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?
Publisher and Release Date: Pocket Books, March 2016
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.