Tag Archive | Sabrina Jeffries

The Pleasures of Passion (Sinful Suitors #4) by Sabrina Jeffries

Purchase Now from Amazon

When Niall Lindsey, the Earl of Margrave, is forced to flee after killing a man in a duel, he expects his secret love, Brilliana Trevor, to go with him, or at the very least wait for him. To his shock, she does neither and sends him off with no promise for the future. Seven years and one pardon later, Niall returns to England disillusioned and cynical. And being blackmailed by the government into working with his former love to help catch a counterfeiter connected to her father doesn’t improve his mood any. But as his role as Brilliana’s fake fiancé brings his long-buried feelings to the surface once again, he wonders who is more dangerous—the counterfeiter or the woman rapidly stealing his heart.

Forced to marry another man after Niall was exiled, the now widowed Brilliana wants nothing to do with the reckless rogue who she believes abandoned her to a dreary, loveless life. So having to rely on him to save her father is the last thing she wants, much less trusts him with….But as their scheme strips away the lies and secrets of their shared past, can she let go of the old hurt and put her pride aside? Or will the pleasures of their renewed passion finally enable them both to rediscover love?

Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Books, June 2017
Time and Setting: London, 1830
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Review Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Sara

The Pleasures of Passion surprised me. I didn’t expect to end up liking the story for its heroine, Brilliana Trevor. Bree was introduced in The Danger of Desire, book three of the Sinful Suitors series as a widow and mother trying to pick up the pieces of her life after her husband died unexpectedly. She didn’t come across as especially sympathetic considering that she admits to her sister-in-law that she never loved her husband. I felt Bree was a weak character and wasn’t very excited to read a whole story about her reuniting with the man she’s always carried a torch for. Fortunately Sabrina Jeffries does a good job within the first few pages of Bree’s story to show just how strong a person she could be.

Miss Brilliana Payne was only seventeen years old when she fell in love. While visiting Bath so her invalid mother could take the waters, Bree met Niall Lindsey at one of the few social gatherings she was allowed to attend. Niall was everything that Brilliana had hoped for in a suitor; kind, attentive and he made her feel that her middle-class upbringing was not a problem for him as the heir to an earldom. The one flaw in Niall’s perfection was his reluctance to introduce her to his family or to meet with her father to ask for her hand. When she receives an urgent message from Niall, Bree is certain that he will finally declare himself and they can begin planning for a future together. Sadly, Niall’s reasons for a quick meeting are because he was involved in a duel and has to flee the country to protect himself. Bree’s heart is torn in two when Niall pleads for her to go with him; however she cannot leave her sick mother alone with her feckless father. Unable to choose between her family and her future, Bree tells Niall that she won’t leave England with him now but hopes they can be reunited soon.

Months after Niall’s departure, Bree’s life takes an unexpected turn. Her father’s gambles and loses big to another gentleman who suggests that he’ll forgive the debt if Brilliana marries his son, Reynold Trevor. With no word from Niall and hoping to protect her mother from ruin, Bree has no choice but to accept the marriage. The intervening years are difficult for Bree as, while she likes her new husband, she can’t love him. The best thing to come from their marriage is a son; however his arrival is bittersweet as Reynold dies not long after his birth. As a widow, Bree gains a bit of freedom, but years of protecting herself from men who took advantage of her (like her father) have made Bree reluctant to begin a new relationship. Nothing can prepare her for the shock she experiences when she is suddenly reunited with the one man she’s spent seven years trying to forget.

Niall Lindsey, now the Earl of Margrave, spent his years in exile working with the Home Office as a spy within the social circles of Spain. When his superior, Lord Fulkham, finally found a way to get him pardoned it was a welcome relief to escape the world of espionage. Of course, a great spymaster never really lets an asset get away and Niall is soon recruited to uncover evidence of a counterfeiter passing fake banknotes at several gambling hells. All signs point to Sir Oswald Payne being the culprit and Niall is tasked with getting close to the man to find proof of his counterfeiting. Lord Fulkham tells Niall that the easiest way to gain the man’s trust is to use his daughter as a means of introduction and doesn’t give Niall any chance to escape a reunion with the former Miss Payne. Seeing Brilliana again after seven years brings back all the painful memories of her betrayal when he needed her support. Learning from his father that Brilliana married another while Niall was alone on the Continent was a crushing blow to his heart from which he has never quite recovered.

Reluctantly, Niall and Bree agree to fake an engagement as cover for their mission to ingratiate themselves with Sir Oswald. Their forced closeness reopens many old wounds but also triggers a re-examination of the misunderstandings and actions that led to their separation years before. What is quickly discovered is that the love Bree and Niall held for each other never really died; however it may be impossible to rekindle as Niall is still holding some secrets close to his chest and Bree finds it very hard to trust him with her heart a second time.

The Pleasures of Passion is a good story that sometimes gets lost in its repetitiveness. Brilliana and Niall have trust issues in their early relationship and once they’re reunited those same trust issues are the obstacle in the way of their rekindled romance. Niall withholds things from Bree right up until the bitter end rather than taking a leap of faith that she would understand why he had kept her in the dark for so long. One could argue that he had lived for seven years protecting his family’s honor and it was a difficult habit to break; however it unnecessarily strains their relationship. Bree finds it hard to let go of the past as a small part of her feels the life for which she was destined was taken away because of her father’s, her husband’s and even Niall’s actions. There wouldn’t be a story if Bree just fell over and accepted Niall’s apologies and let him back into her heart, but she is constantly wondering if Niall really loves her or will be there if things go wrong in the case against her father. Fortunately, readers know from Niall’s viewpoint that he’s ready to commit to her no matter the circumstances, so we play along with her uncertainties until she can see that, too.

The counterfeiting storyline is actually a great way to get Niall and Brilliana to talk to each other and Ms. Jeffries keeps the reader guessing about the identity of the real criminal. Having the investigation always a part of the conversation works to move the story further but also lays the groundwork for the next two books in the Sinful Suitors series. The Pleasures of Passion is a stronger story than the last book and I hope to see this upward trend continue.

SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: The Pleasures of Passion (Sinful Suitors #4) by Sabrina Jeffries

Purchase Now from Amazon

When Niall Lindsey, the Earl of Margrave, is forced to flee after killing a man in a duel, he expects his secret love, Brilliana Trevor, to go with him, or at the very least wait for him. To his shock, she does neither and sends him off with no promise for the future. Seven years and one pardon later, Niall returns to England disillusioned and cynical. And being blackmailed by the government into working with his former love to help catch a counterfeiter connected to her father doesn’t improve his mood any. But as his role as Brilliana’s fake fiancé brings his long-buried feelings to the surface once again, he wonders who is more dangerous—the counterfeiter or the woman rapidly stealing his heart.

Forced to marry another man after Niall was exiled, the now widowed Brilliana wants nothing to do with the reckless rogue who she believes abandoned her to a dreary, loveless life. So having to rely on him to save her father is the last thing she wants, much less trusts him with….But as their scheme strips away the lies and secrets of their shared past, can she let go of the old hurt and put her pride aside? Or will the pleasures of their renewed passion finally enable them both to rediscover love?

add-to-goodreads-button

EXCERPT

Seventeen-year-old Brilliana Payne shoved the note from Lord Margrave’s heir—Niall Lindsey—into her pocket. Then she slipped into her mother’s bedchamber. “Mama,” she whispered. “Are you awake?”

Her mother jerked her head up from amid the satin covers and feather pillows like a startled deer. Brilliana winced to see her mother’s lips drawn with pain and her eyes dulled by laudanum, even in mid-afternoon.

“What do you need, love?” Mama asked in her usual gentle voice.

Oh, how she loathed deceiving Mama. But until her suitor spoke to his parents about their marrying, she had to keep the association secret.

“I’m going for my walk in Green Park.” Where Niall, my love, will join me. “Do you need anything?”

Despite her pain, Mama smiled. “Not now, my dear. You go enjoy yourself. And tell Gilly to make sure you don’t stray near the woods.”

“Of course.”

What a lie. The woods were where she would meet Niall, where Gilly would keep watch to make sure no one saw him and Brilliana together. Thank heaven her maid was utterly loyal to her.

Brilliana started to leave, then paused. “Um. Papa said he won’t be home until evening.” Which meant he wouldn’t be home until he’d lost all his money at whatever game he was playing tonight. “Are you sure you don’t need me?”

She dearly hoped not. Niall’s note had struck her with dread, partly because he rarely wrote to her. Usually he just met her at Green Park for her daily stroll when he could get away from friends or family. Something must be wrong.

Still, it shouldn’t take more than an hour to find out what. And perhaps let him steal a kiss or two.

She blushed. Niall was very good at that.
“I’ll be fine,” Mama said tightly. “I have my medicine right here.”

Guilt swamped Brilliana. “If you’re sure . . .”

“Go, dear girl! I’m just planning to sleep, anyway.”

That was all the encouragement Brilliana needed to hurry out.

A short while later, she and Gilly were in Green Park waiting at the big oak for Niall.

“Did he say why he wanted to meet, miss?” Gilly asked.

“No. Just that it was urgent. And it had to be today.”

“Perhaps he means to propose at last.”

Her breath caught. “I doubt it. He would have approached Papa if that were the case.”

Gilly’s face fell. “Then you’d best take care. ’Cause if he spends as much time with the soiled doves as I’ve heard—”

“He’s not like that,” Brilliana said. “Not with me.”

Except for those lovely kisses. But he was respectful otherwise. Besides, the gossips always painted a scandalous picture—that’s why they were called gossips—but through weeks of secret meetings, she’d seen his character, and it was a good one. She was sure of it.

“There you are,” said a masculine voice behind them. “Thank God you came.”

Her heart leapt as she turned to see Niall striding up to them. At twenty-three, he was quite the handsomest man she’d ever known—lean-hipped and tall and possessed of the most gorgeous hazel eyes, which changed color from cedar-brown to olive-green depending on the light. And his unruly mop of gold-streaked walnut-hued hair made her itch to set it to rights.

Though she didn’t dare be so forward in front of Gilly. Not until she and Niall were formally betrothed. Assuming that ever happened.

Offering Brilliana his arm, he cast Gilly a pointed glance. “I’ll need a few minutes alone with your mistress. Will you keep watch?”

Gilly curtsied deeply. “Of course, my lord.”

Normally, her maid balked a little at that, though she gave in at the end, but she was obviously eager to give Niall a chance to propose.

Indeed, his behavior did signal that today wasn’t like their usual meetings. Without any of his usual pleasantries, he led Brilliana into the woods to the little clearing where they usually talked.

All her joy in the meeting vanished. “You do realize how fortunate we are that Gilly is a romantic. Otherwise, she would never let us do these things.”

“I know, Bree.” Though he was the only one to call her that, she rather liked the nickname. It made her sound carefree when she felt anything but.

He halted well out of earshot of Gilly. “And then I wouldn’t get the chance to do this.”

He drew her into his arms for a long, ardent kiss, and she melted. If he was kissing her, he obviously didn’t mean to break with her. As long as they had this between them . . .

But it was over far too soon. And when he drew back to stare at her with a haunted look, her earlier dread returned.

“What’s wrong?” she whispered.

Glancing away, he mumbled a decidedly ungentlemanly oath. “You are going to be furious with me.”

She fought to ignore the alarm knotting her belly. “I could never be furious with you. What has happened? Just tell me.”

“This morning I fought a duel.”

“What?” Her heart dropped into her stomach. Good Lord. How could that be? “I-I don’t understand.” She must have heard him wrong. Surely the man she’d fallen in love with wasn’t the violent sort.

“I killed a man, Bree. In a duel.”

She hadn’t misheard him, then. Still scarcely able to believe it, she roamed the little clearing, her blood like sludge in her veins. “What on earth would even make you do such a thing?”

“It doesn’t matter.” He threaded his fingers through his sun-kissed hair. “It’s done, and now I risk being hanged.”

Hanged? Why would he be—

Of course. Dueling was considered murder. Her heart stilled. Her love was a murderer. And now he could die, too!

“So I’m leaving England tonight,” he went on. “For good.”

The full ramifications of all he’d told her hit her. “You . . . you’re leaving England,” she echoed hollowly. And me.

His gaze met hers. “Yes. And I want you to go with me.”

GIVEAWAY

ENTER TO WIN AN eCOPY OF THE PLEASURES OF PASSION. THE GIVEAWAY IS OPEN FOR SEVEN DAYS AND THE WINNER WILL BE NOTIFIED SHORTLY AFTER THE CLOSING DATE.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sabrina Jeffries is the New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 novels and works of short fiction (some written under the pseudonyms Deborah Martin and Deborah Nicholas).

At home in front of a crowd, Jeffries is a sought-after speaker, as evidenced by her 2010 gig as emcee for the National Romance Writers of America’s 30th Anniversary Awards Ceremony.

Whatever time not spent speaking to organizations around the country or writing in a coffee-fueled haze is spent traveling with her husband and adult autistic son or indulging in one of her passions—jigsaw puzzles, chocolate, and music.

With over 9 million books in print in more than 20 languages, the North Carolina author never regrets tossing aside a budding career in academics (she has a Ph.D. in English literature) for the sheer joy of writing fun fiction, and hopes that one day a book of hers will end up saving the world.

She always dreams big.

https://www.facebook.com/SabrinaJeffriesAuthor
https://twitter.com/SabrinaJeffries
https://www.pinterest.com/sabrinajeffries/
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/50886.Sabrina_Jeffries
https://www.instagram.com/authorsabrinajeffries/

The Danger of Desire (Sinful Suitors #3) by Sabrina Jeffries – PLUS A GIVEAWAY!

!rhe-danger-of-desire

Purchase Now from Amazon

To root out the card cheat responsible for her brother’s death, Miss Delia Trevor spends her evenings dancing her way through high society balls, and her late nights disguised as a young man gambling her way through London’s gaming hells. Then one night, handsome Warren Corry, the Marquess of Knightford, a notorious member of St. George’s Club, recognizes her. When he threatens to reveal her secret, she’s determined to keep him from ruining her plans, even if it means playing a cat-and-mouse game with the enigmatic rakehell.

Warren knows the danger of her game, and he refuses to watch her lose everything while gaining justice for her late brother. But when she starts to delve beneath his carefully crafted façade, can he keep her at arm’s length while still protecting her? Or will their hot desires explode into a love that transcends the secrets of their pasts?

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Books, November 2016
Time and Setting: England 1830
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Caz

This third book in Sabrina Jeffries’ Sinful Suitors features Warren Corry, the Marquess of Knightford, a man whose many and varied amorous exploits have earned him the reputation as a scoundrel of the highest order. Readers met Warren – briefly – in the previous book, The Study of Seduction, when he asked his best friend, Edwin, the Earl of Blakeborough, to keep an eye on his ward, Clarissa while he (Warren) saw to some important business abroad. Warren and Edwin are old friends and members of the St. George’s Club, a gentleman’s club like most others but whose members banded together with the aim of protecting their female relatives from fortune hunters, gamblers, womanisers and other unscrupulous men by regularly sharing information about the men of their acquaintance.

When Warren’s cousin Clarissa – now happily married to Edwin – asks him to see if any of the club members has heard any gossip about her friend, Delia Trevor, he is not keen at first, believing her request to be a poorly disguised matchmaking attempt. But when Clarissa explains that she is concerned because her friend has been behaving rather oddly of late, Warren takes notice and agrees to help. Having recently discovered what befell Clarissa in her début Season (she was stalked and assaulted by a suitor), Warren feels guilty for not having protected her, and, determined never to let another woman go through something similar, he agrees to see what he can find out.

Miss Delia Trevor has come to London for the Season not, as her aunt believes, to find herself a husband, but in order to discover the identity of the man who cheated her late brother out of a large sum of money and drove him to suicide. The only information she has to go on is the name of the gambling den at which Reynold last played and the fact that his lordly opponent had a sun tattoo on his wrist. So every evening, she disguises herself in man’s attire and sneaks out of the house, making her way to the hell accompanied by a trusty servant in the attempt to draw out the card cheat.

Delia is annoyed, therefore, when the Marquess of Knightford starts to take an interest in her and starts popping up at inconvenient moments and asking awkward questions. She knows she isn’t the sort of woman likely to attract him – her bosom is too small, her hips too wide and she has gone out of her way to dress in the most unflattering manner possible to put off any potential suitors – so she is immediately suspicious of his motives for flirting with her and singling her out.

Warren quickly discovers that Miss Trevor is not at all the simpering miss he had expected and is immediately intrigued by her reluctance to have anything to do with him. He finds he rather likes her waspish tongue, and her attempts to put him off only serve to put him on the alert as he realises that Clarissa’s concerns are not unfounded. Suspicious of Delia’s interactions with a servant, he waits outside her townhouse at night in the belief she has arranged an illicit assignation, only to be confused when the servant appears accompanied by a shabbily dressed boy. He follows the pair, ending up at one of London’s less salubrious gaming establishments where he discovers the reasons behind Delia’s evasiveness – the shabbily dressed boy is not a boy at all, but Miss Delia Trevor in disguise.

Warren is furious with Delia for putting herself in danger both physically and in terms of her reputation, and irritated that she will not confide in him or let him help. He is also aware that what began as curiosity liberally sprinkled with a helping of lust is turning into something else. He can’t stop thinking about Delia or stop wanting her, and while he’s bedded more than his fair share of women, he doesn’t dally with marriageable debutantes or respectable ladies, so he can’t understand his sudden fascination with a woman who is both those things. And Deila’s reaction to the handsome Marquess – most especially to his delicious, arousing kisses – is something she had never expected to experience, but once sampled, is quite helpless to resist.

The romance between Warren and Delia is nicely done, with plenty of verbal sparring and crackling sexual tension between them. While Warren is determined to discover Delia’s secrets, he is equally determined to prevent her from discovering his own, which have resulted in the debilitating nightmares he has suffered for most of his life. Believing them to be a sign of weakness, he has concealed them even from his own family, preferring instead to spend his nights in the company of whores or out gaming or drinking and then to sleep during the day when the dreams do not assail him. But when he and Delia are discovered in a compromising position and forced to marry, keeping his darkest fears from his new wife is going to be an enormous challenge, and one that could potentially derail their fledgling marriage before it has really begun.

While the romance is the main focus of the novel, Delia’s search for the card cheat is not forgotten, although the resolution to that plotline comes rather out of left-field, and is quite convoluted. There is no real build-up to the discovery of that person’s identity, and while explanations are given, anyone who hasn’t read the previous book might end up feeling confused, as the reasons behind the cheater’s actions relate directly to a character who has been hovering “off screen” in the background in the last two books, and whose story we will be getting in the next in the series. So while on the one hand, it’s quite a clever idea to relate the stories in this way, on the other, it feels somewhat contrived and as though it has been done purely to set up the next book. It also negates much of what Delia has gone through in her quest for justice for her brother and denies her any real sense of closure about his death; forgiveness comes very easily in order to satisfy the demands of the plot.

The Danger of Desire doesn’t break any new ground, but is nonetheless an entertaining read that is populated by well-drawn, attractive characters who are just a little different from the norm. While Warren is a rakish, marriage-avoidance minded bachelor, his motivations for eschewing the married state are other than the usual miserable-example-provided-by-parents, or earlier-relationship-gone-sour; and Delia’s talents at the card-table and her backstory as the daughter of a gambler lend depth to her character and explain her reluctance to trust. The ending is somewhat rushed, but the romance is given time to develop and Delia and Warren make a well-matched couple. I enjoyed the story in spite of my reservations, and am looking forward to the final book in the series.

GIVEAWAY

enter-to-win-image

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Stormswept by Sabrina Jeffries

stormswept
Purchase Now from Amazon.

The first wedding night that Lady Juliana St. Albans spent with the dark and daring Rhys Vaughan was intoxicating, the heady culmination of her new husband’s driving hunger and her own awakened sensuality. When he mysteriously disappeared the next morning, she waited for him in hope and desperation. And when he was finally proclaimed dead in a shipwreck, she bitterly mourned the loss of her love.

The second wedding night that Juliana spent with Rhys Vaughan was six years later, after he returned to claim her just as she was about to wed another. This Rhys was different—bolder, harder, and convinced that she’d betrayed him. Only their blazing passion remains from their years apart. But is it enough to light their way through the maze of mystery, menace, and mistrust—to the love they once shared and would have to find again?

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release date: Pocket Books, July 2016

Time and setting: England & Wales 1777/1783
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5

Review by Lady Cicley

Lady Juliana St. Albans has a tendency to land herself in trouble and then run away, something she has found herself doing quite frequently. First, when she attends a meeting of the secret political society, the Sons of Wales and then makes her escape only to find herself face to face with Rhys Vaughan, the son of the man that people say her father cheated out of his estate. Second, the following morning when Rhys shows up on her doorstep and outs her to her father who promises punishment; and finally when she finds herself running away with the man who has captured her heart in such a short time. Her heart soars with their wedding night only to break the next morning when she learns of his impressment on a warship. With her husband’s disappearance she agrees to her family’s wishes in keeping her marriage a secret with a demand of her own.

Rhys Vaughn grew up bowing to his father’s wishes: only speaking the English language, attending the best English schools, and touring the continent like a true English son. Even so, Rhys’ heart will always be Welsh. This has led him to this meeting of the secret group, Sons of Wales; a meeting where a bewitching lass catches his eye. A lass that soon earns his mistrust when he finds out she is the daughter of the man who stole his inheritance. Yet she is bewitching, and before long, Rhys and Juliana are meeting in secret and agreeing to run away together.

For six years Juliana has never lost hope that her husband will return. A hope that dies when her brother’s investigator tells her that her husband is dead. Now a widow Juliana bows to her brother’s wishes and agrees to marry another; at least until the impossible happens the night of her engagement ball.

Rhys has had six long years to harden his heart and let his mistrust of Juliana grow. When Rhys returns he is intent on claiming what is his and meting out just punishment, but the wife he finds is no longer the young girl who ran away from her troubles. She’s a woman who will fight for what she wants and can give as good as she gets but is that enough to break through his calloused heart and earn his trust? Can Rhys ever learn to trust her again and does Juliana even want him any more?

Juliana’s initial refusal to submit to the wishes of her family following her husband’s disappearance hints at the woman she will become. I admired the growth and independence that she achieves in the years after Rhys’ disappearance and sympathized with her shock upon his return. The determination she shows in her desire to regain Rhys’ love and trust is another point to be admired, which makes her slip into despair when she realizes she may never have it again all the more heartbreaking.

Rhys’ pain and suffering, along with the lies he was told, make his thirst for revenge understandable and he thinks he has the perfect plan. He suffers a barrage of emotions from his firm belief that Juliana betrayed him up until the moment she slips into despair and he realizes what she means to him, even though he is still not sure he can trust her. I could feel the battle within as Rhys tried to reconcile the fact that he still loved Juliana with his reluctance to trust her.

Stormswept is a reissue of a book originally published in 1995 by Sabrina Jeffries, writing as Deborah Martin. Ms. Jeffries has long been one of my “go-to authors” although it had been quite a while since I’ve read one of her books, this one reminded me why I enjoy this author’s writing. A great author is one who can engage the reader’s emotions; Ms. Jeffries accomplishes that and so much more.

Stormswept is filled with mistrust, lies, heartbreak, revenge, and devious relatives; all things that help make up a good story. Overall, it’s an excellent read and I highly recommend it.

The Study of Seduction (Sinful Suitors #2) by Sabrina Jeffries

the study of seduction

Purchase Now from Amazon

When Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to help his best friend’s impetuous ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, in her time of need, he knows he’s in for trouble. He’s been hunting for someone to wed, and she’ll just get in the way. Although captivated by the witty, free-spirited beauty, he fears she’d be all wrong as a wife…if she would even take such a gruff cynic for her husband. Yet he wants nothing more than to have her for his own.

Clarissa has no intention of marrying anyone—not Edwin, whom she’s sure would be an overbearing husband, and certainly not the powerful French diplomat stalking her. But when matters escalate with the diplomat, she chooses Edwin’s gallant offer of a marriage between friends in hopes that it will deter her stalker. She expects nothing more than an amiable union, but their increasingly tempestuous kisses prove more than she bargained for. When her stalker’s vow to expose the lovers’ deepest secrets threatens to destroy their blossoming attraction, will their tenuous bond withstand public ruin, or will Edwin lose all that’s important to him to protect his bride?

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Books, March 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London, 1830
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars

Review by Sara

Sabrina Jeffries has long been an auto-buy author for me. After reading the book If the Viscount Falls I wondered if she’d revisit the jilted suitor Lord Blakeborough and give him a well-deserved happy ending. Fortunately Ms. Jeffries does indeed match him with a worthy woman in her latest release The Study of Seduction.

Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, is ready to brave the marriage mart and find an acceptable woman to marry. Edwin’s only real requirements of his wife-to-be are that she is sensible, demure and isn’t the romantic type; basically the female equivalent of himself. A few days into the Season, Edwin is summoned by his good friend Warren Correy to discuss a small favor the marquess needs from him. Warren was recently contacted by his cousin Lord Margrave who has been in exile on the continent for seven years. Fearing that his cousin is in danger, Warren is leaving to find him but needs someone to keep an eye on his other cousin Lady Clarissa Lindsey, and protect her from an unwanted suitor.

Alarm bells immediately start ringing for Edwin when Clarissa’s name is mentioned. She is boisterous, flirtatious and will only distract him from his search for a bride. It also doesn’t help that she is one of the few women he’s met who sparks real interest for him rather than a casual regard. With Warren being his closest friend Edwin agrees to the plan just as soon as they can get Clarissa on board with it. But she doesn’t want the stuffy Lord Blakesborough looming over her shoulder during the Season and she’s certain that any risk from her ardent suitor was left behind in Bath. Learning that Warren is off to find her brother, Clarissa reluctantly agrees to let Edwin escort her around town so that her cousin can focus on his task and not worry about her in London.

Warren’s fears seem to be misplaced as the season starts uneventfully but things quickly escalate when Clarissa is cornered at a ball by Count Gerard Durand. Clarissa tries to make it clear once and for all that she has no interest in Durand or marrying in general; however he tries forcing the matter by making a scene so that she’ll be ruined. It is only Edwin’s quick arrival in the room that saves the da,y but it puts him and Clarissa in an awkward position. To save her reputation he claims that he and Clarissa are secretly engaged, an arrangement that puts both of them under scrutiny by the gossips and right in Durand’s crosshairs.

The Study of Seduction has a familiar set-up of friends (or in this case perhaps frenemies) being pushed together and discovering they’re perfect for each other. What makes the book interesting is learning what kept Edwin and Clarissa from ever acting on the attraction they’ve felt for one another for years. Edwin is the kind of man who needs control of things for them to make sense. The automatons he loves are perfectly ordered and never deviate from their intended behavior, mirroring his own tendency to be methodical in his thoughts and actions. Clarissa’s effect on him has always been jarring since she acts more on impulse and fails to fall into any category. I love the moments where Edwin’s passions take control and he does exactly what his heart – rather than his head – tells him to do. Serving as Clarissa’s protector and then her fiancé forces Edwin to reorder his thoughts about her, letting him feel the things that had kept him away. When the danger to Clarissa reaches a pinnacle, he has no qualms about his actions and risks quite a bit to keep her safe and close to him.

Clarissa’s past and her reasons to put off marriage are heartbreaking as they are revealed. Suffering in silence for years after a major trauma and its fallout, Clarissa has perfected a mask of lightheartedness to protect herself and keep friends and family from discovering the truth. Durand’s unwanted attention and his refusal to heed to her wishes brings all of the memories and feelings from her past back into focus, forcing her to finally confront those demons. I appreciated Clarissa’s emotional journey and how she fights for her own future even when so many of her choices have been taken away from her. The fake engagement and what follows could have remained just a shield from everything that frightened her, yet Clarissa used it as a weapon to regain her sense of self away from her past.

Even with the heavy undertones of Clarissa’s past and Durand’s threats against Edwin, there is a fun side to The Study of Seduction. Seeing Edwin lose his stuffiness and match wits with Clarissa shows that their relationship is going to be much more than one of convenience. I’m quite enjoying each new book in The Sinful Suitors series and would highly recommend this one to any reader who appreciates a mix of character and plot driven romance in a story.

What Happens Under the Mistletoe (anthology) by Sabrina Jeffries, Karen Hawkins, Candace Camp, Meredith Duran

what happens under the mistletoe

Purchase Now from Amazon

New York Times bestselling authors Sabrina Jeffries, Karen Hawkins, and Candace Camp, and USA TODAY bestselling author Meredith Duran come together for a sizzling historical romance holiday anthology.

Stunned by the heat of an unexpected kiss on a cold winter’s eve, two strangers from vastly different worlds turn hotheaded principles into burning passion in Sabrina Jeffries’ delightful yuletide story, The Heiress and the Hothead.

In the snowy Scottish countryside, Karen Hawkins’s rakish duke has an unforgettable holiday encounter in Twelve Kisses when the alluring lady he surprises under the mistletoe is not who he expected, but a long-lost love with a score to settle.

In By Any Other Name, Edinburgh is aglitter for Christmastime as Candace Camp sends a curious gentleman in hot pursuit of an intriguing lady in disguise—one who refuses to reveal her true identity, though she fears he has already stolen her heart with his kiss.

In Sweetest Regret, will the festive spirit of the season sweep Meredith Duran’s feisty heroine beneath the mistletoe—and back into the arms of the dashing rogue whose carelessness soiled her reputation and sent her into exile in London?

In this all-new story collection sparkling with sexy charm and heartwarming wit, four beloved bestselling authors reveal the mix-ups and make-ups, the missed chances and golden opportunities that come but once a year.

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Books November 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency Era, London and Scotland
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 Stars

Review by Sara

‘Tis the season for Romance anthologies showcasing the spirit and love of Christmastime. The collection of stories in What Happens Under the Mistletoe all bring that wonderful sense of the holiday to four very different couples who all find love in the most unusual ways.

My favorite story from the book is Candace Camp’s By Any Other Name. It has two romantic tropes that I love: Mistaken Identity and Heroines in Disguise. Miss Rylla Campbell is desperate for the safe return of her brother before the holidays begin. With no news of his whereabouts for days, she has taken the desperate step of seeking him out at the clubs of Edinburgh by disguising herself as a young man in order to gain entrance. Rylla’s first foray into a man’s world doesn’t go well when she’s pinned as an easy mark by the regular gamblers and drinks a little too much to keep a clear head. She is only saved when another gentleman in the club notices her distress and gets her away.

Mr. Gregory Rose is spending a fairly dull winter in Edinburgh visiting his cousin but is excited to learn that the young man he helped out of a jam at his club is actually a beautiful young woman. Without learning her name, Gregory begins seeking her out at society gatherings, using his cousin’s influence to get himsefl invited anywhere she might be. Finally cornering her during a social call, Gregory learns of her search for her brother and offers whatever assistance he can. Keeping Rylla out of trouble becomes his responsibility, but his pleasure comes from their budding relationship and getting to know his mystery woman.

Ms. Camp manages to put a lot of elements into this short without the story becoming overwhelmed with plot devices. Rylla’s disguise, the mystery of her brother’s disappearance, Gregory’s pursuit of Rylla; all have a quick pace but never sacrifice the development of the characters and their growing affection. Readers can feel how the relationship grows as Rylla learns to trust Gregory with her burdens and he protects her until they are resolved. This was the most entertaining story of the four and left me with the best feeling for the characters. 4 stars

Sabrina Jeffries captures the Christmas spirit and makes a small social commentary in her story, which revisits characters from her Sinful Suitors series. Miss Amanda Keane and her family are visiting England where her brother Jeremy has now settled with his new wife. Her trip has a dual purpose as she’s also out to learn more about the operations of British textile mills, hoping to bring some of their practices back home to her own mills in Pennsylvania. Arriving at her brother’s home she is completely surprised when a handsome young man walks right up to her under a sprig of mistletoe and gives her a kiss.

Lord Stephen Corry didn’t mean to kiss Amanda but mistook her for someone else. The accidental kiss might have been laughed off as a bit of Christmas mischief, but his fast attraction to the American is unwanted as she represents many of the things Stephen stands against. Working as a journalist, he has made it his crusade to expose the poor conditions workers face in the textile mills, including the risks children face from the large machines. Believing that Amanda is no better than the owners he’s met in England, Stephen challenges her to meet with workers at a local mill to hear their plight. Amanda, thinking that Stephen’s prejudice is against those in trade, agrees to let him write about her business to better illustrate that not all owners put profits over people.

The Heiress and the Hothead is a cute story of two individuals trying to prove themselves while working hard to make a difference in the world as they see it. Stephen and Amanda feel very deeply for the people of the factories and while Stephen has an emotional tie to the workers plight, Amanda is actually doing something to better their circumstances. I enjoyed seeing a strong and independent woman allowed to be herself and still find equality with her partner. As short stories tend to do, things move very quickly for the characters and some challenges to their relationship may have been glossed over but overall it was a great read. 4 stars

I wasn’t quite as taken with the stories offered by Karen Hawkins and Meredith Duran. Each one dealt with second-chance romances but it was hard to see any of the main characters truly in love with their partner either before or in their current circumstances. Ms. Duran’s story Sweetest Regret actually works best in that the main characters actually have some chemistry and worked towards solving the problems of their past. I felt there was a future for their romance that I didn’t quite get when I finished Ms. Hawkins’ story. Fortunately both of these authors are strong enough in their writing that even a less enjoyable story is satisfying and makes a reader take a moment to appreciate it all. 3 stars for each.

What Happens Under the Mistletoe has the lighter tone that I expect from Christmas stories. Fellow fans of this type of Historical Romance will find the collection a great treat to read while bundled up on a cold wintery night.

The Art of Sinning (Sinful Suitors #1) by Sabrina Jeffries

the art of sinning

Purchase Now from Amazon

American artist Jeremy Keane refuses to return home and take over his father’s business. He’d much rather sample bevvies of beauties abroad, in search of a model for the provocative masterpiece he’s driven to paint. When he meets Lady Yvette Barlow at a London wedding, he realizes she’s perfect for his work—and determines to capture the young heiress’s defiant spirit and breathtaking sensuality on canvas.

No stranger to scandal, Yvette agrees to be Keane’s subject—in exchange for his help gaining entry to the city’s brothels he knows intimately, so she can track a missing woman and solve a family mystery. But when their practical partnership leads to lessons in the art of sinning, can they find a bold and lasting love?

add-to-goodreads-button

Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Books, July 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London 1829
Heat Level: 2
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Wendy

The opening chapter of this novel captured me immediately – I liked the unusual premise and the story promised to be an interesting one. Having never read a Sabrina Jeffries novel before I was quite excited to have found another author I thought I could look forward to reading more of.

When Jeremy Keane, American artist of some repute, spots Lady Yvette Barlow at a family wedding, he is captivated by her unusual, statuesque beauty. She is the woman he has been searching for, the perfect model for a particularly controversial painting he wishes to paint. But first Jeremy must gain the approval of her brother and this is no mean feat as he is Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough and he takes his brotherly duties VERY seriously.

A deal is eventually struck, one openly with Edward’s approval, but another privately with Yvette herself. Jeremy has long since grown tired of painting the portraits of simpering misses, his tastes now running more to the outrageous, and he has won acclaim and notoriety through his unusual ‘true to life depictions’ . However, to allay Edward’s suspicions he must paint the type of portrait he abhors if he is to be able to stay and paint his ‘Juno’ – the very epitome of the majestic Roman goddess – in the manner he wishes. This last is to be done in the dead of night without Edwin’s knowledge.

Yvette herself is no pushover and has a very preposterous proposition of her own; if Jeremy wishes for her to pose secretly for his painting, she wants something in return. It is rumoured that Jeremy is a regular visitor to the City’s brothels, he must take her, without her brother’s knowledge, to search for a woman Yvette must speak with. Reluctantly he agrees as he MUST paint this woman he has been searching for, for so long. It goes against the grain, however, as at heart he is a gentleman, and does not like deceiving the Earl.

Jeremy and Yvette are immediately attracted to each other and this is well done. I had a vision, as described, of Yvette as a tall, beautiful, majestic woman. She has quite low self esteem, which seems at odds with her rather sharp tongue and strong opinions but still I liked her. Jeremy is absolutely gorgeous, very tall (something which immediately appeals to Yvette as she is tired of gentlemen’s eyes being on a level with her bosom when dancing!), also –

a golden haired Adonis with eyes as deep blue as the estate’s prize delphiniums.

He is quite a tortured soul with a heartbreaking secret in his past from which he is running, and this only adds to his appeal. Yvette too has ‘a past’, though not one which I thought too shocking but it does explain her lack of self-worth.

The slow build up of attraction and simmering sexual awareness is adequately achieved, though not in my opinion, spine-tinglingly so.

I liked the secondary character of Edwin, Earl of Blakeborough immensely; he is a little stuffy and correct but loving and honourable towards his sister, quietly and discreetly going about his duties as head of the family without expecting or wanting thanks. He quite put me in mind of Edward in Mary Balogh’s, The Secret Mistress. I hope he finds his true love later in the series – I may be tempted to read it.

On the downside, there is a very modern feel to the writing, the usual (unfortunate) smattering of Americanisms, and the incredibly repetitive use of two particular phrases. One reviewer on Goodreads counted eighteen instances of one and seventeen of the other; it’s really very noticable and I was taken out of the story each time one of them was uttered. I didn’t go to the trouble of adding them up myself, but obviously, I’m not the only reader frustrated by this. Apart from the foregoing it is an enjoyable story, the first in a new series and I’m really hoping that the put-upon-Edwin’s HEA is next. A solid 3.5 stars.

What the Duke Desires (The Duke’s Men #1) by Sabrina Jeffries

wdd
Buy now from Amazon

Blurb:

Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons, long ago buried his grief for his missing elder brother, Peter, who was presumed dead after being kidnapped. When a mysterious note arrives from Tristan Bonnaud asserting that the Duke’s brother is alive, it leads Max straight to the winsome Lisette Bonnaud, illegitimate daughter of a viscount and Tristan’s sister. Soon he and Lisette are traveling to Paris posing as husband and wife, in search of Tristan, who has disappeared. And the longer he spends with Lisette, the easier it is for Max to see that the line between dukedom and desire is easier to cross than he imagined…

Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Books, 18 June 2013
RHL Classifications:
Time and Setting: England and France, 1816 & 1828
Genre: Historical Romance/Mystery
Heat Level:2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars

Review by Caz

What the Duke Desires is the first in a new series of books by Sabrina Jeffries, and I certainly plan to read the others in the series on the strength of this one.

Lisette Bonnaud and her brother Tristan are the illegitimate children of Viscount Rathmore and his French-born mistress, a former actress, who lives with her children in Yorkshire. When their father dies, leaving them nothing, the new viscount, George, who has long hated his father’s “other” family, wastes no time in evicting them from their home; but not before Tristan, young and hot-headed, has stolen George’s favourite horse and sold it in order to provide some immediate funds to support his family.

Fortunately for Tristan and Lisette, their other half-brother, Dominic Manton, has always been their friend, and he helps Tristan to leave the country, knowing that George will take great pleasure in having him arrested and hanged for thievery. (Horse stealing was a hanging offence at the time the story is set).

Several years later, we meet Dominic and Lisette in London. Estranged from his brother because of his defence of his half-siblings, Dom has to make his own way in the world and is running a successful investigation agency. He is about to depart London to work on a case in Edinburgh, leaving Lisette to run the office.

Not long after he has left, Lisette receives an unexpected visitor in the form of Maximilian Cale, the Duke of Lyons. He tells her that he has received a communication from Tristan regarding an old family tragedy – the kidnap and subsequent death of his elder brother – and is insistent that Lisette tells him immediately where he can find Tristan.

Lisette is astonished at Lyons’ request. She had no idea Tristan was in England as he still has a warrant out for his arrest and Lyons’ suspicious, dismissive manner immediately gets her hackles rising.

“Forgive me, madam, it appears that you and I got off on the wrong foot.”

“You got off on the wrong foot. I merely watched you shove it into your mouth.”

The air fairly crackles with antagonism until Lyons realises that trying to bully answers out of the young Frenchwoman will get him nowhere and decides to confide a little of his situation to Lisette.

What follows is an enjoyable mystery story in which Max and Lisette travel to France to find Tristan. For the sake of propriety, Lisette suggests they travel as plain Mister Cale and his sister until a chance encounter with a neighbour puts paid to that idea and they are instead forced to travel as a married couple. I confess to the fact that the “pretend couple” is a favourite trope of mine, and I thought this one was handled very well.

The advantage of a road-trip story is that it gives the reader time to get to know both principals, and allows the attraction between them to develop at a realistic pace. But while Max is upfront with Lisette from the outset, she is more reticent and although she is not untruthful, she lies by omission at times; and he finds it difficult to reconcile the fact that he knows she is holding something back with his growing attraction to her.

Both of them are carrying a couple of cases of emotional baggage as well. Lisette doesn’t want to end up like her mother – with a couple of children, no means of support and disappointed in the man she loves; and Max is living daily with the prospect that he may someday succumb to the madness that killed both his father and his uncle. I have to say that I was grateful for the way the author dealt with Max’s fears in a manner that eschewed melodrama or turning him into a clichéd “tortured hero”. He knows what he could be facing and has allowed that fear to dictate the way he lives his life, staying aloof and building walls around his heart. But we are allowed frequent glimpses of the man beneath, one who craves love and companionship and who has much to give in return. The scene where Max breaks down because he is unable to sit helplessly by the bedside of his dying cousin is truly heart-wrenching.

Max and Lisette are both very sympathetic characters and it is easy to understand their mutual attraction. They counterbalance each other – Lisette’s humanity often softens Max’s haughtiness, his intelligence complements her intuition and both are fiercely loyal to those they love. I particularly enjoyed the way Ms Jeffries explored just what it meant to be a duke in the society of the time. When dukes are such a staple of much romantic fiction, it is easy to forget just how powerful these men were. Despite their proliferation in novels, there are actually not that many of them (about twenty or so) and many of them today are members of the Royal Family. So when Max has to travel without the advantages of his title, he really feels the lack to begin with – until he realises that it is actually rather freeing to be simple “Mister” Cale. And conversely, in the later stage of the book, when Max “reassumes” his title, it is fascinating to see just how much power he wields.

The only thing that prevented me from giving this book 5 stars is that it feels as though rather too much plot was crammed into the last quarter of the story. I liked the fact that quite a lot of time was devoted to Max and Lisette’s journey and to building the relationship between them, but that probably meant less time for the dénouement.

Overall, the book boasts an interesting plot and two very attractive protagonists. The writing is excellent, the romance is well-developed and there is plenty of humour and intrigue. I’m really looking forward to reading more about The Duke’s Men.

About me

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two girls and have always been an avid reader. I was introduced to the novels of Jean Plaidy at the age of eleven and have never looked back! I love good, meaty, well-researched historical fiction – whether it’s about real figures (Sharon Penman) or fictional ones (Dorothy Dunnett), but I’m a sucker for a well-written historical romance, too. I post all my reviews at Caz’s Reading Room and at my Goodreads page, so please come and say hello!