BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA
Lovely Regina Berryman was pursued by two men--the two most attractive and infamous bachelors in London.
One was Jason Thomas, Duke of Torquay, whose skill and success in seduction had made him a legend of lordly licentiousness. The other was St. John Basil St. Charles, Marquis of Bessacarr, the devilish duke's only rival as the foremost rake of the realm.
These notorious gentlemen had made Regina fair game in a competition where all was considered legitimate strategy in winning her affection and capturing her virtue. And Regina's only chance of preserving her honor and protecting her heart was to turn the tables on her titled tempters--and change the dallying way Regency London played the game of love ...
The duke’s wager, the book that was published the month I was born – so that makes it as old as I am… :) Okay, except of that, this is also one of my top favorite books ever. And why is that, since the plot written above doesn’t state anything exceptional: 2 rakes trying to win the love of a beautiful innocent and also quite poor little miss … blah, blah. Well, it’s not as simple as that, especially since we’re talking about Edith Layton, who is quite well known for her in-depth character description and for her gift of truly immersing the reader in the world she’s depicting.
The heroine, Regina, begins the book as the very beautiful innocent, with absolutely no relations in the beau-monde, with very high morals, she also becomes destitute quite early in the story. And so, these are the reasons why she is to become the object of a wager between 2 infamous rakes. She is not very interesting at the beginning, quite common in fact, but as the story progresses we see her learn so many things about life, about right and wrong and how these can change so quickly, about what is moral and what is human, she will learn that life has more shades of gray and it’s not simply black or white, on the whole, we see her gain a lot of depth to her character, something that will become surprising to the reader and irresistible to the hero, who is not a simple character either.
The hero is something special too. Maybe it was just me not having read many romances at the time I first read this book, but I have to confess that I did not guess WHO the hero was, between the 2 main characters mentioned in the blurb, until very late in the story. So I won’t say anything about him, just that he really is one of the worst rakes ever, not a fake, misunderstood or exaggerated one. Nope, he is the real deal (even if the reason for it is a little romanticized). Another thing I liked about him is that he doesn’t invite pity, he has a crystal clear view of his life and the choices he made that lead him to what he is now, he accepts himself and doesn’t try to hide behind fancy words. He is honest, he doesn’t lie, to the world, or to the heroine. He is a cynic, but not the “my momma didn’t love me so I must go out and make everyone else to feel as miserable as I do” type, no, he is more refined than that, maybe a little cruel sometimes, but in the end, very human. The flawed character by excellence.
There are some other interesting characters depicted in the story, although I couldn’t say that any of them is a villain. Like always in Layton books, the secondary characters are very well drawn and maybe take too much space from the main ones. On the other hand, as a reader, you get a much better picture of the whole story, so the journey gets very enjoyable.
Pfiew… it seems I did it :) I wrote the review without mentioning anything about the plot! Since I enjoyed it so much, word by word, especially on my first read, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else…
Grade: 5/5 with congratulations :)