The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries
Series: Sinful Suitors #2
Also in this series: What Happens Under the Mistletoe
Publication Date: March 22nd 2016
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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
Thanks for this really thorough review. I too get super bothered by how rape is handled in romances, so it’s nice to hear about a book that (mostly) does it well.