Mills & Boon, £5.99, ISBN 978-0-263-93284-3
Historical Romance, 2018
The final unmarried Warriner brother, Jacob, finally gets his in A Warriner to Seduce Her, and it is a better story than the previous two mostly by default. It lacks the eye-rolling “true love magically erases all your inner demons” resolution that plagued those books, so it is already so much better. Unfortunately, this story only truly comes to life in its late third or so.
The story certainly starts off with a heartbreaking bang. Young Jake is the only one among his brothers to be able to make his mother smile. The woman is desperately unhappy and is prone to mood swings, understandably so because she’s married to an abusive monster. Even so, Jake is starting to tire of having to deal with her frequent unexpected outbursts. One day, they are going about their daily routine, enjoying the view by the river as she talks about her happier days. She then has one of her moods and insists that he go fetch her husband to her or else she will kill herself. This is a common pattern – he’d bring his father to her, those two would fight, repeat and rinse. That day, he deliberately hangs out in the woods instead until some time has passed, before making his way back to her. Seeing him alone, Jake’s mother jumps into the river. Dead! And Jake naturally blames himself for her suicide.
This is why he is now a debauched douche-cake, just like his father. Actually, that is a front. Since leaving college, he’s been part of the usual super-secret spy ring that makes it a habit to recruit green, inexperienced noblemen by the dozens every other day or so, and predictably enough Jake turns out to be a master at the game. When the chapter one opens, the King’s Elite is determined to root out and put a stop to several treacherous noblemen who are secretly raising funds for Napoleon’s breakout from his prison. Top on the suspect list is Crispin Rowley, and Jake is tasked to discover evidence of the man’s perfidy by getting close to that man’s niece Felicity Blunt who is making her debut in London.
Jake initially balks at the idea of seducing a virgin, as all virgins are morally perfect and he only sticks it to non-virginal and hence morally suspect women. Thank god I’m a virgin, or else these people will never want to be friends with me, I tell you. He soon realizes that Fliss is an older, and more importantly, sexier woman than the usual debutantes of the ball, however, so he immediately pegs her as fair game for his willy-wagging ways. Thank god I’m only fifteen, or else people will assume that it’s perfectly fine to try to get me to put out to them!
Fliss is what Sabrina Jeffries hopes her heroines would be these days: she’s outspoken, blunt, and independent, but at the same time, she never comes off as obnoxious or unlikable to me. Maybe it’s because our heroine seems smart and self-aware instead of dumb, rude, hypocritical, and sanctimonious. She quickly realizes that her uncle is up to no good, and she is also perfectly willing to take responsibility for her own mistakes here. I like that. She’s awesome, actually, because she is the rare heroine that can walk the talk.
However, the story for the most part drags because the hero goes into his predictable “I’m not a good person, because I’m my father, so I will push the heroine away, and doing so only confirms that I’m not a good person and I’m exactly like my father” whine and mope, and the whole thing just feels one note and played out. Does Jake have to behave just like so many mopey brooding heroes of his like? Put him next to Fliss, who’s certainly not the usual kind of heroine, and he comes off as even more boring as a result.
Jake makes up for his mopey bore act later in the story, though, when he realizes just how much he loves Fliss and turns on the melodramatic angst as a result. I find his melodramatic desperation pretty sweet, actually, and I love how Fliss actually reacts in a sensible, mellow manner instead of being overemotional, jumping to wild conclusions, or shrieking that she’d take the hero no matter what so long as he tells her that he loves her. Is this the same author who wrote the previous two books? Much about this one feels like an apology for the flaws in those two books.
At any rate, A Warriner to Seduce Her is easily the better entry in this series. I really want to like it more, but alas, as I’ve said, the story seems stuck in a rut for too long. The last third or so is solid, as it is the prologue, but everything else drags this story down into three-oogie territory.