A SCOUNDREL'S SURRENDER - Jenna Petersen
Billingham Bastards, Book 3
Historical Romance (Regency)
Two years ago, Caleb Talbot discovered some devastating news through a few old letters. The man who raised him wasn't actually his biological father; in short, Caleb is a bastard. Confused, hurt, and scared, Caleb tries to drown himself in his love for Marah Farnsworth, but nothing helps him forget. Ashamed and angry, he runs away without a word leaving a heart-broken Marah and a stricken family behind. However, now his elder brother, Justin, has found him to deliver another blow…their father is dying. Returning to London and facing both his mother and father may be one of the hardest things Caleb has ever done, but he is determined to see his father no matter the cost. To add insult to injury, Justin's wife, Victoria, has invited a friend to London to stay in the townhouse with her, and that friend just so happens to be Marah. Marah still loves Caleb but is desperate for stability and a husband and has an ideal man in mind…who is not Caleb. But can Caleb reignite old passions and show Marah that she needs, and deserves, more out of life when she is so adamant about remaining formal?
The book contained several irritations, but they were mostly outweighed by the good. The book was underwhelming, and a little disjointed—a series of photographs rather than a panoramic view. The setting was poorly done, so I found myself floating around in the space of Petersen’s London without an anchor. I found myself watching dances at balls when there wasn’t clear context, or reading about tea at random. To be honest, however, the floating effect was only a lingering annoyance—like a fly buzzing around while you watch TV. It definitely wasn’t overwhelmingly distracting, and I found for the most part I enjoyed the book and its scenes even though I had issues following the protagonist’s London life. The passage of time was also a problem in that it wasn’t marked clearly, but again it wasn’t overwhelming. However these were simply minor annoyances.
For most of the story, I found myself struggling with the protagonists. I truly didn’t like Caleb at the beginning of the story; he was rude, selfish, and wallowing in self-pity. I didn’t particularly like Marah either, though I empathized with her and felt her pain, so I was less annoyed with her. I was worried about how much I could possibly enjoy the book—after all, if I don’t like either of the main characters, can I really like the book? Yes, it turns out. Yes I can. What made this book so incredible is that Marah and Caleb made each other better. I liked them better together than apart. Marah helped Caleb become less selfish—more thoughtful and compassionate—and Caleb helped Marah stop hiding from herself, her family, and the world in general. Together, I grew to like them for their combined strengths, and it was a unique, touching approach to romance. I also found, as I reflected on the book, that I appreciated the human faults that Caleb and Marah have because they made the romance less whimsical and more realistic.
The best part of this book, the part that really made it for me, was the happy ever after at the end. Caleb’s considerate behavior showed he was finally focusing all his energy on someone else and her needs, wants, and desires. He’d finally let go of his hurtful selfishness, and I could really see his inner beauty. I was sold during the happy ever after and finished the book very confident that Caleb and Marah had many, many gloriously wonderful years ahead of them. I was also confident in the strength of their relationship—one thing that Ms. Petersen shows really well. For a book that will bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart, pick up A SCOUNDREL’S SURRENDER on your next trip to the bookstore.