Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-5011-4446-2
Historical Romance, 2017
The Pleasures of Passion is the book in Sabrina Jeffries’s The Sinful Suitors series. You know, the book that you are supposed to be panting for, your heart drumming in anticipation from the way the author set this book up in the previous books in the series. Yes, that book. Of course, with me being me, and given my reception to the last two books in this series, my reaction when I open this one isn’t to think, “Oh, I better get some spare underwear just in case things get too exciting!” It’s more to the tone of: “God, please don’t let this one be as bad as the previous books.
The good news is: it isn’t. The bad news is: it isn’t as good as I’d like it to be.
If you have been following the series, finally, we get to find out how Niall Lindsey, the Earl of Margrave, is finally reunited with his ex-girlfriend, the now widowed Brilliana Trevor. Years ago, they were sweethearts, although he never wanted to introduce her to his family or be open about their relationship, because her family isn’t anywhere near his on the social ladder. And then, he killed the man who raped his sister in a duel, and had to flee. He asked Brilliana to go with him, naturally without telling her why he had to leave – if she loved him, she would do what he wanted, that kind of thing. Because her mother was always sick in one form or another, and her father was a nasty gambler who would ill-treat her mother in her absence, Brilliana balked at the notion, even if she loved him.
What happened next was straight out of a Bollywood movie, including big misunderstandings arising from machinations of scheming fathers and what not. Let’s just say that when he comes back to London, he thinks that she’s a scheming ho bag who is only after the money bags, while she thinks that he’s a man slut who shot a man dead over a mistress. Niall had been a spy during his absence, and now his spymaster wants him to do one more thing: pretend to court Brilliana so that they can look into what that shifty man is up to. Of course, lust and passion flare anew in close proximity, that kind of thing.
Yes, the story is all about big misunderstanding for the first half or so, and it’s pretty painful because the whole reason for these two to never talk feels so contrived. Niall is supposed to be a spy – a good one, or so I’m told – but he keeps buying all kinds of lies like a thirsty horse dunking his head into a pool, that I can only wonder whether his hiring was a charity case on his boss’s part. At one point, even Brilliana points out that he just believes everything, even when the person he hears it from is a well-known untrustworthy sod, so it’s not like the author is not aware of how Niall is coming off as. I don’t know what the author is doing, therefore. Am I supposed to to sympathize with a “good spy” who is often too gullible for what he is supposed to be, flailing around like a confused goldfish?
Also, the mystery is predictable and the villain is obvious. Therefore, there is nothing here to distract me from Niall’s flopping around like the worst spy ever.
But on the bright side, this one doesn’t boast one of those shrill, judgmental, and recklessly dumb heroines that populated the author’s more recent books. Brilliana is more mellow, and while she too can come up with contrived excuses not to talk just like Niall, she displays a sense of awareness often lacking in the author’s more recent heroines. There is no nagging, no judging people by rules that she doesn’t follow. no sanctimonious moralizing, no harpy antics… Brilliana feels refreshingly sane and mature compared to some of the heroines in this series that I am throwing in an extra oogie just for this alone.
The Pleasures of Passion has a subpar suspense plot and plenty of contrivances to keep it from being a memorable read, and the hero constantly touted to be far smarter than he actually is doesn’t help matters. But compared to the last few books, this one is such a pleasure that I suppose we can call this as adding on to a series on a relatively high note. Relatively, that is.