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The Devil's Web (Dell Historical Romance) Mass Market Paperback – December 26, 2007

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Product Details

  • Series: Dell Historical Romance
  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Dell; Reprint edition (December 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440243076
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440243076
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #749,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Mary Balough is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Slightly novels: Slightly Married, Slightly Wicked, Slightly Scandalous, Slightly Tempted, Slightly Sinful, and Slightly Dangerous, as well as the romances No Man’s Mistress, More than a Mistress, and One Night for Love. She is also the author of Simply Magic, Simply Love, and Simply Unforgettable, the first three books in her dazzling quartet of novels set at Miss Martin’s School for Girls. A former teacher herself, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

The cliffs of the south coast of England were visible to larboard, the morning mists having lifted, though the clouds still hung low and heavy and the sea was slate gray and heaving. The Adeona, one of the ships belonging to the North West Company of Canada, was bringing furs to the auction markets of London.

The cliffs of England. Of home.

A clerk of the company, one of those whose task it was to accompany the furs across the Atlantic and to transact the company's business in London, stood at the rail of the ship, one arm propping him against it, the other hand clinging to a taut rope attached to the rigging, his feet planted firmly apart for better balance, and tested the thought in his mind.


Soon he would set his feet again on his native soil, the very soil he had shaken from them four years before without a moment's hesitation. As he had once said to someone in England, though he did not care to remember whom, he had liked the sight of the sea because it represented his escape from England. And he had escaped.

But she had said that perhaps it was from himself he wished to escape and that it could not be done. For wherever he went, however far he ran, he must inevitably take himself along too.

She had been right. He had taken himself to Canada-to Lower Canada to be precise, to Montreal. And since that had not by any means been far enough, then he had become a clerk with the North West Company, a group of merchants and traders in furs, and had taken himself off with a canoe brigade beyond Lower Canada, even beyond the limits of Upper Canada, beyond the limits of civilization.

Three thousand miles beyond Montreal he had journeyed. He had spent three years there, in the Athabasca country, with only a handful of other fur-trading men and the native inhabitants of the country for company.

He could have gone no farther without falling entirely off the end of the world, it had seemed, though some men had crossed the barrier of the mountains and reached the Pacific Ocean. And of course, it was true that he had taken himself every inch of the way. The only difference was that he had come to like himself a little better while that far away from home. While that far away from his memories.

But of course he could not escape memories as effectively as he had escaped from an island. They kept intruding. They were only as far away as his mind. And so he was coming back home for a few months. He might have stayed in the interior for years-most clerks of the company did, earning partnership by slow degrees and hard work. But he had requested, and been granted, a position in Montreal for a year. And because even there he could not be free of his past, he had requested, and been granted, the task of bringing the furs to auction.

And now he was almost back where he had started. Sometimes the mist and the water met so that he could no longer see the cliffs of southern England, but he knew they were there. And the Adeona was taking him very surely to London.

He did not want to be there. Or in any other part of England. Least of all in Yorkshire, where he had lived most of his life. But he would not go there. He would be working in London. There would be no time to make the ultimate journey home. And there was no point. There was nothing to be gained by going back there.

That particular episode in his life was long in the past. Long ago in his youth, when one could be expected to make mistakes. He had made one-more than one, perhaps-and he had tried to put it right. Tried until he had thought he was going mad. And failed. There was nothing he could do about it now.

It would be better to stay away from there. He was coming back to England. Surely that was enough. There was no need to worry the wound until it was quite raw again.

And yet it was that very episode from his youth that he sometimes thought would always prevent him from being entirely free.

He would not think of it. The sea was choppy. He looked down into its gray depths as the ship beneath his feet dipped and heaved. And he took off his beaver hat, which had been pulled low over his brow, in order to let the damp wind blow through his dark, overlong hair.

He probably would not have to go home to Yorkshire in order to see his parents. They would doubtless be in London to see him, and probably staying with Alex. Alex! Yes, for years before he left for Canada his sister had been the most important person in his world. She had married the Earl of Amberley after his departure and now had a son and a daughter. He longed to see them-and her, of course. It was surely worth coming home just to see Alex and discover if she had found the happiness she had never known as a girl.

She had never been allowed to be happy then. Neither had he. They had had the misfortune to have a father whose firmly held religious beliefs led him to eliminate all enjoyment from life, both for himself and for his family. And of course, there had been the dreadful quarrel between himself and his father, unresolved before he left and surely unresolvable now.

James Purnell sighed and looked up to the dimly visible cliffs of England again. Why was it that it was possible to hate and to love both at the same time? How was it that he could hate his father and reject all that he stood for and resent what his father had done to his life and to Alex's and yet at the same time love him and crave his understanding and his approval? He was a man of thirty years, and yet he seemed to have a child's need for a parent's affection.


A light and welcome voice broke in on his thoughts, and he turned to watch the careful and somewhat unsteady approach of a small, slim girl whose brown hair was neatly confined beneath her bonnet and whose shapely form was concealed behind the folds of a heavy cloak. Her lips smiled, and her cheeks were already rosy from the freshness of the wind. Her eyes were sparkling.

"Duncan knocked on my door to tell Miss Hendricks and me that the coast of England was visible," she said, as he took her elbow in a firm clasp and guided her to the rail, where she would have something firm and safe to cling to. "And I saw immediately through the porthole that it was true. I simply had to come up on deck for a better look. England, James! I can scarce believe it."

"Your first sight of it, Jean," he said, smiling indulgently. "I can remember my first sight of Canada four years ago. I know just the excitement you are feeling."

She smiled up at him before returning her wide-eyed gaze to the distant cliffs. "It has been worth it after all," she said. "The dreadful food and the incessant motion and Miss Hendricks sick almost from the moment of our embarking." She giggled. "She has not been much of a chaperone after all, has she, the poor dear?"

"But you have had your brother to watch after you," he said.

She breathed in a deep lungful of salty air and closed her eyes. "I am so happy that Father said I could come with Duncan to join him in London," she said. "I have always wanted to see London. Is it really the most exciting city in the world?"

James Purnell smiled again. "I have not seen many of the rest of them to make comparisons," he said. "But I suppose it is exciting, if you like that type of excitement."

"You have a sister here, don't you?" she said. "And parents. You must be very happy about seeing them again."

"Yes." He gazed at the cliffs with dark, inscrutable eyes. "I was always extremely fond of Alex. She is five years younger than I. And my mother will be pleased to see me, I think."

The girl wrinkled her nose. "Well, of course she will," she said. "Will they be in London? I would dearly like to meet your family."

He looked down at her. "I have no idea," he said. "I may have to travel down into Hampshire to see my sister. She is married to the Earl of Amberley. He has a large estate close to the sea. We will doubtless sail almost within sight of their home."

"She is a countess?" she asked, her eyes widening. "You did not mention that before. And your father is a baron, is he not?"

"Lord Beckworth," he said.

"It must be wonderful to be someone of some importance in London," she said. "To have entry to all the most fashionable gatherings. And this is the time of the Season, is it not?"

"June?" he said. "So it is. But your father is not precisely a nobody, Jean. Douglas Cameron, partner in the company, respected merchant. You will have an opportunity to enjoy yourself, never fear."

"Perhaps," she said with a sigh. "But he is not exactly high ton, is he? Far from it. I suppose you are. Or were. And will be again as soon as you set foot on English ground. You are very fortunate."

"Yes," he said.

He had spent his first year in the Athabasca country with Duncan Cameron, the girl's brother. Naturally enough, when he had discovered his old friend in Montreal two years later, they had renewed their friendship. And he had become acquainted with Jean Cameron. He had not seen a great deal of her, as she had only recently finished her schooling at a convent, though her family was not Catholic.

Her presence on board ship had been like a breath of fresh air. Her spirits had not been dampened either by the tedium of the long days or by the indisposition of her chaperone, Miss Hendricks, a schoolmistress who was returning to England to keep house for a recently widowed brother. Jean Cameron had spent a great deal of her time with her brother and with him. She treated him almost as if he were another brother, but he was not sure he could see her as a sister. On several occasions he had resisted with some effort the urge to kiss her.


More About the Author

Mary Balogh is the New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Slightly novels: Slightly Married, Slightly Wicked, Slightly Scandalous, Slightly Tempted, Slightly Sinful, and Slightly Dangerous, as well as the romances No Man's Mistress, More than a Mistress, and One Night for Love. She is also the author of Simply Love, Simply Unforgettable, Simply Magic, and Simply Perfect, her dazzling quartet of novels set at Miss Martin's School for Girls. A former teacher herself, she grew up in Wales and now lives in Canada.

Customer Reviews

The two main characters don't like each other.
Amazon Customer
I actually just decided to stop reading it, about 80 pages from the end, because I can't bear how unendingly depressing it is.
The book was an amazing read as are all of Balogh's books.
Sandra Lea Rice

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Kathy Kaiser VINE VOICE on December 31, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
While other reviewers were disheartened by the struggles the main characters experience throughout this story, I found the book perfectly understandable and appreciated the continuity that Balogh is brave enough to create and publish. If you had read the other two books, you would realize that this final story would be the most difficult of the three love stories. Balogh left the character of James for the end because he had the most inner hubris to overcome and work through. I've read enough Balogh books to realize that her characterization is always consistent. She won't compromise character traits or inner struggles that she gives them in previous books. I was eager to see how she would help James resolve his guilt and overcome his difficult upbringing. She's 'right on' in his reticence, fear of love, and in the ways he would treat Madeleine. I also realize, however, that I was girding myself for a difficult read when I purchased Devil's Web. I, like others, much prefer a more light-hearted romance. This is an older book, and I think that Balogh has matured as a writer over the last 17 years. She does keep getting better and better, but I have a hard time seeing readers give her such low marks when she is by far one of the best writers writing romance these days.
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48 of 56 people found the following review helpful By MaryGrace Meloche on September 20, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Mary Balogh first introduced Madeline and James, to her readers, in THE GILDED WEB. And oh how well the author intrigued her readers with this couple -- so skillfully setting the stage for their story. So skillfully, that when I finally tracked down James and Madeline on the secondary market I immediately placed my order. After all, what are a few, big dollars? I JUST HAD to find out what happened to this couple. Mary, Mary, Mary! Oh my goodness! James and Madeline's story, THE DEVIL'S WEB, is a disheartening read. It is the story of two combatants, two people who should never have married! I don't care how much Balogh claims they share a hidden love deep in their hearts! The depth is too great! These two people FIGHT, FIGHT, and FIGHT some more, and when they are not fighting they ignore each other!

An overzealous religious father raised James Purnell. Love and friendship raised Madeline Raine. Everyone liked her -- everyone except James Purnell. "Obsession" is the key word in this novel. A novel about two people who share this unwanted emotion, two people who can't let go, two people who drag each other through the gutter of despair.

No doubt, Mary Balogh can write a story. Her writing skills are always first-rate. She pulls her reader into a story. There is no question Mary Balogh is one of my all-time favorite authors. I don't think there is anyone else who can write such diversified characters as this lady! Balogh's "Signet Regency" collection may be similar in setting but each story is OH SO different. Would I recommend THIS particular story? Only if you are reading the entire "Raine series" and you want closure . . . Grade: C

Publish date: August 1990

Grace Atkinson, Ontario - Canada.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By P Tupper on January 10, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I loved this book, the characters, and the situations. I agonized through the main characters inability to talk to each other. I ached as they watched others have the type of lives they wanted but did not know how to achieve. My heart broke for James as he tried to break through to his father, knowing it was impossible. And I absolutlely LOVED how Balough wove all the different aspects of love throughout this story with the lives and reactions of the different characters. I think this is one of my favorite Balough books. I don't understand how others could see it as anything other than affirming the ability to overcome the most crippling of psychological obstacles in an attempt to find freedom in the ability to express love. I will re-read this book down the road, and I will enjoy every one of the interwoven love stories that each open the door for James and Madeline to be able to share themselves.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 26, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I do enjoy a relationship that needs work - truly, I do. That's why I finished this book at all. The characters spent the entire time fighting over things that if they had just sat down and had a real talk together, they would have resolved in ten minutes. But I was okay with that, because people don't always act as they should and I thought it was realistic.

What wasn't realistic was the ending. I firmly believe that if you tell your husband you're pregnant and his response is basically "Is it mine?" then that is not the beginning of an instant reconciliation. It's the beginning of a divorce, or at least a prolonged estrangement. I was happy that they were happy in the end, but I was convinced that two weeks later they'd be back to not speaking to each other again. Not a good taste for a romance novel to leave in your mouth.

Read "One Night for Love" or "A Summer To Remember" instead. This is not a good place to start with Balogh.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By elise on July 17, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I will admit that Balogh is not my favorite author and this book is definitely not a new release. It had been sitting on my bookshelf for a few years, so I finally decided to pick it up. I'm sort of sorry I did. It took me weeks to slog through this book.

Balogh is a proficient writer and a decent storyteller, but there was absolutely nothing about this book that sets it apart. The story doesn't leap off the page, in fact it's fairly plodding.

I have not read the book where the characters are first introduced and this book relies heavily on the events of that book. Luckily (or not) Balogh finds time in the 400+ pages to eventually fill the readers in on exactly what happened. The problem is, even when you finally find out, there's little to explain the inexplicable pull these two character have toward one another.

Balogh tells us over and over again that the characters can't live without one another, but there is very little within the story to make me believe these two wanted to spend more than two minutes in the same room with one another.

On the outside, the relationship is nothing but strife while inside the two characters are aching to open up to one another. That is not something I necessarily see as a problem. I thought that was a nice bit of characterization with a decent amount of insight into the human condition. However, my biggest problem was the sheer volume of contrived misunderstandings. One after another after another after another when all one character would have had to have done was ask for a tiny bit of clarification and the angst and argument would have been moot. But no, it was easier for the characters to make these asinine and rash assumptions.
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