Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: Season for Surrender by Theresa Romain


Alexander, Lord Xavier, enjoys quite a reputation among his peers: he's known for his infallibility, for winning wagers all the time, for his coolness and for his many conquests.

It is what makes Xavier the man he is.

When a wager is made by his cousin, the Marquess of Lockwood -- one of many wagers they have made -- requiring Xavier to invite a lady with a spotless reputation to his infamous Christmas house party and have said lady stay for two weeks, Xavier did what he always does to make sure that he wins the wager but, when he gets the chance to know Louisa better, the stakes change for him -- and Xavier isn't certain he wants to win the wager with his cousin at the cost of losing Louisa.

Louisa has lived a quiet, relatively scandal-free life and now she wishes for something more. When the invitation from Lord Xavier arrives, Louisa sees it as her chance to discover everything that she's been missing in her life.

When Louisa accidentally finds out about the wager, she doesn't quite know what to do: should she leave? -- but Louisa is curious and she wants to stay and see where the wager will lead her. So she does.

The old Louisa would have shrunk from both noblemen, keeping her distance. But she no longer wanted to be the timid woman who lived such a circumscribe life.

As Sir Francis Bacon had once said, "Knowledge is power." Louisa knew about the wager, and the men didn't know she knew.

Which gave her the power, didn't it? This would be enjoyable.
- pp. 33-34

The man or the mask?

Having been orphaned at a very young age, Xavier has always been his title and nothing more. The reputation he has gained is quite accidental but Xavier likes it and prefers to let things stay the way they are --

By maintaining the status quo, Xavier has no choice but the agree to every wager and try to win it -- by some sort of miracle, he always does -- and he never corrects the rumors about him and his paramours and conquests (zero, by the way) --

And now his cousin has conveniently trapped him into another wager -- one that didn't sit well with Xavier even from the beginning but, what can he do but say "yes"?

Louisa isn't at all what Xavier expected her to be. And he likes it. And he likes her. He's used to figuring out people and has numbered expressions to react to every possible occasion -- but his encounters with Louisa leave him ... speechless and he can't even think which of his numbered expressions to use with her.

For the first time in Xavier's life, he is challenged to be a better person -- and he wants to become a better person.

But how does one make such a change? Xavier doesn't know the answer but he's willing to find out what it is -- if it means keeping Louisa in his life.

This was a very sweet, very insightful story -- I loved Louisa as a heroine. She is perceptive and so incredibly observant. And I loved how she wasn't afraid to try out something new -- she was able to process her situation and see a way that she could learn something from it -- and she did! She gained quite a bit of knowledge from her stay at Xavier's house.

Louisa is definitely a bluestocking and she feels that society thinks she's invisible and, after being jilted by her fiance, she knows she's well on the shelf -- but what is wonderful about her is that she doesn't let these labels define her or rule her life. She knows who she is and she knows what she wants.

She's quite the opposite of Xavier -- and she's the perfect person to teach him how to live beyond the words and reputation that define his life.

I enjoyed the conversations between Xavier and Louisa. They are flirtatious and playful -- but there's also a depth to it, an almost philosophical bent to it -- leading to the question: what makes a man a man -- and how does one unmake him?

Louisa understood in an instant: in the low light, with the haziness of his close vision, he wasn't able to cut accurately. "If you'll help raise me up, I could cut the mistletoe."

Alex passed the knife from one hand to the other. "Impossible."

"Impossible because you think yourself insufficiently strong, or because you think me excessively heavy?"

His nostrils flared, but he didn't smile. "Unwise, then."

"Because you think yourself insufficiently careful, or because you think my excessively clumsy?"

"My dear muffin, you will please cease your retorts."
- p. 116

It was gratifying to see Xavier's journey of self-discovery -- and I loved that it was Louisa was the one who guided him through it.

This is a very different kind of Christmas story -- it doesn't have any of the usual Christmas mainstays, but there is a heartwarming element to the story and there is a transformation that happens -- and it is a wonderful one.

Season for Surrender is the second book in Theresa Romain's The Seasons Quartet. The third book, Season for Indiscretion will be released in 2013.

To find out more about Theresa Romain and her books, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

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