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I had to rewrite this review because I wasn't quite satisfied with what I had written the first time. There was one question that stayed with me when I was reading Julie Anne Long's latest instalment in her Pennyroyal Green series: Who is Tansy Danforth?
It amazes me how well Julie Anne Long has maintained the "freshness" of her series by injecting it with very interesting and very unique characters. Still, with nine stories out and a host of established characters in play, it becomes more and more of a challenge to make sure that each heroine stands out as individuals. Tansy Danforth is the ninth heroine and she's a new addition to Pennyroyal Green.
Who is Tansy Danforth? It is a question that plagues even the minds of the Eversea sisters, Genevieve and Olivia. Tansy acts with perfect timidity and coquettishness and claims to be a wallflower, and the sisters know that it is exactly that: an act. So, why? Why does Tansy instinctively, yet needlessly, flatter and bat her eyelashes and gain the attention of the men around her? In the first few chapters, when her chaperone hands her over to the Duke of Falconridge, her parting words were, "Good Luck Yer Grace." and then we read about the Italian gentleman whom Tansy charmed during the ship voyage. I get the impression that flirting and gaining attention is a compulsion for her. But, why?
... But Tansy could not stop. She was a virtuous of flirtation who'd been denied an opportunity to practice her art for far too long, and the whole episode had acquired the momentum of a driverless carriage rolling downhill.
It was probably a good thing the ship had docked when it did.
- loc 267
I honestly could not peg down her character, so I decided that the only way I could approximate who Tansy was was to compare her to the other women of Pennyroyal Green. The inevitable comparison is between Tansy and Olivia, the last unmarried Eversea female -- and Julie Anne Long has pitted them against each other in this novel. When Tansy is introduced to local society in Sussex, she immediately receives bouquets of flowers -- more flowers, in fact, than Olivia (and both ladies are keeping quiet count of the number). Tansy even receives flowers from Olivia's beau, the very patient Lord Landsdowne -- and, for the first time in a very, very long time, we see a reaction from Olivia. Could she be a bit jealous of the attention Tansy is getting? While they are both beautiful, I much preferred Olivia who has more depth: she is known for her civic works and charity in Sussex. She's a bit of a crusader and it is something that she has devoted her time to -- and was partially the cause of her fight with Lyon Redmond. Tansy, on the other hand, has no occupation -- granted, she only just arrived in Sussex, but I get the impression that, even when she was in New York, she was a social butterfly.
I could go on comparing Tansy to Tommy, Evie, Cynthia, Rosalind, Madeleine, Phoebe, and Violet and the conclusion would be the same: Tansy isn't as accomplished or as rounded or as deep or as complicated as the other Pennyroyal Green heroines -- the only thing that makes Tansy interesting is that she is very, very beautiful -- and this is not a bad thing. It's actually interesting to have Tansy living in the same house as Genevieve, who was considered "the plain, sensible one" and no one thought she merited a second look either, but that was what made Genevieve's story so interesting: hers was a very quiet, very hidden beauty and it took the Duke of Falconridge to discover that and love that about her.
Tansy's situation is different: she is obviously beautiful. My instinct was to dismiss her as a flat character, because that's all I saw in her: her beauty. I knew her outward behaviour was just a facade, and I knew there was some deeper reason to justify her actions. I did like her small acts of kindness and revealed her gentle spirit -- I thought it was endearing how she would place flowers on the long-forgotten graves in the cemetery and how she planted flowers from her home to remind her of her parents. What's amazing about her is that she never calls attention to those aspects of herself. I realised, then, that she is also a woman of substance: Tansy shows us that a heroine doing small good deeds is just as worthy of a story and a happy ending.
In that, I am guilty of objectifying Tansy and I am sorry for it.
I realized I was looking at her from the same perspective as all the people who are welcoming her to Sussex: only seeing her beauty and never trying to see beyond it. It's also because Tansy doesn't bother to show it or to change anyone's perception of her. She knows who she is and what makes her happy: she's content with her small night-time rituals in the privacy of her room. I thought it was odd that Tansy and Ian's rooms were close to each other and they unwittingly witnessed each other's private practices: he stretches the tight muscles from his injury; she rolls and sniffs (and smokes) her late father's brand of cigars.
And it all happens when there are less prying eyes, when the world is stripped off of all fineries and artifices -- when we are not lord or lady, or heiress or captain and not concerned with keeping up appearances -- when we break wind, burp, scratch whatever's itchy and perform our ablutions. It's Tansy at her least attractive -- but, it was that Tansy that Ian became fascinated with and eventually fell in love with.
..."I can't go home looking like I've been ravished."
She slid him a tentatively minx like sidelong look.
He just shook his head slowly.
"Leave it be, Miss Danforth. I like it this way. It makes you as wild and disreputable as you truly are."
"At least you like something about me."
- loc 2935
So, why Tansy for Ian? Ian's been to war and back, has been in and out of ladies' bedrooms and lives and he's about to see the world as a newly-appointed captain of the East India Company. The only thing they have in common is that they are both so teeth-achingly attractive and it is easy for them to get anyone -- anyone -- they want simply because they can. When Tansy arrives, everyone is wary because Ian is also in the vicinity. They never mention his name and try their best to steer them away from each other. When their meeting becomes inevitable, the Duke of Falconridge intercepts Ian and warns him away from Tansy. Was it necessary? I didn't think so, because, when Ian first sees Tansy, he didn't like what he saw: another debutante who was all-too aware of her beauty and appeal to people. And Ian actually wasn't interested in her at all -- in fact, Ian is initially annoyed by Tansy and her act. But, being a man constantly defined as "trouble" by everyone around him, Ian inwardly knows that there needs to be more to Tansy than what she presents.
...Why in God's name would Miss Danforth give him a bloody book? And blush scarlet while doing it? In all likelihood for the same reasons Landsdowne had given her one. Perhaps she had a cat's talent for crawling into the lap of the one person who could scarcely tolerate it. Miss Danforth was likely the sort who couldn't rest until everyone worshipped her. It was wearisome and irritating, yet admittedly faintly amusing.
All in all, however, the very notion of her made him tired. The girl wasn't quite who she wanted everyone to think she was, and that troubled him.
- loc 2015 to 2026
Admittedly, Tansy was also taken with Ian's good looks but, when Ian started to rebuff and dismiss Tansy, she set her sights elsewhere -- but there was something else about Ian that called to Tansy and, when she found it, she knew there wouldn't be any other man for her except Ian.
Why "Between the Devil and Ian Eversea?" It is clear that Julie Anne Long is borrowing the idiom "between the devil and the deep blue sea" and implies that Ian is faced with a dilemma. Was the dilemma caused by the Duke of Falconridge's warning? Or is the dilemma between Ian's plans to see the world and Tansy?
I can understand Ian's reluctance to go against the Duke's warning. For one, the Duke is married to his sister, Genevieve. And, there is also the matter of Ian dallying with the Duke's former fiancee (What I Did for a Duke). He needs to maintain harmony for the sake of his sister's happiness -- and it becomes a bit sad when it becomes clear that his own happiness might possibly lead to a falling out with the Duke.
I also get the sense that Ian is tired of bouncing back and forth between London and Sussex, trying to avoid people who are trying to pin him down into matrimony and the position with the East India company would afford him with the chance to escape that. But Tansy offers him a glimpse at a different future -- a future with her. Can she really settle the restlessness in his soul? Can he be satisfied staying in one place ... with her?
He did want her.
But that was neither here nor there. And while he normally got what he wanted when it came to women, he was sensible enough to know that the danger here wasn't in the getting of the women but in the woman herself.
- loc 3180
This story is about finding the hidden beauty of the beautiful -- there is always more to every person, and it takes that special person to discover it. Beyond Ian and Tansy's story, I liked that the author also pointed the spotlight at Olivia (and Lyon in absentia) and Lord Landsdowne. It's great that Olivia's story intertwines a bit with Tansy's story and the contrast in their love stories really shed more light on Olivia's tragic history. (I've said it in previous reviews for the Pennyroyal Green series, but I am really, really excited to read Lyon and Olivia's love story.)
Between the Devil and Ian Eversea is book 9 in Julie Anne Long's Pennyroyal Green series. It will be released on March 25, 2014. To find out more about Julie Anne Long, click below:
Disclosure: I received this ARC through Edelweiss. Thank you to Julie Anne Long and to Avon for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.