By Tessa Dare
Publication Date: August 25, 2009
Series or Standalone:The Wanton Dairymaid #2
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
I’m a big Tessa Dare fan and I don’t think I’ve ever disliked any of her books…until this one came along. I wanted to like it. I truly did. But Surrender of Siren just did not do it for me.
Sophia Hathaway, who we met in Goddess of the Hunt, has run away from her society wedding and booked passage on a ship to Tortola so that she can come into her inheritance when she turns 21. The ship’s owner Gray, a privateer turned honest tradesman, takes Sophia on as the Aphrodite’s first passenger. While he’s trying to go respectable, he cannot help being drawn to Sophia. On the close confines of the ship they cannot escape each other, and as much as he promised he wouldn’t touch her, they cannot seem to stop the feelings developing between them.
Unfortunately, this book was really not for me. First, I found the romance severely lacking. I just didn’t see the chemistry between Gray and Sophia. The couples also spend the first two thirds of the book circling each other, but it didn’t really ratchet up the tense, it just made me indifferent. I will say there was a scene where they were playing footsie under the table where I thought “okay maybe the chemistry will develop” but it really didn’t.
I personally also wasn’t the biggest fan of either of them as characters. Sophia, who I liked in Goddess of the Hunt, came across as incredibly naive and a bit of a wet noodle. I was hoping she’d have more spunk – she did run away from her wedding after all. I also thought her artistic abilities would play a bigger role than just illustrating the copy of the wanton dairymaid book she had. She lies about her identity and history despite the fact that she had a plethora of times to come clean and knew she should come clean. The deception came across as very childish.
Then we have Gray. Oh boy, I did not like him. It’s almost impossible for me to like a romance if I actively dislike the hero. And I disliked Gray a lot. I feel like he’s supposed to be a charming, flirtatious rogue, but I just thought he was a bit of an ass. He was so entitled and privileged – it rubbed me the wrong way. It was his way or no way. I also truly hated how he treated his brother Joss. Joss is Gray’s half-brother – his mother was a slave on the plantation Gray’s father owned. Joss is technically captain of the ship, but Gray is constantly undermining his authority. Gray tries to play it off as coming from a place of love, but it just seemed like he thought he knew best in all situations. I also hated how he was like “Joss needs to stop grieving his dead wife because I want my brother back.” It’s so incredibly selfish.
Speaking of Joss, there is a lot of discussion about slavery and race in this book. While I admire what Dare was trying to do, I don’t think it was executed perfectly. A lot of the discussions and handling of these conversations left an icky taste in my mouth. For example, Gray talks about an incident that happened when he and Joss were younger where some people on Tortola caught and branded Joss. Gray thought that to feel his brother’s pain, he too must brand himself. He plays it off as coming from a place of empathy, but he grounds the story in his pain, and his suffering, instead of his brother’s. As a white male, he’ll never be able to fully know what it’s like to live Joss’s life.
Gray also claims to be all about family, but his actions say otherwise. In another situation that left me feeling wrong, Gray admits he stole his brother’s inheritance. If you truly want to put the interests of your family first, how is that okay? This just rubbed me the wrong way and I just could view Gray in a romantic light.
I think the pacing in this book was a bit off, which made this book hard to get through. There felt like there was very little momentum in the plot. It only started to pick up towards the end after a storm and rescue that took place on another ship. But other than that, it was very slow going.
If I wasn’t reading this book as part of the But Do They Bang? readalong, I think this would be a DNF. I really struggled to get through this book and reading the chapters each day was a struggle. I couldn’t wait until I had finished them to move on to something else. It saddens me to say that I truly love Tessa Dare’s books, especially her newer stuff, but this one was really not for me.