Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4767-8606-3
Historical Romance, 2015
The Art of Sinning is the start of a new series, Sinful Suitors. I know, which suitor isn’t sinful these days in the romance genre. Still, this book is related to the author’s previous series in the sense that characters from those books make cameo appearances here. In fact, the hero Jeremy Keane first made his appearance in the author’s previous book If the Viscount Falls. I feel that this book can stand alone pretty well, though, as there is enough background information present here to help new readers fill in the blanks.
Yvette Barlow is a sharp-tongued and outspoken heroine who is very beautiful but refuses to believe that she is such. Her ex almost-boyfriend revealed himself to be only after her money, so she is now soured on rogues. Since this is a book by Sabrina Jeffries, this means that Yvette, like most of the author’s heroines, has no problems accusing the hero of all kinds of moral failure while acting like her own doo-doo doesn’t stink. Oh, and she realizes that her brother Samuel had sired a son on an actress, so she now wants to find that kid, who must surely be languishing in some brothel somewhere, begging to be rescued.
Meanwhile, Jeremy is an American artist who came to England a while back and doesn’t want to go back because his father was an ass when Jeremy had to marry a sweet lady he didn’t love after he knocked her up, and the resulting asshole stuff soured him on the idea of helping to run the family business after the old man passed on a while back. No, he wants to drift around Europe, wining and dining and bedding and generally indulging in stuff that bored people with first world problems usually do to exorcise their demons. He wants to paint Yvette in a sexy but artistic way the moment he sees her, so to get to her and persuade her to do that sexy posing stuff, he agrees to her brother’s request to paint a portrait of her. Yvette, in the meantime, decides that this is a great opportunity – she’d agree to pose the sexy for Jeremy if he agrees to help her locate her nephew!
Now, here’s my biggest problem with the story: Yvette is willing to risk her reputation and more just to locate her nephew. And yet, she doesn’t open the letter her brother wrote to the mother of the boy all this while, because she’d promised her brother not to. If she is willing to be ruined and she is also going to lie to her other brother (who doesn’t want her to locate the nephew), why not open the freaking letter as well? I’d think that, if you are looking for the location of an actress, you’d first read the letter, considering that it is addressed to her and therefore may contain clues to her whereabouts. Indeed, when the content of the letter is finally read aloud, I feel like killing the heroine because the content could most likely convince the other brother of the fact that the whole nephew thing is not a scheme to cheat them all (don’t ask) and, therefore, all that nonsense she gets herself and Jeremy into could have been avoided.
Then again, the other brother, Edwin, grates on me too because he just refuses – refuses – to tell the heroine anything in some pathetic effort at protecting her, when some clarification would have cleared a lot of wrong assumptions and martyr complex (both siblings can be really good at wanting to bear everyone’s burden) from the start. But it’s that refusal to open the letter that really makes me want to thump this book hard against the wall a few times. The author, as usual, tends to over-explain things and have her characters over-think and over-analyze everything, so I’m just surprised that she allows this annoying collapse of logic to remain in order to get the whole story moving in the most contrived manner.
The romance lacks the usual sexual chemistry the author had served up in the past. There is a very tired join-the-dots feel to the romance in this one. The characters’ issues are familiar – “I was hurt before so now I eat misery with a side dish of hyperbole, and yes, we can have sex but heaven forbid we get married because the guy is mired in ‘I’m no good for any woman’ nonsense and the woman is stuck in the ‘I’d love to have sex, but no marriage please, because I know he doesn’t love me’ mode”, as usual. I actually feel that the heroine is on the immature side here, as she gets disproportionately insecure at the idea of the hero still loving his late wife. Yvette doesn’t want love as much as she really, really, really wants someone to love her and only her – I feel that she’s in love with the very fantasy of being in love rather than in Jeremy. Given that he’s an artist who paints women in various shades of naked and/or sexy, she’d probably go insane from all the paranoia in a week and go after him with a butter knife.
At any rate, The Art of Sinning has some fundamental problems in its plot, and the romance is pretty much by-the-numbers affair. However, believe it or not, it is actually better than the author’s last few efforts, hence the three-oogie score. Just be careful when approaching this one; if you are new to the author, you’re probably better off picking one of her much older titles.