Between the Devil and Ian Eversea: A Pandora’s Box

IAn Eversea cover shotDabney is an obsessive Pennyroyal Green reader. Caz is relatively new to the series. Today they chat about Ms. Long’s latest, Between the Devil and Ian Eversea.

Caz:

I’m not up to date with the Pennyroyal Green series, but I did read the last book (It Happened One Midnight) and enjoyed it very much – I gave it 4.5 stars at Goodreads.

Although I enjoyed this latest addition to the series, I wasn’t quite as bowled over as I had been by the previous book.  I’m not completely sure why – there is still plenty of humour in the exchanges between the hero and heroine and between the hero and his numerous siblings, the principals are very attractive characters; it’s sexy and sweet and romantic, and all the secondary characters (who have presumably already featured in their own stories) are well drawn.

I think part of the problem may be because I felt almost as though I had read two books that had been sandwiched together around the half-way point.  For the first part of the book, Ian is very wary of Tansy – wary to the point of dislike – because he can see all too well what she’s up to, and Tansy, while she is absolutely knocked flat by Ian’s gorgeousness, is aware of his distrust of her. So they spend the first part of the book watching and circling each other and when they do meet, their exchanges are far from pleasant.

When things change, they change abruptly.  The sudden détente comes as the result of a shared concern for a missing girl (who, luckily, is soon found unharmed) and after that, they begin to open up to each other and Ian finds himself telling Tansy things he’s never told anyone else and vice versa.

Dabney:

I am an slightly crazed Pennyroyal Green fan—it’s my go-to series for comfort reading. The last two books in the series haven’t wowed me and I had high hopes for Between the Devil and Ian Eversea. I regret to say , I wasn’t wowed. I found the book to be an enjoyable, quick read but I finished it feeling unsatisfied.

Part of that is my long-standing unhappiness with how little forward motion has in the story around Lyon’s continued disappearance.

Caz:

Yes – although I’m not up to date with the series, I do know that fans are eagerly awaiting what is probably going to be the final book in the series – Olivia and Lyon’s story – so the ending of this one is somewhat of a shocker!

Dabney:

Ms. Long created one hell of a plot in I Kissed an Earl when she revealed that Olivia’s father is part of a group of investors embroiled in the (in England) illegal slave trade. That plot as well as the complex relationship between the elder Everseas and elder Redmonds have not been explored further much to my frustration.

Caz:

That’s a good point, and because I’m not up to date, something that hasn’t coloured my reading of the most recent books in the series.  But I think I’d certainly be feeling the same way if I were!

Dabney:

I realize my investment in the long-term plot of the series does shape the way I see each book. Yet, even on its own merits, this is not a book I love. Tansy and Ian don’t seem like real people to me—they are so beautiful, so smart, so adept at control. The barriers to their relationship—Ian’s desire to leave Pennyroyal Green and Moncrieff’s insistence Ian is to stay far from Tansy—seemed things two such super beings could easily overcome.

Caz:

The pair certainly have had a difficult time of it, and I did enjoy the parallels Ms. Long drew between their experiences and their reactions to them.  I liked the fact that they were both honest enough with themselves to admit that some of the things they had seen in the other’s disposition also applied to them:

“I think you come at everyone before they can come after you, Tansy.  You’re afraid to be – “  He stopped abruptly.

Vulnerable, she comnpleted silently in her head, astonished.  Certain that’s what he meant.

Then there’s the point at which Ian realises that what Tansy had to deal with following the death of her parents and brother wasn’t too different to what he had to face when returning from war:

“And for quite some time it has felt like… I’ve been to school and learned everything there is to learn, and nothing has the power to surprise me anymore.  Or scare me.”

[...]

He remembered returning… it was as if he’d used up every emotion he ever had, because he’d felt nearly everything there was to feel at such a pitch for so long that ordinary life felt rather flat and muted and painfully slow.  He’d been willing to do nearly anything to <i>feel</i> something.  And to forget.”

Both characters were likable and almost refreshingly straightforward – inwardly.  Of course, outwardly, they were just presenting a façade to the world – their coping mechanism – but the author got into both their heads sufficiently for the reader to know that there was much more to Tansy than a man-eating husband-hunter, and to Ian than an inveterate womanizer.

Dabney:

In some ways, I felt Ian was the least interesting suitor in the book. I struggled to place him as a character. We are told he’s a womanizer and a soldier, but he remained more opaque to me than most of Ms. Long’s heroes.

Caz:

I agree about the lack of depth to Ian’s character.  He was gorgeous and wounded and all those things we like in our romance heroes, but he’s not one of those characters who has remained distinct in my mind.  Tansy was more well-rounded I thought, and I liked the way the author manipulated the readers’ perceptions of her by making her seem initially like the sort of woman who steals everyone else’s boyfriends!  (Which she sort of did, but by that time, we’d learned more about her and were more able to appreciate her situation).

Dabney:

I found the interjections about the other couples in the series—especially Genevieve and Alex—to be distracting and surprisingly unsubtle.  The one exception to that is the relationship between Olivia and Lansdowne. That aspect of the book worked beautifully for me.

Caz:

Is he being set up as a future hero, do you think?  I, too, enjoyed that particular relationship, which is presumably going to be thrown out the window when Lyon eventually returns.

Dabney:

I’d be startled if Lansdowne were a hero. I could see him having a secondary love story, however. And wouldn’t it be the biggest shock ever if Lyon and Olivia didn’t end up together? Readers would riot but there’s a part of me that thinks that’s the ending with the most power.

I’m hoping , in the next book, we learn Polly’s story. Maybe her true love is Landsdowne….

Caz:

He’s too decent a chap to be left out in the cold, certainly!

In terms of the principal storyline, I thought the ending felt a little rushed – although I suppose it can be seen as a mark of the depth of Ian’s feelings for Tansy that he would change his plans practically overnight and then buy her childhood home for her!

Dabney:

I’m with you on the ending. All the little plot bows were tied up very quickly and very neatly. Ian’s buying the house didn’t do it for me as a grand gesture in that it seemed like such a sacrifice of his dreams.

Caz:

It WAS a little too perfect, and I didn’t really buy it.  It’s more that I could see what the reader is expected to read into it than what read into it.  Overall, I have to say that while there were certainly things I enjoyed about the book, it felt almost like a “placeholder” in some ways.  You know – the standalone episode in the series arc which is there to slow things down a bit before we get back to the main event.  But for the humour, the dialogue and the characterisation of Tansy, I’m giving it a B.

Dabney:

I give it a strong B as well. As much as I dislike all that Ms. Long isn’t doing in the Pennyroyal Green series, it’s still a damn good series. I always eagerly await the next one!

6 Responses to “Between the Devil and Ian Eversea: A Pandora’s Box”

  1. lol rp says:

    You can definitely see your skills in the paintings you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. All the time go after your heart.

  2. Elle says:

    I’m exceedingly comforted by the fact that Lyon and Olivia will definitely end up together (in the book after next?) – as Ms Julie Anne Long herself had tweeted. My own personal favorite is I Kissed An Earl, and mostly because that propelled that storyline significantly further (apart from my love of Violet). I think until that book comes out, pretty much every Pennyroyal installment will be a “placeholder” of sorts for me. Which makes me wonder about the merits of having a very long-drawn out series – after a while, perhaps the pay-off diminishes.

    Will still read this, though.

    • Dabney says:

      I can never decide if I Kissed an Earl is my favorite or if it’s What I Did for a Duke. I prefer the former for plot; the latter for style.

  3. Nicole M. says:

    Viv and vis Olivia and Lyon and their dragged out storyline: The thing that irritates me most about this is Long’s apparent commitment to the idea that Olivia and Lyon getting together must be the end of the series. Why is that so? There are tons of supporting characters that flit in and out of the novels, much more than enough to full several future volumes. Plus, the marriage of Olivia and Lyon doesn’t have to mean that the Redmonds and the Everseas heal the rift between them, either. In fact, it could mean all kinds of interesting fall-out springs up. I wish Long would see beginnings rather than endings here, because the dragging out of Olivia and Lyon’s relationship isn’t doing the series any favors. (And yes, I do think they should end up together. Maybe, as one of you suggested, an ending where they end up apart would be more “powerful” on some level, but it would also be painful and a huge disappointment to fans.)

  4. Sara says:

    I have been so disappointed with Ms. Long’s most recent books–the characters and plots just seem recycled–so I was also disappointed that neither reviewer was wild about the latest. My favorites are The Perils of Pleasure, I Kissed An Earl and What I Did for a Duke. I feel like all the other ones are just re-worked and re-plotted versions of those. But, I will also say that I think Ms. Long is one of the talented writers out there, which is why I keep reading her. I wish she would end this series already and start something new! Thanks for starting this discussion.

  5. Lucy says:

    I always look forward to the new releases and I loved “How the Marquess was Won” because it was hilarious, but the series is becoming increasingly formulaic. Any non-Eversea or non-Redmond heroine is always an orphan. This was cute the first few times, but it’s starting to become ridiculous. The count is now at 7 of 9 heroines are orphans. At least with the forthcoming Olivia/Lyon book we know they both have parents, but I agree this is getting dragged out. I’m also hoping for more on the story of how Colin is Isiah’s Redmond’s son.