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 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.