SPOILER ALERT!

Devil's Due

Devil's Due - Phyllis Bottome

She was a woman who had wanted to be free; and had paid her own price for it. Max had no objection to her freedom. On the contrary, it would make his own course of action simpler. He would not have respected her scruples, but he would respect her pluck.

I may have turned to Bottome's books because of the connection with Ian Fleming (who lived with Bottome and her husband when he was a troubled teen), but having read several of her novels now, I have to admit that there is something about them that I really enjoy. 

 

That something that keeps me coming back to her books is, I assume, her way of looking at the world around her and reflecting that outlook in her books. She was daringly modern, and refreshingly individualistic, especially for the time period that she wrote in.

 

I say I assume that this is what draws me to the books because it certainly is not the plotting and - oh my god - it is definitely not the writing... Bottome was a writer who managed to gift us the following:

Plunged into fathomless sleep, Mariandel became conscious that a chicken was tapping at its shell. It tapped this side, it tapped that, but the darkness of the shell held it in. She began to be afraid that its beak was too soft, or the shell too hard, and that it would never get out. Tap! tap! tap! No! that was no chicken!

You see what I mean about the writing. I still have flashbacks to that chicken dream.

 

Yet, at the same time, she also gave us a cast of characters who are brilliantly faulty and brilliantly human, and who all struggle between doing the right thing, the easy thing, and the expected thing. 

 

Devil's Due was written in 1931, which is something I had to keep in mind when reading this.

 

The story is about an Austrian nobleman who had lost his fortune at cards, and who tries to make his way back to the life of luxury by any which way he can, which is mostly being a cad. One day, he meets his match in a young noblewoman who nearly ran him over when skiing. As it turns out, she falls for him but doesn't want a relationship  - 1931!!! - and she is perfectly fine with him being married, not asking his wife for a divorce (because he wants her to at least have the benefit of his title after he squandered her dowry - such a great guy....*insert eye roll*), until a divorce cannot be avoided (there is another man...and a messy love octagon).

Long story short, they get married, he's still a cad, she despairs, he re-marries his ex-wife.

 

The plot is odd...but not as odd as Murder in the Bud...but where the story comes to shine is, again, in the characters' acceptance that they need to break with the social norms in order to find some happiness in their lives. And they did, it just wasn't to be a HEA. 

 

I really enjoyed this, except for the odd eye-roll here and there, but I fully know that her later books were better and this isn't quite one of the better ones, yet. It does show all the potential, tho. 

 

As with The Lifeline, Devil's Due also has an Ian Fleming connection. Fleming lived with the Bottome's for a while when his mother was fed up with his antics, and he was fed up with the antics of his mother. He was a troubled teen, started philandering quite early, and caused all sorts of mischief. He did look up to Bottome and her husband as quasi parents, however, and - trusting Pam Hirsch's biography of Bottome, they remained life-long friends. Bottome clearly saw a lot of potential in Fleming, and in Devil's Due, she based one of the more likeable characters - a very natural young ski instructor - on Fleming, who will play a pivotal role at the end of the story.

 

Still, I could not help but picture the below, every time Fleming's character appeared on the scene:

 

(Photo found in Pam Hirsch's The Constant Liberal: The Life and Work of Phyllis Bottome)