In Total Surrender
By Anne Mallory
Release Date: September 27, 2011
As a creature of light, warm and affectionate, who connects easily to others, Phoebe is Merrick’s opposite, but she is a match for him in intelligence, loyalty, and strength of will. She displays not only extraordinary competence in covering for her father’s absence but also admirable tenacity and courage in her refusal to be intimidated by Merrick. It’s rare to find humor in a story that has such darkness at its core, but Merrick’s responses to Phoebe’s persistence and his unwilling consciousness of her presence, no matter how determined he is to ignore her, are amusing. She keeps escaping from the narrow confines he uses to define her, and his control over his responses to her keeps slipping. In one scene he finds that she has entered his office, despite three locks.
As their relationship builds, Merrick, who trusts almost no one, begins to trust Phoebe even as his growing feelings for her impinge upon his carefully constructed view of himself. She becomes more important than the hunger for revenge that had driven him for most of his life. But even as his enemies are destroyed and questions about his past answered in surprising ways, one secret remains, one that could cause Phoebe to leave him in his darkness.
Mallory crafts a complex hero and heroine who are larger together than they are separately. Merrick is a tortured hero both as the result of evil visited upon him in his childhood and as a consequence of the need for revenge that has consumed him. Because much of the book is in his point of view, the reader understands Merrick’s darkness and his futile struggle to resist Phoebe’s ability to lift the darkness. Phoebe is just as unusual. She possesses a sweetness that could have been cloying had it not been tempered with strength and a remarkable clarity of vision.
The weakness in the novel is that Merrick and Phoebe are such splendid characters and the interaction between them so compelling that everything else pales in comparison. The secondary characters lack dimension. Even the villain seems a toothless tiger, still roaring but essentially powerless. The best moments aside from the dance between Merrick and Phoebe occur when Roman, Merrick’s brother and hero of an earlier book, One Night Is Never Enough (March 2011), briefly appears.
Have you read any of Anne Mallory's Secrets books? Who's your favorite tortured hero?