Series: Sinful Suitors

Guest Review: The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries

Posted April 1, 2016 by Whitley B in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: The Study of Seduction by Sabrina JeffriesReviewer: Whitley
The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Sinful Suitors #2
Also in this series: What Happens Under the Mistletoe
Published by Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: March 22nd 2016
Genres: Romance, Historical, Regency
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

A marriage of convenience ignites into a passionate love affair in the hotly anticipated second novel in New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries’s addictive Sinful Suitors series!

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?

I have…things to say. Because this book tackles rape, and it does it very well, but this is a topic dear to me, so it makes me quite wordy.

But first, let’s talk about the whole rest of the book. 😛 I loved Clarissa and Edwin. They had some great chemistry together, their banter was snappy, and they just had this genuine affection for each other that I loved. The fact that they have history and start the book already comfortable with each other helps here, it lets the narrative really delve deeper into their relationship and establish it as something with many layers. (I mean, I like books where the couple meet in the pages, of course, but hot damn do I love me some “already crushing on each other” storylines.)

The story was good, and the stalker was super creepy in the best and worst ways, although I do feel like after the midpoint he…was rather forgotten about by the plot. Clarissa and Edwin just hared off to be shmoopy, which is always fun, but it did feel a bit like a detour into a different novel.

Okay, on to the rape. Like I said, it’s done pretty well. Like, maybe 90% well. The actual event happened in backstory, and the parts in the book focus on Clarissa still dealing with the effects. I loved her so much for presenting us with a strong, vivacious survivor. Not that other portrayals aren’t valid (there are so many ways to respond to that, after all), but Clarissa’s determination to live a full of happy life gave us such a nice alternative to the ‘broken’ survivor narrative. She was presented as someone who had managed to emotionally recover, but she refused to marry because she was not able to get over her fear of sex. (And, to be fair, that was presented partly as a lack of information; she had no idea that consensual sex worked/felt different.)

Edwin was a dear, very respectful and supportive and patient. Even when he had no idea why Clarissa was enjoying his kisses one minute and fighting him the next, he didn’t get aggressive, and when all the info came to light and he was great. The very best part? Zero victim blaming from anyone in the book. The second best part? HYMEN MYTHS! Oh thank heaven, a book finally points out that hymens don’t 100% always have to tear.

Some scenes were really hard to read, though. When Clarissa has a flashback (as happens multiple times in the book)? It’s very vivid. When her stalker is stalking it up? His attitude and his behavior and his speech just made my skin crawl. These sections, though, were supposed to be hard to read, so A+ for that.

But then…well, then we get to the other 10%. For all I loved a lot of the points here, a few things really bothered me. Like, Edwin was great to Clarissa…but only after she came clean about her past. I feel like, given what we find out about him, he should have been able to guess sooner. But more than that, I’m really uncomfortable with “you have to meet my standard, regardless of how hard that is for you, before I’ll support you.” He knew enough at that point to treat her right without forcing her to tell him the details of the most traumatic event of her life. And they had a great conversation afterwards, but the book could have reached that point a bit more…consensually.   Second, the veneration of man-on-top sex. I get the value in facing one’s fears (it’s a trigger for Clarissa) but the book attributed all kinds of other, “yay we’re a real couple now” meaning to her finally being comfortable with that position.

Third, I wanted the stalker to just be a stalker. He was so thoroughly “entitled dude just destroying lives because he feels like he’s owed.” There are jerks who just lash out because they feel slighted, logic be damned. The book felt like he needed a rational reason. Made for an exciting ending, but eh.

Again, most of the book was really great. I really don’t want to take away from that fact by drawing out its flaws. On the other hand, whenever a book comes so close to 100%, I feel like these sorts of discussions are even more important. Not to disparage the books (let’s face it, ‘right’ wouldn’t be right for everyone anyway), but because they are going to generate thoughts and discussions and it’s important not to let things slip under the rug.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

four-half-stars

1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Guest Review: What Happens Under the Mistletoe by Sabrina Jeffries, Candace Camp, Karen Hawkins, Meredith Duran

Posted January 5, 2016 by Whitley B in Reviews | 4 Comments

Guest Review: What Happens Under the Mistletoe by Sabrina Jeffries, Candace Camp, Karen Hawkins, Meredith DuranReviewer: Whitley
What Happens Under the Mistletoe by Sabrina Jeffries, Karen Hawkins, Candace Camp, Meredith Duran
Series: Sinful Suitors #1.5
Also in this series: The Study of Seduction
Published by Pocket Books
Publication Date: October 27, 2015
Genres: Historical
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

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’s 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 "Sweet Ruin", 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.

Whitley’s review of What Happens Under the Mistletoe by Sabrina Jeffries et al.

The Heiress and the Hothead

A sweet enough story, about a reporter who’s tackling inhumane working conditions in mills and a woman who owns a mill.  They get off to a bad start when the reporter (quite understandably) is wary of anyone who runs a mill, and our American heiress’s delicate sensibilities are upset by this. (Okay, so, clearly I’m biased in their argument.  The whole thing had shades of #NotAllMillOwners to it.  And FFS, the guy wasn’t even all that offensive; it felt like the woman was just upset that the reporter guy didn’t immediately assume she was an angel.)  Once they got over their Required First Meeting Misunderstanding and down to the business of shutting down the local, heinous mill (and making out a lot in the process), things got a lot better.

Twelve Kisses

A noble at a masquerade plans to kiss his mistress under the mistletoe, but his old lover is dressed in the same costume and Murphy’s Law applies.  After being caught in such a scandalous embrace, the two try to go get the woman’s father and convince him to help ease the gossip, but they’re stuck in a snowstorm instead.  They find a secret cabin in the woods (it makes sense in the end, really) to hide out, and that’s when things actually get interesting.  I could have done without the party set-up, as it doesn’t seem to have added anything and all the good stuff was during the storm.  I very much enjoyed these two characters fighting and slowly discovering what broke them up as a couple before the story’s opening.  It was a very believable, human sort of misunderstanding, and they were sweet while working it out.

By Any Other Name

I straight-up DNFed this crap.  The guy is an unrelenting jackass and the whole setup is creepy as all get out.  The girl is cross-dressing to try and find her wayward brother, who likes to hang out in gambling halls.  The guy saves her from a mugging attempt and discovers her true gender.  All is well and good, except then the girl repeatedly, emphatically says “Don’t try to find me, leave me alone, stop, no, don’t” while the guy just gleefully runs around tracking her down and stalking her to various events anyway.  I stopped after the guy realized she’d told him a lie and he mournfully thought “well, that must mean she wasn’t interested in me.”  NO, SHITHEAD, ALL OF HER REPEATED CRIES OF “STOP FOLLOWING ME” MEAN SHE’S NOT INTERESTED, WTF IS WITH GUYS WHO IGNORE BOLD-ASS STATEMENTS AND THEN READ 8000 MEANINGS INTO RANDOM ACTIONS YOU ARE AN IDIOT AND I HATE YOUR FACE.

ahem  Yes, anyway.

Sweet Ruin

Without a doubt my favorite short story of the bunch.  The lady is the daughter of a diplomat who has to play hostess after her father is called away from a house party.  One of the guests has stolen an important document, so her father sends in one of his (ish) employees to help covertly search for it.  Only Daughter and Employee had a bit of a fling a few years ago which ended badly, so they are none too pleased to see each other.  I loved the interactions between these two.  So cutthroat while staying (technically) civil.  And while they find out that their breakup was a misunderstanding, said misunderstanding isn’t dragged out to the point of frustration.  It’s handled perfectly, with just enough double-talk to make you cry “no, mush faces already!” but before that gets old they do.  And the ending when they confront the conniver that broke them apart was beautiful.  A+, perfect short story.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars

4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,