Kerrigan Byrne returns to her sublime Devil You Know series with another breathtaking love story that is ripe with intrigue, sexual tension, and feminist strength. By consistently delivering tales that are anchored by fiery, resilient, unapologetically brazen heroines, Byrne continues to reach new depths in her portrayal of women who are unwilling to let anyone else dictate their own destiny, and this book is no exception. It’s the story of a young mathematician whose scandalous inheritance makes her the target of a man who’s made it his mission to close down all of London’s most notorious dens of vice, but their attraction burns far brighter than their immediate differences, and as danger begins to stir, they must work together to bring their enemy into the light. Byrne infuses her characters with self-awareness and agency, gently probing questions of patriarchy and internalized misogyny in them, thus delivering a tale that remains true to its characters while also dazzling with its romantic plot and sensuous writing. A real treat!
“Principles are not prejudices, madam, and though I’m not perfect, I endeavor to be. I stand for something.” He thumped his chest with one beat of his fist. “I fight on the side of justice. I am a man of integrity and purpose with an empire to look after. What are ye but the warden in a gilded prison of slags and reprobates?”
Raised by a man who used to punish her for no other reason than being born a woman, Cecelia Teague’s early childhood might have been filled with darkness and suffering, but from the moment her life changed for the better, she bloomed into a kind, compassionate young woman who loved fiercely and unconditionally, and who, no matter how many times in her life men had tried to make her feel helpless or inadequate in some way, had never hardened her heart against others. So when Cecelia finds herself not only inheriting an infamous gambling establishment in West London, but also entrusted with the care of a group of women trying to rise above the circumstances of their birth, she immediately takes to her newfound responsibilities with great determination and pride, only to discover that her new legacy has also made her the enemy of the very man she’s been fantasising about.
“Love and marriage have little to do with each other, I’ve noticed. And I don’t think I shall ever be shackled with a husband, thank Jove. But I fully intend to fall in love.”
The unwanted son of a Scottish drunk and of a heartless woman who ruined men by using their love for her for her own gain, Cassius Ramsay has had to lift himself from nothing to become the powerful and much-feared Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. But if life taught him one thing, it was that pleasure was a peril that could make a man lose all sense of reason, and Ramsay promised himself a long time ago that no woman would ever fool him into trusting her again. He keeps his needs and desires firmly leashed, until an impish redhead with an air of both softness and innate strength suddenly becomes both an adversary and his greatest torment.
Warm. She was so warm. Her mouth, her skin, her soul. It chased the constant chill from his bones, replacing it with a distressing, delectable heat.
The force of his desire for her unsettles him and makes him act out of character, so when Cecelia’s new life catches up to her and she finds herself in mortal danger, Ramsay protects her the only way he knows. He whisks her away to the wilds of Scotland, to a place that shaped him profoundly as a child, giving Cecelia both time to identify her enemy before it finds her and a chance to meet the ghosts of Ramsay’s painful past.
“Ye’re changing every truth I’ve ever believed in. Ye’re making me wonder if I can actually trust a woman for the first time in my life.”
While in hiding, they begin to recognise in each other something of their own loneliness and grief, born out of being both unwanted as children, but even as their bond grows stronger over time, Cecelia’s chosen future continues to stand firmly against the very principles which Ramsey has built his entire career upon, threatening to topple it all down, and making him question the very fabric of who he is, what he stands for, and what he truly has to offer a woman like Cecelia.
“He makes me doubt who I am and what I want. I think he would love me if I were other than who I am.”
In this story, Cecelia is asked to choose between her passion for life and her passion for the man she loves, but unlike so many women of her time, her education and financial independence give her the freedom to truly have a choice. In true Kerrigan Byrne style, however, it is not the heroine who must yield to either society or to the demands of her heart in the end, because a true hero never claims a woman only to change her, and Lord Ramsay is a Kerrigan Byrne hero after all. If you are craving an angsty, feminist romance in your life, this one is an utter delight.
“Because I wore a dress, my existence as an intellectual has been an insult to everyone. They’ve all asked me to be other than I am. Men seem to think that because they must give me their seats on the train, I must yield to them my very identity. Or my choices. My body or, in this case, my entire life. I have not, and I will not, and it is wrong of you to ask. Can you not love me, even if I do not yield?”