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

I owe author Sabrina Jeffries and readers a huge apology…I started this review over a month ago, got sick, and never finished it. So without further ado…

The Pleasures of Passion front cover (Pocket Books/Simion & Schuster)

THE PLOT: Niall and Bree were young lovers separated when Niall killed a man in a duel and had to leave the country. He couldn’t share with Bree that the duel was fought over the sexual assault of his sister, so she was led to believe it might have been over another romantic partner. When Niall asked Bree to run away with him, she refused because her mother was dying. But Niall’s father managed to poison the young couple against each other by telling Niall that Bree wouldn’t go with him because he wouldn’t be a rich earl once he was in exile. He encouraged Bree to believe that the duel was fought over a woman shared by the men.

When they meet up years later, both are cynical toward the other. Niall believes Bree jumped into marriage immediately after his exile as an opportunist. She was really forced into it by her father’s gambling debts. Now, a spymaster is making them pretend to be engaged to find out if Bree’s father is involved in a counterfeiting ring. Bree agrees in order to protect her father and the reputation of her young son. Niall owes the spymaster for granting his pardon and allowing him to return to England. But of course, throwing this couple together will result in all kinds of romantic shenanigans, AND the opportunity to finally clear the air…if they’re brave enough to take it.

MY TWO CENTS: I can see where some readers might be annoyed by one thing: “If this couple would just TALK to each other honestly, none of the misunderstandings would happen.” But here’s the thing: they were very young when the first break took place. That situation continued to breed distrust. And even after all the secrets are finally out, it still takes some time to re-establish trust. So no, just talking to each other doesn’t solve ALL the problems. I also love romances that emphasize how sex doesn’t just solve everything.

One thing I love about Sabrina Jeffries: she’s great for pointing out all the reasons why a storyline is ludicrous and letting the characters argue them out right on the page. For example, when Bree and Niall are coerced into working together, they hash through all the “couldn’t we just do this instead…” and “no, we can’t do that because…” So Jeffries is well aware of how a plot line may seem stretched AND believable at the same time. I like it.

COVER NOTES: One thing I often note from my Goodreads list is how color schemes seem to go in cycles, especially for romance novels. This gray and red scheme is the same being used on Sarah MacLean’s The Day of the Duchess, also released in June. I honestly wish he wasn’t holding her bare leg, but otherwise, another fun “breaking the fourth wall” cover. Do you prefer it when series covers match? I really, really want them to match because I’m weird that way.

BOTTOM LINE: Another enjoyable entry in this series. I love “young lost love found again” stories.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

NEXT UP IN SERIES:  An e-novella, A Talent for Temptation, is coming October 2, 2017. The final book in the series, The Secrets of Flirting, will be available March 27, 2018.

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

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The Dangers of Desire (Sinful Suitors #3) by Sabrina Jeffries

I can’t believe we’re already on to Book 3 of Sabrina Jeffries’ “Scandalous Suitors” series. I’m starting to lose track of who’s related to whom at this point, so I’ll try to step it out in “My Two Cents” down below. You know, in case that’s the kind of thing that boggles your mind, too.

The Danger of Desire front cover (Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster)

The Danger of Desire front cover (Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster)

THE PLOT: Miss Delia Trevor is trying to find the man who cheated her brother out of all the family’s money, causing her brother to kill himself and leave his wife and infant son behind. All she has to go on is that the other gambler was a nobleman with a tattoo of the sun on his wrist. Disguised as a young man, Delia has been roaming the gambling hells of London, searching for this man. And her gambling winnings are helping to hold off foreclosure of the family estate.

Warren Corry, Marquess of Knightford, is still feeling guilty over what happened to his cousin Clarissa before her marriage. So when Clarissa asks him to find out if any scoundrel is hounding her friend Delia, he agrees, although he’s afraid Clarissa is also trying to push an unmarried friend into his path. And Warren is determined to remain a carefree bachelor for as long as possible. More importantly, he doesn’t want a wife who would realize he suffers from recurring night terrors, which makes him feel like a coward.

When Warren discovers what Delia is really up to, he’s both horrified and intrigued. She would be ruined in an instant if she were discovered masquerading as a male, and he knows she’s still keeping some crucial piece of the puzzle from him. Together, they might be able to find out the truth about what happened to Delia’s brother…but they might be sorry they did.

MY TWO CENTS: All right, here’s where we’re at with this series. Book 1, The Art of Sinning (reviewed here), was about Jeremy Keane (who was related to the author’s previous series) and Yvette Barlow. Then there was a short story, “The Heiress and the Hothead” (reviewed here), which featured Jeremy’s sister Amanda Keane and Lord Stephen Corry, Warren’s brother. Book 2, The Study of Seduction (reviewed here), was about Yvette’s brother Edwin and Clarissa, cousin of Warren and Stephen. Got all that?

This tone of this book was a little bit lighter than that of Book 2. Granted, there is still a man who drowned himself, but it wasn’t one of the main characters (obviously). Delia isn’t a perfectly gorgeous heroine with the figure of a model, which is always nice. And if Warren is a typical “I’m not getting married, no way…until I meet this particular woman” hero, at least there’s another layer in his avoidance of marriage. Layers are good.

I think the romance came together pretty well. Delia and Warren seem well matched. And once she finds out his secret, they can overcome the “he married me, but he’ll never love me” nonsense that sometimes seems required in romance. (WHY aren’t there more romances where the man professes undying love the whole time, but the woman is standoffish? Who cares about realism?)

What interested me the most was the “man with the tattoo” mystery, and that didn’t disappoint. It also helped set up at least the next book in the series, if not more.

COVER NOTES: Carrying on with the theme of the hero staring directly at the fourth wall, this one isn’t as entertaining as Book 1’s cover. The colors are pleasing pastel, and the fabric of her dress is awesome. The hero is pretty darn attractive.

BOTTOM LINE: Lighter in tone than the last book, with an ending I didn’t see coming from the beginning. (Well, except for the part where the couple ends up together!) Totally enjoyable.

TEACUP RATING: Four plus out of five teacups.

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

NEXT UP IN THE SERIES: The Pleasures of Passion, about Delia’s sister-in-law Brilliana and Clarissa’s brother Niall, will release June 20, 2017. Then, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see a book on Warren’s brother Hart, but that hasn’t actually been announced to my knowledge.

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

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.

What Happens Under the Mistletoe (Anthology)

How did Christmas sneak up so fast? I can’t believe it’s almost here. But now is the time for Christmas-themed books! If you’re a romance reader, here’s another anthology from four popular authors.

What Happens Under the Mistletoe Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster)

What Happens Under the Mistletoe Front Cover (Pocket Books)

THE PLOTS (by story):

“The Heiress and the Hothead” by Sabrina Jeffries: Jeremy Keane’s sister Amanda, an American mill owner, butts heads with Lord Stephen Corry, a radical newspaper writer fighting against bad mill conditions in London.

“Twelve Kisses to Midnight” by Karen Hawkins: A Scottish duke is stranded in a snowstorm with a widow who is also his former fiancé.

“By Any Other Name” by Candace Camp: A young lady gets more than she bargained for when she dresses as a boy to search gambling clubs for her missing brother.

“Sweetest Regret” by Meredith Duran: A couple separated by misunderstanding and meddling find their way back to each other.

MY TWO CENTS: I read this mainly for the Sabrina Jeffries story, which is connected to the “Sinful Suitors” series (Amanda’s brother Jeremy’s story, The Art of Sinning, is reviewed here). I have read Candace Camp’s “Mad Morelands” series, but that’s all. I haven’t read any Karen Hawkins or Meredith Duran before this, but I may be interested in checking out some of their books after reading this anthology.

I was a little disappointed that Amanda only got a novella instead of her own book, but the story was well developed even though it was short. I felt like Amanda and Stephen got a sufficient amount of time, and probably better (in my opinion) to not spend too much time talking about the plight of mills in a Christmas story anyway. My one real disappointment with this book was the love scene. Everyone knows I LOVE Sabrina Jeffries, but this may have been the most ill-timed sex scene in history. I get it, I just don’t think it worked. (To say any more would be to introduce spoilers, so I won’t.)

The couple in Karen Hawkins’s story were likable enough, and their story was able to move quickly because they already knew each other well. I was very drawn to the supporting characters, enough that I’ll probably be checking out her “Princes of “Oxenburg” series.

Candace Camp provided a sweet story. Her heroine is spunky, and the hero is protective yet unorthodox. You can tell from the start they were made for each other.

Maybe not quite as much as the couple in Meredith Duran’s story, though. That poor couple, Georgie and Lucas, also knew each other previously and should have been married for years. But their own self-esteem issues and some meddling made each think the other had abandoned them. Thrown together at a house party, they have to wend their way through a tangled mess to the truth. I may have rooted hardest for this couple, who clearly belong together.

BOTTOM LINE: Mistletoe plays a role in all four stories, which are long enough to be fairly well developed. I may be hooked enough to check out the other series books connected to these stories.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in paperback and eformats.

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

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

This cover CRACKS. ME. UP. The male model breaking the fourth wall, as if to say, “Look how naughty I am, heh heh heh!” Makes me giggle every time I see it. In actuality, the hero is not NEARLY as naughty as he’s led everyone to believe.

The Art of Sinning Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

The Art of Sinning Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

THE PLOT: Readers met both halves of this couple during the previous “Duke’s Men” series. Artist Jeremy Keane was introduced as Zoe’s cousin in How the Scoundrel Seduces (reviewed here), and Lady Yvette Barlow was Jane’s almost-sister-in-law in If the Viscount Falls (reviewed here.) Both are attending Dominick and Jane’s wedding breakfast when Jeremy spots Yvette and falls instantly in…well, artist-lust with her. He’s been looking for a model for his new painting, and Yvette is absolutely perfect. But she’s a lady, and Jeremy is used to using prostitutes as his subjects (although he lets everyone believe he’s visiting brothels for an altogether different reason, which has led to his horrible reputation).

To get in the household and gt around Yvette’s stodgy brother, Edwin, Jeremy agrees to paint a portrait of Yvette that will actually help her find a husband, since the unconventional lady has yet to find the right man, and her brother is concerned. But while they work on the portrait during the day, at night, Yvette poses for “Art Sacrificed to Commerce.” What’s in it for Yvette? Jeremy has promised to take her hunting in the London brothels for the illegitimate child her other brother, the villain Samuel, left behind when he was transported.

MY TWO CENTS: It’s no surprise that the posing sessions lead to romance. What IS surprising is that it’s a bit more complicated than you might think. At first, Jeremy is almost completely wrapped up in the art. While he’s attracted to Yvette, it’s much more about her “character” than her as a person. Jeremy also has a bit of a dark past. He was married before, and there’s some trauma having to do with his wife and parents that are keeping him from being able to move forward emotionally.

At the same time, Yvette has her own dark secrets. She’s trying to find her nephew, all the while thinking of the past indiscretion that her brother Samuel helped save her from. Maybe Samuel wasn’t always a villain…or wait, WAS he?

Finally, I love stuffy Edwin forming a club for exasperated men trying to save their sisters from rogues. All the while eyeing up his friend’s sister.

BOTTOM LINE: Slightly deeper than the usual fun Sabrina Jeffries romp. I enjoyed it and am looking forward to Edwin and Clarissa’s book.

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

ON SALE DATE: Available Juy 21, 2015, in paperback and eformats.

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

If the Viscount Falls (Duke’s Men #4) by Sabrina Jeffries

First of all, thank you to all my readers for your support in 2014! I’m looking forward to all the new books already on my “to read” list for 2015!

What makes this final entry in the Duke’s Men series rock? The heroine, Jane. Thank you, Sabrina Jeffries, for writing an intelligent, non-dishrag of a heroine for modern readers to enjoy.

If the Viscount Falls Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

If the Viscount Falls Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

SPOILER WARNING: This review will contain spoilers for the other “Duke’s Men” novels, previously reviewed at the following links: What the Duke Desires, When the Rogue Returns, and How the Scoundrel Seduces.

THE PLOT: When Dominick Manton was disinherited by his evil brother, George, for siding with his illegitimate siblings,  he lost everything except his young fiance. Dom didn’t want Jane to marry him anyway and live in poverty and uncertainly, but Jane, firmly in love with Dom, refused to break the engagement. That’s when Dom decided to do what was best for Jane (in his high-and-mighty male opinion) and set up Jane to find him mauling her own cousin, Nancy, at a party. The trick worked, except he DIDN’T plan for George to marry Nancy.

Now, George is dead, and Dom is finally restored as the viscount, but Jane is engaged to someone else. However, she asks for Dom’s help as a private detective in finding the widowed Nancy, who has disappeared. The reader knows that these shenanigans are a setup to a reunion, but the mystery of what’s happening with Nancy is deeper than one would think.

MY TWO CENTS: There are a few things I loved about this book. As previously, mentioned, topping that list is Jane’s character. She’s known for years that Dom set up the trick with Nancy to get Jane to end their engagement. This isn’t a case of, “If she knew the truth, everything would be fixed.” It’s more that she’s angry at him for being high-handed enough to choose her future for her…but she doesn’t let on at first. She lets him twist in the wind to see how long it will take him to admit the truth to her. She even refers to him as “Dom the Almighty,” but Dom is so clueless that he doesn’t get it at first. He’s a guy who’s smart about everything except women.

The storyline seems obvious, but it really isn’t. It doesn’t take the reader long to figure out Nancy is pregnant, which could effectively disinherit Dom and put him back to square one. But there are other factors here. What is really going on? If Nancy IS pregnant, is the baby George’s? Who would even want to disinherit Dom,and how far would that person go?

BOTTOM LINE: Feminists who enjoy a good romance with sizzling love scenes and a twisty mystery will eat this book up. Also, I’m always glad that Sabrina Jeffries connects all her series. Even the the “Duke’s Men” series is ended, it will transition to the new series, the “Sinful Suitors” series, using characters we’ve already met…namely, Jeremy Keane from How the Scoundrel Seduces and Yvette Barlow, who we meet in this book.

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

ON SALE DATE: The book will be on sale in paperback and eformats on January 27, 2015.

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

How the Scoundrel Seduces (The Duke’s Men #3) by Sabrina Jeffries

This is the third book in the “Duke’s Men” series, Tristan and Zoe’s book. While a Sabrina Jeffries book is one of my very few romance-genre auto-buys, this one wasn’t my favorite entry in the series.

How the Scoundrel Seduces Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

How the Scoundrel Seduces Front Cover (Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster)

PLOT:  Tristan Bonnaud is the brother of Lisette of What the Duke Desires (reviewed here). He’s the illegitimate son of a viscount who didn’t provide for his “other family” until he was on his deathbed…and then the viscount’s oldest legitimate son immediately burned the codicil, effectively disinheriting his siblings. Tristan “stole” his inheritance anyway, then had to run to France to avoid being hanged as a horse thief. Thanks to his brother-in-law, the duke, Tristan is finally able to return to England and work in his other brother’s detective agency.

Enter Lady Zoe. She’s found out that she may not actually be her parents’ legitimate daughter, but what IS her parentage? Was she bought from gypsies? stolen? abandoned? She enlists Tristan to help her find out the truth, because if her illegitimacy is proved by someone else, she’ll lose her inheritance. If she finds out she’s a gypsy’s daughter, she may have to bite the bullet and marry her cousin to make sure she keeps control of her estate.

So of course, Zoe and Tristan are attracted to each other and develop a love-hate relationship as they try to find out the truth while dodging Tristan’s past.

MY TWO CENTS: While I very much enjoyed the twists and turns of the “mystery” part of the story, I didn’t buy into the romance 100 percent. While I got a definite Han-and-Leia vibe from “the scoundrel and the princess,” I didn’t believe them as much as I should have. Maybe it’s partly because I wasn’t in love with Tristan’s character. His reckless actions as a teenager can be somewhat justified; his adult ones, not so much. Plus, I got really tired of his “rasping” during the love scenes (and I’m noticing the overuse of this word more and more…like once I noticed it, I can’t STOP noticing it).

By the way, my review of the second book in the series, When the Rogue Returns, is reviewed here.

BOTTOM LINE: This is an important volume in the “Duke’s Men” series for furthering the overall story arc, but it wasn’t quite as fulfilling to me as the other books in the series have been. I loved the mystery and the way Tristan and Zoe’s pasts intersected in an unexpected way. And I’m still looking forward to what I presume is the last book in this series. (I won’t give away the title here since it’s a bit of a spoiler, but you can easily find it on Amazon and Goodreads if you wish.)

TEACUP RATING: I’m nitpicking, but it’s still a strong entry in the romance field. Four out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: The book will be available in paperback and ebook formats on August 19, 2014.

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

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