The Devil's Bargain Mass Market Paperback – 1 May 2002
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About the Author
Edith Layton loved to write. She wrote articles and opinion pieces for the New York Times and Newsday, as well as for local papers, and freelanced writing publicity before she began writing novels.
Publisher s Weekly called her one of romance s most gifted authors. She received many awards, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Romantic Times, and excellent reviews and commendations from Library Journal, Romance Readers Anonymous, and Romance Writers of America. She also wrote historical novels under the name Edith Felber.
Mother of three grown children, she lived on Long Island with her devoted dog, Miss Daisy; her half feral parakeet, Little Richard; and various nameless pond fish in the fishness protection program.
Top Customer Reviews
After this inaupicious meeting, Alasdair finds himself wanting to apologise, so he tracks Kate down... and discovers that she is a distant cousin of the Scalbys, a couple on whom he's plotted revenge for years. He blames them for his father's ruin and suicide and, we suspect, probably more too. He has the evidence to destroy them, but he wants to do it publicly, and he thinks that Kate would be the perfect means of getting close to them. So he suggests a deal to Kate: pretending that he needs help to be rehabilitated into polite society, he offers to squire her around to social events she won't get a chance to go to otherwise, if she will help to make him respectable.
Is Alasdair being fair to Kate? His best friend, Leigh, continually urges him to think of her and draw back before Kate gets hurt. In particular, Leigh says, what if she falls in love with him? She won't, Alasdair says - but can he guarantee it? He thinks he can guarantee that he won't have any feelings for her greater than fondness - but can he prevent himself?
The scenes of dialogue between Kate and Alasdair are tremendously enjoyable, and their first kiss - when it finally comes - is explosive. Kate is a fascinating heroine, worldy-wise in so many ways and yet naive in others.Read more ›
This is not the sickly sweet romance I was expecting, primarily it's a story of revenge. The growing affection between the main characters is believable, and a joy to read. The characters are well drawn, even the supporting ones. The research is impecable, with a real feel for the period, both with the formality and foibles of the ton, and with the Regency London criminal underworld. But what made the book leap off the page for me, was the dialogue. Sparkling, and evoking the era perfectly, without falling into the pitfall of what I call the "Gadzooks" style of hysterical, oops, historical novel. Obviously a modern author, but with a real ear for the rhythms of Regency speech.
I really liked this book, so perhaps in future I won't dismiss the genre out of hand.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Secondly, as someone pointed out to me on a board, this book is essentially about Revenge (with a capital R). It reminds me of other revenge-oriented books that I love - These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer, By Arrangement by Madeline Hunter, among others. Keep in mind however (and this is a bit of a spoiler), that the hero does not allow his love for the heroine to distract him from his ultimate vengeance, even though he does make a couple of compromises here and there. If you loved the Duke of Avon in These Old Shades, this will be right up your alley. [And Katherine comes off better than does Leonie in the Heyer book]. If you believe that love completely or partially changes a man, and that love should definitely allow the hero to give up his plans for revenge (especially if they hurt other people), you might be put off. I don't think it is fair to compare this book to Mary Jo Putney's Silk and Shadows, because in that book, the hero's revenge is hurting other people, not just the heroine - and in very material and physical terms. In this book, Alasdair's revenge nearly hurts the heroine badly (when she is kidnapped) but he makes every effort to rescue her. It is true that he contemplates his revenge all through his subsequent courtship of the heroine, and that his need to revenge himself could have had a disastrous effect on his marriage. [For which and other minor flaws, I do take off one point here].
On the other hand, Alasdair is also keeping secrets from his wife, at least until their wedding night when, after the ultimate intimacy, he will tell her all his secrets. [Compare this with Heyer's Duke of Avon who keeps secrets from his wife all his life]. If you don't like books where a major secret is sprung on you nearly at the end, avoid this book. That secret goes a long way along with his professed reasons to explain why Alasdair is so driven by the need for revenge.
I still think this is a great book, an unusual one for Layton, and a clear homage to Heyer in more ways than one. But, if Revenge Plots trouble you, and a hero like Alasdair (who nearly allows his desire for revenge to consume him, and who refuses to give up that long-withheld desire for love) repels you, avoid this book. I am not usually fond of Revenge Plots, unless very well-done, but I happen to consider this well-done. This is a story of a man who finds love at the same time that he finds the opportunity for revenge, and who satisfies both his need to love and be loved at the same time that he tries to carry out his revenge. If you like the Duke of Avon in THESE OLD SHADES, you may enjoy this book (although Alasdair is of course not omniscient!).
Tall and well-built (if not handsome) Sir Alasdair St. Erth is working through the endgame of vengeance. He has built up a fortune abroad in mysterious ways and has an uncivilized habit of pulling a gun when startled. Now he just has to work out how to force a confrontation with his foes - a couple called the Scalbys. Hunting for a way to do that he starts to mingle with society and is rescued from a social trap by Katherine Corbet, who just happens to be a cousin of the Scalbys.
Poor and pretty young Katherine Corbet has come to London to visit with her cousins the Swansons, and has been kept hidden away (along with the youngest sister) while the Swansons try to marry off three more of their many rich but ugly daughters. Watching the crowd from a hidden way Katherine and her friend Sibyl Swanson overhear the plot to compromise Alasdair into marriage, and Katherine pops up in the correct room at the right moment. Little does she know that Alasdair will latch onto her as a perfect key to his scheme and insist on plotting a way to bring her and Sibyl out into society where the Scalbys will certainly hear rumors about Alasdair and Katherine.
The plot grows more complicated with more parties who wish to harm Alasdair appearing, a deadly street fight, and an abduction. But it all boils down to : will Alasdair continue to hold vengeance as his highest priority, or will love change everything?
Amidst the improbabilities and melodrama of the plot, Alasdair and Katherine shine as flesh-and-blood human lovers. You will cheer for them in their successes and fear for them in their troubles. Recommended.
I picked up Edith Layton's latest THE DEVIL'S BARGAIN - and I read through it nonstop (very much in a hurry - will have to re-read later). It was good, starting between the dialogues between the hero and his well-meaning friend (and the odd villain/criminal), and those between the heroine and her cousin. And there were three "ugly sisters" borrowed from Cinderella etc, but not as bad as that, of course.
And best of all for those tired of endless wedding nights and heroines exhausted from passion in their first encouter, although there is plenty of implied sex in the book (including a couple of startling scenes early on, and one shattering revelation towards the end), the hero and heroine don't actually make love until after they married.
I loved the major characters, the descriptions (particularly of the bath/bordello as well as the low-rent areas), the minor characters (including a madame Mrs Pansy and the servants), and above all, the dialogue. Some might find parts of the book too introspective, but I felt that this was a story of two mature characters finding each other, and one giving up a fair amount in search of love.
The plot - the hero Sir Alasdair St Erth is out for vengeance against a particular family (or couple) the Scalbys, but his reputation has been badly marred by family mishaps and his own behavior in the past. He finds and uses a young woman Katherine Corbet, staying with a family with several unmarried (and very ugly) daughters to launch into society. During the narrative, he comes to realize that Katherine is worth more to him than the revenge (or rather the form that he intends the revenge to take), and this realization is hastened when Katherine is kidnapped. [The identity of the kidnappers and their motivation is a small but significant sub-plot, but the effect of the kidnapping is very important to the story]. Katherine and Alasdair agree to marry - not because her reputation has been ruined when she disappears, or because she is caught kissing Alasdair and more, but because they genuinely care for each other. At the end, Alasdair achieves his revenge, although not in the form he originally intended or even planned later.
The hero is somewhat in the framework of Quick heroes, but rather more interesting in some ways, especially when he is pondering whether to take a mistress or visit a brothel, and when he is discussing his courtship of Katherine with a friend. The heroine Katherine is beautiful but not particularly interested in London society. She comes from a somewhat dysfunctional family background, but her parents obviously care about her as well. Her dialogues with her cousin Sibyl are also worth reading. In fact, much of the charm of the story comes as much from the lovely extended dialogues as it does from the narrative, the premises of the plot, the revelations that build up slowly (including a Big Secret), not to mention all the careful research that shows through in the descriptions of a bath in a London brothel and other seedy areas.
The tone is a cross between London's THE BAD BARON'S DAUGHTER, Chase's VISCOUNT VAGABOND, and Brockway's ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT. [I mention these particular titles quite deliberately, as you will see if you read the book].
The cover is very classy. I have to mention this, because so many covers are just clinches. This is a book you can safely carry around.
At the Swanson Ball, country mouse Katherine Corbet shows the strength of a lioness protecting her cubs when she helps Alasdair escape the machinations of a marriage minded woman. Though he realizes she is an innocent, Alasdair decides she is the perfect pawn to enable him to complete his personal mission. However, as he begins to fall in love with his sacrificial lamb, he starts questioning his desires because he knows when he gains checkmate he loses everything.
Though the theme of revenge and romance has been used numerous times in novels and movies, Edith Layton provides Regency readers with a strong tale due to a delightful cast. The lead couple is wonderful as Alasdair struggles between love and revenge knowing he needs the former, but remains obsessed with the latter though the presence of Katherine has weakened his resolve. Ms. Layton provides her usual exciting novel starring two strong protagonists that will leave fans satiated and new readers as fans.
Layton usually tells her stories from the masculine point of view, again, something which I relish, and in this novel, Sir Alasdair St Erth is a man whom we learn has some very dark secrets. The author often has exceptionally deep, troubled heroes and here is another! He has many redeeming qualities but there is enough about him that is flawed and troublesome to make him a most attractive and sympathetic hero.
At first, her heroines often try the sceptical reader but, in this as in others of her novels, the heroine, Kate Corbet, develops into a wholly credible figure who is the ultimate salvation of the hero.
As always with this brilliant author, a wonderful read and highly recommended.