It was a definite squee moment when the Amazon box arrived with this book. Ever since I devoured Campbell's last book, I've been not-so-patiently waiting for her next, and she does not disappoint. As a fan of Regency Noir, it's a great delight to find a writer that pulls you into her characters like Anna Campbell does.
Tempt the Devil is the story of Olivia, the most sought after courtesan of the ton. Stories of her prowess are known throughout London and the man who wins the role as her lover is one to be envied. However, Olivia is the master in these liaisons, requiring control in all aspects, and with her charms, she has no problem getting what she wants from her lovers. Until she meets Lord Erith.
Lord Erith, Julian, is a powerful earl and notorious rake; his exploits renowned across Vienna and most of Europe. Once he sees Olivia, he knows he must have her, no matter what the cost. He is a dark man, used to getting what he wants, while running from his past. He is surprised by his desire for Olivia, and has little control over himself in her presence. Determined to win her, he discovers one of her shocking secrets, her inability to feel pleasure. He then sets out to show her pleasure, whatever it takes.
Their relationship is purely a battle of wills in the beginning, with both wanting to be in control over the liaison, but the darker secrets come out as the story progresses, and their relationship takes on an entirely new level. The two open up to each other about their unfortunate histories, and begin to feel more than just what the basic relationship between lover and mistress usually entails. Erith is such a dark character that you only begin to see the lighter side of him in slow bits as he coaxes Olivia into trusting him. He fights with himself over dominating Olivia, and wanting her to desire him at the same time. Olivia becomes more than just a courtesan to him, she becomes a confidant as he confesses to things in his past that he is back in London trying to rectify. Olivia begins to trust Erith and admits part of her painful past that she has kept hidden since she was a girl. Her facade of a cool, detached courtesan is nothing like the real person underneath. Olivia is still a frightened little girl, dealing with her fear and throwing up walls around herself that only a select few can breach. Letting Erith in is something she resists at first, but eventually her guard comes down to reveal her vulnerability. But with their own stations in life, can they be anything other than lover and mistress?
I won't go further into the story, as it would reveal the plot and I want you all to read it for yourselves. The characters in this book, down to Erith's daughter, are all flawed and emotional in their own way that brings such reality to the tale. Erith fights to forget his painful past and let go of the guilt that has followed him for years, while Olivia deals with her own demons while wishing for her birthright. Olivia's pain runs so deep that it's hard not to cry along with her. Anna Campbell is the master at creating deep, emotional characters whose stories make you weep with sorrow for them, despite how deplorable they are acting at the time. This story of love above all costs is so beautiful! Tissues are recommended for this one!