Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-054325-6
Historical Romance, 2005
Firstly, a great thanks and “mad props” (as Randy Jackson of American Idol would say) to “Sandy from France” whose email helps me nail down just where this book goes wrong with me. She finds the first love scene in Suzanne Enoch’s Sin and Sensibility bland and hollow and the subsequent chapters seem to be written by a different author altogether who hates Ms Enoch and is determined to sabotage the story completely. I agree about the book’s schizophrenic tone. For a while, the author has been very careful to keep her story within palatable boundaries – considering its premise – but after a while she just seems to give up and allows her story to plunge into complete stupidity.
I have many reservations about this book when I first pick it up because of the premise. The heroine Eleanor Griffin has been protected by her brothers with a zeal usually reserved for crusaders, Las Vegas gamblers, and fans of Suzanne Brockmann. Eleanor wants to be “free” to experience “freedom”. “Free” and “freedom” are going to pop up on nearly every other page so be prepared. She manages to get her reluctant eldest brother Sebastian to agree on letting her enjoy some degree of freedom without her brothers dogging her every step. There are plenty of rules that Eleanor must obey in this agreement but Sebastian isn’t satisfied until he gets the family friend, the utterly dissipated rake Valentine Corbett, to keep an eye on Eleanor and make sure that she doesn’t get into anything too dangerous.
While I am not in general a fan of idiot virgins gone wild stories, for a long time Ms Enoch manages to keep my attention to her story. I can understand Eleanor at first in this case because Sebastian isn’t an overprotective brother as much as he is a full-bloom control freak. It seems natural that she would try to break free from her brothers’ suffocating leash, especially when she knows that they will eventually marry her off, thus passing her to yet another man who will continue to dictate what she can or cannot do. And if she does a calamitously stupid thing on her first night of “freedom”, well, I don’t think I can blame her because she is, after all, an overly-protected young woman who doesn’t know the way of the world. The author is also aware of the absurdity of having Valentine guard a young woman’s virtue and has Valentine and Eleanor remark on this several times.
I don’t think it is around the first love scene that things fall apart – the story, in my opinion, is already falling apart when Eleanor decides that Valentine must be her key to experiencing “freedom”. Yes, this is the cue for those tiresome clichés – “sex as an experiment” and so forth – to trot forward and wave their tired saggy behinds at my face.
Where previously Ms Enoch has Eleanor trying to learn from her mistakes and try not to repeat her foolish mistakes when it comes to excursions into recklessness, once Eleanor has her cap set on Valentine, Ms Enoch seems to drop the ball altogether. Eleanor decides to act like total harebrained reckless nitwit without the self-awareness that she used to have and the story turns into yet another silly strung-together clichés that pay little attention to logic or consistency. For example, I am never told why Sebastian and the idiot brothers think nothing of asking Valentine to keep an eye on Eleanor, despite Valentine and Eleanor wondering about this often early in the story.
The brother Sebastian is a puzzling character because he often crosses the line into outright and sometimes cruel shows of control freakiness but Ms Enoch wavers between wanting me to sympathize with him or Eleanor. She tries to justify the Griffin brothers’ overprotectiveness by saying that they were so worried when Eleanor went missing for nine hours after a riding accent when she was a young girl, but if you ask me, making that young lady pay for what was an accident by having her do and say only the things they have approved is just not healthy in a supposedly loving family. But Eleanor ends up proving to her brothers that she has to be controlled 24/7 or she’ll be a one-woman tragedy show so I don’t know, really. I think the whole Griffin clan need therapy, plenty of it.
By the time I close the book, the characters – all of them, come to think of it – have behaved so stupidly and unsympathetically in tiresome clichéd scenarios that all I feel when I see the last of them is relief. When Ms Enoch seems to be at first trying to create a good story out of a premise that has “Stupid Antics Galore – Proceed at Your Own Risk” stamped all over it, she soon enough ends up merely cranking out mechanical, tired, and familiar virgins gone wild scenes in a dry, mechanical manner. Is this due to editorial hijack or the author getting tired of her own story, that is, she decides to just launch the torpedoes and damn everything else as long as she has something to submit to her editor? I don’t know. All I know is: Sin and Sensibility has potfuls of the former but none of the latter.