Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-035-6
Historical Romance, 2008
Sins of the Heart is one of those stories where the heroine has suffered a lot, from rape to imprisonment to starvation, but yet she is expected to comfort and heal the hero who misjudges her and thinks of her as “tainted”. Why? Because the poor man has such a sad, sad, past, sob, as if in helping this big baby get over himself will also magically make him lovable. For a trophy meant for a woman who has been through so much, Lord Edenstorm is most lacking in so many ways.
After a not-at-all-funny tragedy involving rape and a botched attempt to marry her off to Edenstorm to preserve her reputation (all of which took place before this story happens, so don’t worry about this story being too graphic and unpleasant), our heroine Juliette Dalworthy attempts to live quietly as “Julia Darrow” in Looe, Cornwall, while hoping that her brother Cyril won’t find her and toss her into an asylum like he vowed to do after the wedding to Edenstorm did not happen. Why didn’t the marriage happen, you ask? Well, you know how these romance heroines are. Julia overheard Edenstorm calling her a “tainted woman” and she therefore refused to marry him even if they beat her (which they did), starve her (which they did), et cetera. She’s now living in Cornwall, no doubt waiting for her medal of valor to arrive by mail. Alas, what shows up instead is Edenstorm. Like many romance heroes of his time, he’s a government agent charged to root out smugglers in the area. Naturally, he suspects Julia of knowing something while she, in turn, may stammer and stutter and act like the prime suspect nitwit, but she will never tell.
Julia can be too happy to play the martyr here, but she isn’t that bad a character compared to Edenstorm who is a complete big baby here. It is hard for me to care about his issues when he’s judging the heroine harshly while claiming at the same time that he doesn’t love her. If that is not enough, he also has to be patronizing and stubborn. There is a situation later in the story where he gets them both in danger because he thinks he knows everything. Like Julia, Edenstorm likes to play the martyr too, making himself the star of his personal melodrama, but unlike Julia, his personal showcase of angst often sees him behaving like an ass towards Julia. That makes him far more unlikable. I am, therefore, puzzled by how the story treats Edenstorm as if he’s the one who needs more coddling than Julia. Compared to what Julia went through, Edenstorm comes off like the biggest baby ever.
Sins of the Heart is a well-written story, but I’m afraid it’s not my kind of story, as I’m never fond of long-suffering heroines who deign to bend over some more to coddle and pamper a crybaby hero. Maybe fans of Mary Balogh and Jo Beverley will like this one better as those authors are fond of creating heroines with similar temperament to Julia here.