Mild Spoilers 😉
Rosemary Rogers, the “Grande Dame of Bodice Rippers,” wrote a few exceptional epics, but alas, Surrender to Love wasn’t one of them. It’s the least liked of her books I’ve read so far.
Surrender to Love begins in the hot, sultry nation of Ceylon, where the British heroine Alexa lives. Alexa is so spunky; she hates convention, and why-oh-why do rules have to be so strict for women, and why couldn’t she have been born a man?
Look, I like feminist heroines in my bodice rippers; a meek, wishy-washy heroine in one is no fun, but Alexa… It just never ended with her. Her attitude is very draining. But worse are the random italicized words, sometimes just a couple per page, sometimes dozens. It made me crazy.
Alexa is one of those wild heroines who courts danger and is susceptible to intense mood swings. I got the suspicion it was the author’s mania slipping, though. The writing was erratic. The POV changed without warning from within the paragraph. And did I mention those italics?
I definitely get a sense of Alexa’s instability with her long internal rants or when she’s scratching the hero Nicholas’s face off or sobbing hysterically in front of him.
The tempo in this book is a bit more sluggish than the other Rogers books I’ve encountered, even the deeply introspective the Wildest Heart. The pacing is plodding. There’s no consummation until page 337 of this 612-page brick, which ticked me off.
It turned around after Part Two, but it was rough starting a book with not much happening for the first 200 pages. Alexa gets involved in a few scandals and then marries an older husband who brings her to the “Temple of Venus” to catch a show or two.
Eventually, I saw where Rogers was going with the plot: it’s the tale of a woman who defies the stifling conventions of the Victorian Era through her overt sexuality. I wondered if Rogers was ever a fan of Mexican telenovelas. The hidden family secrets, brutish hero, and spunky heroine reminded me of Alondra, which was about a “beautiful, rebellious girl, with very independent and progressive views for that time” (i.e., she has sex with another man besides the hero) who looks and acts just like Alexa.
-All the Viscounts of this and that running around did get confusing…
Nicholas Dameron was too nebulous, too inscrutable, a hero, which is unusual for me to criticize. Despite learning the history with his first wife, I didn’t understand him at all.
As always, Rogers drew upon themes of women’s liberation, but it came on a bit thick this time. Yes, Alexa, being a woman in the 19th century was stifling and oppressive. Still, if you were part of the wealthy upper class, beautiful & widowed—like Alexa was—she had privileges that the average woman of the time did not share. Alexa’s rash impetuosity was her major flaw. She never thought her out actions first.
Nobody forced her to move to London and deal with the repressive London ton, but she had to have her “revenge” on Nicholas for ruining her in Ceylon. Sure, Alexa, it was revenge you were after.
The world was that woman’s oyster, but she had a hankering for geoduck:
The first two hundred pages could have been condensed to half that amount. The ending was weird (not the “trial” and whipping which was awesome), but Alexa’s engagement and glossed-over consummation with Charles, and then she somehow ends up married to Nicholas.
Final Analysis of Surrender to Love
The villains in this one weren’t exciting. Although I liked Alexa’s evil grandma, she was like the diet coke of evil: just one calorie, not evil enough. Same opinion of the Marquess. But as long as I kept imagining Mexican actress Beatriz Sheridan as the evil Dowager Marchioness, I had a good time with that villainess.
I could have given this book 2 1/2 stars but rounded it up to 3 because the pluses slightly outweighed the negatives in this one. But those italics made it difficult!