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

In her second full-length book in the “Sinful Suitors” series, Sabrina Jeffries turns toward some serious topics you don’t often see in light-hearted regency romances: stalking and sexual assault.

The Study of Seduction Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

The Study of Seduction Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

THE PLOT: Readers who read the first book in the series (The Art of Sinning, reviewed here) as well as the previous “Duke’s Men” series, know this couple. Lady Clarissa has been sassing everyone for a while, and Edwin was previously engaged to Jane in If the Viscount Falls (reviewed here.) Clarissa, who has vowed to never marry, still wants to be social and enjoy the season. But she’s been avoiding a French diplomat who’s been stalking her. When Clarissa’s cousin Warren needs to leave town, he asks Edwin to escort Clarissa and keep her safe from Count Durand.

But as readers know, Edwin has been showing interest in Clarissa for some time. When the two are forced into announcing a fake engagement to get the Count to back off, Edwin doesn’t need much incentive to offer marriage for real. But Clarissa has some demons that she’s been hiding from everyone, and she’s fairly certain she can never be a proper wife to Edwin. And she may be in even more danger from Count Durand than anyone originally thought.

MY TWO CENTS: This is a delicately handled romance. First, it’s really no secret to the reader that Clarissa has had an unfortunate sexual experience, and this time period was not exactly kind to victims of rape. Clarissa sees herself more as naively seduced than sexually assaulted, but it’s clear to readers (and eventually Clarissa herself) that she was assaulted, not seduced. She certainly sees herself as “damaged goods,” and is understandably fearful of the marriage act. Even though she’s outwardly strong and impertinent, that exterior hides her vulnerability.

Being stalked by Durand (who did not commit the previous crime) allows Edwin to prove himself Clarissa’s staunch friend and, eventually, her hero. He protects her against Durand, even going so far as to proclaim them engaged to dissuade him. But the real test comes after they are married. Somehow, Edwin must convince his traumatized bride that sex can be more than the brutality she’s known. Adding love into the mixture can help her healing begin.

BOTTOM LINE: Jeffries continues to dig deeper in this emotional, touching love story. Edwin is sure to be a fan-favorite for his gentleness, patience, and understanding.

TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available March 22, 2016, in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: Warren’s book, The Danger of Desire, will be available in October 2016.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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A.G. Howard ROSEBLOOD Cover Reveal!

So excited…today, YA Book Central revealed the cover for A.G. Howard’s twist on Phantom of the Opera! Roseblood will be released on January 10, 2017…start your countdowns NOW! And click on over to YA Book Central to enter their rafflecopter giveaway for a copy! (U.S. only.) And now, the lovely cover, designed by the same artist who did the Splintered series…

roseblood

A Reckless Desire (Breconridge Brothers #3) by Isabella Bradford

This title is third in a Georgian series about three sons of a duke who is longing for some grandsons. I read the second book, A Sinful Deception, first (reviewed here), and liked it so well that I checked out the first book, A Wicked Pursuit. I was fairly eager to get my hands on the book about the youngest brother, Rivers. Did it meet my expectations?

A Reckless Desire Front Cover (Ballantine Books)

A Reckless Desire Front Cover (Ballantine Books/Random House)

THE PLOT: Backstage at the theater, Lord Rivers Fitzroy has been complaining to his friend about the lead actress’s lack of talent. When Rivers bets his friend that he could make anyone into a fine actress, his friend picks out Lucia di Rossi, a drab servant, as the person he must transform.

Lucia is the cousin of one of the dancers (Rivers’s former mistress), and acts as her maid. She is treated with contempt by her family because she failed as a dancer, but she has acting talent in spades. Agreeing to the bet gives her the opportunity to get away from her prima donna cousin and make something of herself. She and Rivers leave for his lodge in the country, where he will train her to speak properly and memorize Shakespeare.

Although it starts out as a purely platonic relationship, the two gradually learn about each other and fall in love. But to what end? Rivers is the son of a duke, and Lucia is, at best, an actress. In what possible circumstances could they defy convention and marry?

MY TWO CENTS: This is a sweet Pygmalion story that has readers rooting for the heroine from the start. Lucia knows she could be an actress if only she had the opportunity, and when fate throws that opportunity her way, she grabs it with both hands. As far as acting goes, she’s almost a little too perfect; you know the real tension of the story is going to be the romance, not whether Lucia is successful. Because of her obvious talent and Rivers’s gentle nature, the reader knows early on that the bet itself is kind of irrelevant.

And Rivers IS a nice guy. He has no problem telling Lucia he loves her. What he doesn’t get, though, is his ingrained classism. He assumes that once Lucia is his mistress, he’ll be buying her a house and jewels. He assumes he’ll be keeping Lucia on the side while marrying some highborn lady and trying to produce his father’s long-awaited grandson. And after all, the heir to a duke cannot have an actress for a mother. So up until almost the very last moment, the reader is wondering HOW this is ever going to resolve in the way romances must. The ending is gift-wrapped and tied up with a neat bow, almost to the point where I said, “Really? It was that easy?” So in some ways I felt like it was “suspense, suspense, suspense…oh, it’s over.”

BOTTOM LINE: A romance where the tension is created by social mores rather than a hero who’s afraid to fall in love. The heroine will have readers rooting for her. It may be resolved a little too neatly, but definitely worth the ride.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and e-formats.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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