Review: A Devil’s Own Luck by Rowan McAllister

William Carey has played many roles in his thirty-two years of life. Though born to privilege, he fled his disapproving family and, purely out of spite, devoted himself to a life of danger and infamy. William never thought twice about his self-destructive behavior until he met a passionate woman who showed him how to harness his rebellious nature and return to London, his family, and society as a respectable gentleman of fortune.

But William’s beloved wife is six years gone, and with her his joie de vivre. William devotes his days to the pursuit of empty pleasure until the night William’s brother asks a small favor by which William meets a young man who ignites a spark in him he’d thought long extinguished.

Stephen is fiery and passionate, handsome and mysterious-exactly what a fallen devil needs to stir the ashes of his heart. Unwilling to lose that spark now that he has found it again, William devises a scheme to claim Stephen for his own, but Stephen is beyond reluctant, with another benefactor and secrets he will not share. William will need more than cunning to win Stephen’s trust and love. He’ll need all the luck he can get.

Review by Erastes

This had an interesting premise, if a little bit tropey—personal companion being “lent” by someone to the main protagonist in exchange for a debt/hate and loathing inevitably turn to lust and then lurve—but I found it hard to get past the opening chapters to find out this much.

The opening I found very stodgy, and the exposition was hard going as it was almost entirely exposition. The beginning chapter was a bit bloated and made the mistake so many books do of explaining so much about the protagonist in one lump instead of just Getting On With The Story. We are told so much and not shown it, when the first section of infodump could have been handled with just one conversation between the rakish William and his pompous brother Horace. In fact it was a good 11 Kindle pages (hard to tell with ebooks!) before a fact popped up to make this possible a different kettle of fish to so many stories set in London 1820.

Sadly, the first chapter goes on in this vein, telling us so much that I began to find it rather tedious. We are told about William’s wife, Williams’ “secret house (which bizarrely he lets his brother’s carriage drive him to) where also bizarrely his his servants, Stubbs and his wife, live and then, when the second chapter opens, he’s at the opera and we missed out on the Stubbs interaction!

The second chapter doesn’t open any more promisingly. We are told how he had

“regretfully informed each of them (three women of easy virtue nicknamed the merry widows) that he had family matters to attend to, they had whispered promises in his ears and ghosted fingers across his body at every possible opportunity.”

This all would have been better as showing. Added to the fact that William has—when entirely alone and: in order:

Chuckled to himself
gave a small wicked smile
Shivered in mock revulsion
Gave a self satisfied grin
Shook his head
Stroked his chin
Shuddered
Smiled sadly
Shuddered (again)
Grinned a little (in a graveyard)
Grimaced (again)
Groaned and adjusted himself
Smiled in spite of his discomfort
Grimaced in distaste (again!)

I seriously fear for his sanity—or his safety because anyone spotting him GURNING the way he is would consider him possessed. All this in just over one chapter. I wish authors would use their observation and see how people behave when they are alone. They don’t groan, smile, grimace etc etc. Not normally, at least and this just makes him look like a loony.

Then when he does seek out the man he wants to get some letters back from – guess what? There’s oodles of more DESCRIPTION. I can honestly say that by this point I was screaming at the book, wanting some actual showing, a conversation – anything. Not just page after page of description. In fact the entire scene of him arriving at the club and seeing his quarry, all of this is dealt with in description. It’s just too much.

However, when eventually something starts to happen it turns into a solid readable erotic romance which I’m sure that readers of the genre will like–and it does improve so much I’m kind of wondering how the beginning wasn’t clubbed by the editor.

The main protagonist, William, is just the kind of hero I like, a bit morally ambiguous, with a dark past who is street savvy and has feet in society and the mean streets. I didn’t mind the instant-love reaction he has to Stephen, because he’s been alone, playing the dissolute loner, for a long time since he lost his much-beloved wife. Despite the stodgy start, I found myself eventually really wishing him well and 80% through the book actually worrying how this would be achieved, despite knowing that it would.

Stephen could have been presented as a weepy wailing omega, but he isn’t. He’s fiesty, angry and prickly–William calls him his hedgehog and prefers him prickly to anything else.

There’s secrets which are (quite rightly) not revealed until the end, and by that point I was totally enjoying the book.

Technically there were a few issues, the editing isn’t top notch, American boo-boos here and there like “block” and “whiskey” and “gotten” but I have to say that despite the doughy beginning I enjoyed reading this and if you like a very erotic gay Regency, you’ll like this a lot.

Details about Rowan McAllister

Buy at: Dreamspinner Press

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