Tansy Danforth is isolated, orphaned, and looking to a family friend to help her both settle in a new country and, this is a historical romance after all, marry to gain access to her inheritance. Fortunately for Julie Anne Long fans, the friend is Alex Moncrieffe, Duke of Falconbridge who, along with Genevieve his Duchess, is from Long’s classic romance pairing in What I Did for a Duke. Tansy is staying at the Eversea estate in Pennyroyal Green while she gets her footing. Her hero is Ian, the lone unmarried Eversea son and someone who has always been an entertaining addition to the novels.
In What I Did for a Duke, Ian was the story catalyst when he was found in whatever state is the razor’s edge of in flagrante delicto with Alex’s soon-to-be erstwhile fiance. Alex planned a retaliatory ruination of Ian’s sister Genevieve and, of course, fell in love with her instead. As an added bonus to the falling in love, Alex took the opportunity to torment a well-deserving Ian for his sins. Rakish to the degree that he shows very poor judgement and behaves selfishly, Ian needs someone to lead him a merry chase to help get him back on track as the person he manages to be in other aspects of his life. Enter Tansy and Between the Devil and Ian Eversea.
Tansy is the woman who stories like to tell us women hate. She is beautiful. She steals all the male attention. She feigns confusion and claims incompetence to flatter and soothe. (Okay, I admit I do loathe that in men and in women.) She flirts endlessly, shamelessly, but not really as subtly as she thinks she does. Instead of being cold or calculating, Tansy is desperately lonely and doing her best to garner attention, even superficial attention, to take the edge off her isolation. This is not to say that she can’t be a bit annoying. It’s a habit she needs to break. Tansy is young, she has had too many bad things happen in her life, and she is doing her best. Ian sees through the flirtation inasmuch as he recognizes it as an act, but it takes longer for him to truly see Tansy. Long shows the reader Tansy’s real self through her interactions with her guardian and the people most would consider inconsequential in their world. When Ian and Tansy genuinely see each other, they, of course, find their match.
Julie Anne Long seldom disappoints and she does not do so here, nor does she truly succeed. She is one of the best writers in the historical romance business and I always eagerly anticipate her new releases. As one would expect, Between the Devil and Ian Eversea is wry and frequently laugh out loud funny. She balances character development and sincere romance with a consistently droll tone which is a fine accomplishment indeed. From a thematic perspective, I’ve realised that a lot of Long’s protagonists are people trying to figure out how to be in control in world where they have little to none. Even those who seemingly have power or choice are not immune to loss, life, and the struggle to manage it. Only when they surrender the masks or efforts for control do they have the opportunity to build something more. It’s a lovely through-line for her books.
I don’t know if I’ve been too subtle about it, but What I Did for a Duke is delightful and a classic of the genre. If you are a romance fan and have not yet read it, do yourself a favour and snap it up at the same time as you buy Between the Devil and Ian Eversea.
A complete summary of Julie Anne Long’s catalogue, with recommendations, can be found here.