only feasible option for her. “‘You see, my dear, you really have no choice in the matter,’ he said not unkindly for once, ‘and I might add, that it would be criminal of me to allow so lovely a child to fling herself into the cold arms of Death, when mine are much warmer.'” Now, isn’t this delicious?