I call this one a solid 3.5 stars. It started out really strong for me, and finished slightly less so for reasons I can’t put a finger on, but I’ll get into nitty-gritties after a quick plot summary from Goodreads:
“Desperate to escape a loveless marriage and society’s constraints, pampered heiress Sophia Hathaway jilts her groom, packs up her paints and sketchbook, and assumes a new identity, posing as a governess to secure passage on the Aphrodite. She wants a life of her own: unsheltered, unconventional, uninhibited. But it’s one thing to sketch all her wildest, most wanton fantasies, and quite another to face the dangerously handsome libertine who would steal both her virtue and her gold.
To any well-bred lady, Benedict “Gray” Grayson is trouble in snug-fitting boots. A conscienceless scoundrel who sails the seas for pleasure and profit, Gray lives for conquest—until Sophia’s perception and artistry stir his heart. Suddenly, he’ll brave sharks, fire, storm, and sea just to keep her at his side. She’s beautiful, refined, and ripe for seduction. Could this counterfeit governess be a rogue’s redemption? Or will the runaway heiress’s secrets destroy their only chance at love?”
Another quick aside: whoever designed the covers for this series has a mind’s eye much like mine, because for each of the three books they found cover models who look exactly how I pictured the heroine. Well done!
Surrender of a Siren is, quite possibly, the first romance I’ve read that almost completely takes place on a ship. Unless I am forgetting one, which I might be, because my memory is shite. I quite liked this development! Maybe romance-at-sea is a genre I should explore more thoroughly? I know there are no shortage of books coming from that corner.
Gray was a likeable hero and a very believable character. Infatuated with Sophia, he’s nonetheless promised to remain celibate on this particular journey and not pursue her. I say he’s believable because he also comes with baggage of the nature that he tried to do something honorable for himself and his brother, but even with the best of intentions that plan backfired, and he very typically doubles down on defending that mistake because he can’t let go of his pride. This is the reasoning behind his intent to lay off Sophia — he wants to prove that he can honor his brother’s wishes when it comes to not seducing her, and he hopes that by following through on this promise that it’s symbolic enough to right his past wrongs.
Sophia is a character who I initially liked a lot: in following her dreams, she burned bridges to the ground and goes completely out of her comfort zone to find a new life for herself on her own terms. She’s got ovaries of steel, and I have to respect both her motives and execution. But when it comes to her cover story and how much of it she’s willing to let slip in the interest of holding onto Gray, she seems to vacillate between perfectly logical and nonsensical reasons for making the decisions she does. Of course, in the beginning, sticking to her story is in her best interest. Even once she knows Gray is into her, she’s probably still being smart by not revealing her backstory. But it comes to a time where she knows that her deception is driving a wedge between them AND that Gray wouldn’t betray her, and she’s still hedgy about her identity; worse, she pulls one of those We Can’t Be Together And You’ll Understand Eventually maneuvers that could have been easily avoided if she’d bothered to talk to Gray about it. That said, her reluctance is redeemed with the opportunity for her reveal to make a Big Splash and Save the Day, which it does, so All is Forgiven.
I think, now that I have written it out, I now have put a few fingers on why the book declined a bit for me toward the end. The thing that I’ve loved most about Tessa Dare women is that they have been forthright, and despite the necessity of her initial disguise, Sophia didn’t quite live up to the standard set by her sisters-in-canon: she’s good at speaking her mind and jumping into the deep end in many respects, but still holds back in other areas for reasons not properly explained. Would I still recommend this book? Sure. It’s exciting, Gray is a hottie, and as usual for TD, it’s got its share of very funny moments.