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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pride and Surrender by Julia Devlin

Pride and Surrender by Julia Devlin
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (111 pgs)
Other: m/f, bdsm
Rating: 5 cherries
Reviewed by Amaryllis

I want no part of messy emotions, of lust and surrender. But none of that seems to matter to Christos Constantine. No matter how much I resist, no matter how much I fight, he keeps coming after me…and I am powerless.

Juliet Russo’s pride and strength of will have always kept her safe. The armor she has built around herself is impenetrable and no one is allowed to see beneath. She has managed to keep Christos and the attraction that simmers between them at bay for two years, but he’s done taking no for an answer.

Pride and Surrender is a novella that packs all the sensual heat and emotion of a much longer work. Juliet is a strong-minded, intelligent heroine with a weakness that makes her easy to empathize with. She struggles with a tragic fear of her own emotions and a distrust that a man strong and alpha enough to excite her will really want her over other women who display more stereotypical warm, outgoing feminine personality traits. She has been used to hiding this aspect of herself and focusing on her professional life. She keeps her softer, more sensual side hidden. She goes through the motions, dating men who are safe but do not excite her. It is easy to root for her, to hope that she will find the emotional courage to overcome her fears and make the leap to trust the hero. It would have been interesting to go into why Juliet is this way but we are told that she just has always been this way and does not really know why.

Christos is handsome and alpha and sexy. He also possesses the understanding to see the real Julia behind the “ice-queen” mask she shows the world. He is assertive in his approach, patiently weakening Julia’s resistance. In the past, he fought his attraction to her, but he’s worked through all that and now is determined to win this woman who is more than his match. I liked this aspect of the hero being ready and open for love. Devlin does a good job of giving him a backstory that makes it believable that he has all of these emotional resources in the story. He knows how to be strong and yet tender too. Yet he’s all alpha.

There’s a rich sensual, visual evocative aspect to this erotic romance that sets it apart. Devlin is often economical with scenery descriptions, preferring to keep the focus tight on the internal emotional aspect of the characters and the interpersonal conflict between the hero and heroine. But when she does focus on external images, they are always powerful ones that are directly vital to the story. I loved the descriptions of the heroine’s bedroom and her photography. I really believe this story would not have been as powerful written in any other POV but first and I think it was the best decision to write it that way.

There were no external antagonists in this story, except for the phantoms of doubt and distrust in the heroine’s mind. The conflict was limited to the Hero and Heroine and their internal struggles. I believe this made the story more powerful, more emotionally intense with the focus strongly on the heroine coming to terms with her lack of comfort with her own emotional nature and her innate doubts about men whom she truly finds desirable.

The pace of the romance was just fast enough to give it an edge. The couple had known each other for two years so they already have an emotionally rich history and deep, ongoing sexual tension. The heroine resisted the hero just enough without it becoming tedious or repetitive. And I really enjoyed the feeling underlying emotional danger and passionate warring between them as he rather forcefully courts her. And courts her he does. He is very sensitive to her needs, very nurturing of her emotions and her physical well being while never losing his alpha edge. This is not an easy thing to accomplish but Devlin does so beautifully here.

It is a very sensual, spicy story. Devlin really makes the most of the sexual scenes, keeping the threads of emotion and the moment-to-moment sensual experience of the characters at the forefront. Aspects of bondage and submission are brought in a way that emphasizes the trust and sharing. Very refreshing in a contemporary erotica. There’s no sense of humiliation or masochism or outrageous kink here. Just pure trust given as a gift in a way that is all the more sexy because it’s pure focus.

Yes, there could have been a little more view into what made Juliet so distrusting of men and uncomfortable with emotion but when a story sweeps you into such a evocative emotional landscape and allows you such immediate, intimate connection to the character and her experience, one cannot nitpick for long. One can only experience and enjoy. If you love strong, alpha heroes with a tender side and empathize with strong-minded heroines, do yourself a favor and indulge in the chocolate liquor-like richness of this not-to-be-missed erotic romance.

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