My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
The latest in Sabrina Jeffries’ The Sinful Suitors series, The Study in Seduction, was much better than the first installment. It was classic Sabrina Jeffries, fun and flirty; an easy read without any unnecessary drama even if the storyline was a bit on the predictable side.
I wasn’t surprised to find that The Sinful Suitors is connected to The Duke’s Men. Most of SJ’s series are interlinked thru characters; secondary characters of one series having their own books in a new one. I’d recommend you read both Hellions of the Hallstead Hall and The Duke’s Men series, though The Sinful Suitors doesn’t connect with the former directly at all. There maybe the mention of a character of her older series here and there, but you’d recognize them only if you’ve read the series. It won’t be hindering your enjoyment.
Book 1 was titled The Art of Sinning, the story of a small character in the Duke’s Men series, an American artist named Jeremy Keane. He was the cousin of one of the central characters there. I never thought him important enough to have his own book so was quite surprised to find that SJ is writing his book. The heroine, Yvette, was completely new. Keane was running from a sad secret of his past eschewing his own responsibilities back in America, and his artistic whimsies gave him the perfect escape route to do so. Explore the world to be precise. He travels extensively for the sake of his vocation, yet their vast family run empire is now managed by his elder sister Amanda. When Keane arrived in England, he was set to have a title from one of his English relative as the next living male heir. However, due to some twists and turns and Keane’s own disinclination to take on added responsibilities makes him decline this in the end.
He meets Yvette through a mutual acquaintance, Yvette’s own brother, Edwin. They were thinking of opening this gentlemen’s club, whose purpose is to help protect the members’ female relatives from the lechers and fortune hunters. However, while planning the club with Edwin and Warren, Edwin’s childhood friend, Jeremy meets Yvette, tall and beautiful and very much a spinster, who takes his breath away on spot. It was attraction at first sight for both. Jeremy even takes up on a portrait job for Yvette in hopes to... well, to acquaint himself better with her. Yet, he wasn’t ready to promise anything more. Though Yvette wanted ‘more’ quite easily (all her determination about being an independent woman going out the window), Jeremy was a tough nut to crack. He’d promised long ago that he isn’t going to marry again, but the temptation that she posed was becoming difficult to ignore. The whole push and pull and the melodrama of it didn’t hold my attentions for long. There was nothing going on but Yvette and Jeremy’s “yay” and “nay” about their supposed relationship. It got old too soon.
In book 1, we meet the h of The Study of Seduction, Clarissa, who is Yvette’s close friend. She was also a completely new character. But Edwin wasn’t. Much like Jeremy, he was also a minor character of The Duke’s Men, having been engaged to one of the heroines for a short period of time. Poor guy was having a tough time getting a bride, and a jilt from Jane (above mentioned heroine of book 4 of said series) wasn’t helping his cause. His family was already plagued by this huge scandal thanks to his ne’ee-do-well younger brother Samuel (the whole story can be read in the same book where Edwin was introduced). Yet he was nothing like Samuel, not even close.
Being the eldest and the Earl, Edwin has been the most serious of the siblings. Most brilliant and studious too. Edwin is very interested in automatons. He studies them, and makes his own versions of various things. Everybody thinks Edwin is starchy, quite prudish... in other words, too uptight. Certainly, the jolly and flirty Clarissa thought the same thing about her childhood crush. Oops but yes, she has had a crush on him for a long time. But since Edwin never showed any interest in her, she had never let her own interest show either.
In the meantime, we’re given a glance of Clarissa’s life. She was born in the peerage and at 18, was hoping for a match of her own. However, something irrevocable had happened to her. After that, things fell apart. Her brother got into a duel and had to flee abroad to save himself from the noose. Clarissa, though beautiful and vivacious, a social butterfly, is not interested in marriage anymore. She doesn’t even consider it a remote possibility. However, after Yvette’s marriage, she’s gotten a bit lonely. Yvette’s happiness, and the love she shares with Jeremy, does make Clarissa wistful. Would she ever know something like that? It’s not like she doesn’t have suitors but because of that “secret” she doesn’t consider marriage an option anymore. Besides, there was that very inconvenient crush she had on Edwin which hasn’t subsided even though she’d grown up. She still finds him attractive, even if uptight. She likes ruffling his feathers for the fun of it but sometimes she does wish things were different for her, and for them.
Clarissa’s wish comes true all of a sudden when she’s forced to hide away from a French Count named Durand, who is also a diplomat of the French embassy. Count Durand has been pursuing Clarissa for months now, without any intentions of giving up it seems. At first, Clarissa found him appealing, but one day, when he tried to force a kiss on her, his manhandling put her off. There’s, or course, more to it which is revealed later. Clarissa now wants nothing to do with the guy, yet he doesn’t seem to care one whit! When the Season is full on however Clarissa can’t just hide away. She loves attending all the balls and parties and so, she’s now in London with her mama to enjoy it. Generally, they stay at Warren’s townhouse, under his protection. He’s quite close to his aunt and cousin, and the affection is mutual. But in the meantime, a letter has arrived from Niall that sounded urgent. He requested for Warren’s presence ASAP, so the plans changed at the last moment. Warren decides while he’s away, it’d be best to give his one very close and trusted friend the responsibility of providing protection for Clarissa and her mother; Edwin.
Clarissa isn’t happy about this arrangement at first. She wants to be the independent woman and look after herself. It’s all good, but she knows that if the count plans to kidnap her and force her to a marriage, she won’t be able to save herself while she’s alone. And though, initially, she thinks stuffy Edwin will ruin her fun, soon she finds herself craving his company even more. Edwin maybe reserved but he’s nothing even close to a prude. It was quite the revelation! Edwin, on the other hand, didn’t want to take up on this but he was also very concerned about Clarissa’s safety. He has been attracted to her always, but he thought nothing good could come from having an association with his sister’s friend. He also thought that being close to Clarissa may prove to be problematic to his equilibrium. Oh well, he was correct on that regard. :P But no matter, he can’t imagine any harm coming to her, so he comes prepared to do whatever it takes… only to find that his time is being spent most pleasurably in Clarissa’s company. She soon proves to be a breath of fresh air in his tightly scheduled life and this close contact gave them the perfect opportunity to finally get to each-other better.
When Durand starts coming on too strong, going as far as to even blackmailing Edwin about revealing a family secret unless he leaves Clarissa’s side, he and Clarissa must come together to find a solution to this problem. Nothing seems to be working but to claim that they’re engaged. That way at the least the Durand won’t have any claim on her. But will this prove to be a solution or a disaster? While Edwin can’t have another jilt on his head as it’ll only lower his possibility of finding a suitable bride in future, Clarissa has other things to worry about. That infernal secret burden she’s been carrying for such a long time, which has changed the course of her life and how she views intimacy with a man. Could she take a chance and confide in Edwin? How would he react to this? Edwin was more than adamant that they marry not knowing the cause for Clarissa’s reluctance... so, after they’re finally married, Clarissa keeps thinking if she can rely on him to help her out of this nightmare so that they can have a real marriage and, if God willing, children someday. This causes slight rift because Edwin misinterprets Clarissa’s reluctance. Thankfully, the author doesn’t drag it along for too long.
TBH, The Study of Seduction was a fairly good, uncomplicated story. I enjoyed it though thought Clarissa got over her “problem” with men fairly easily, too easily. But then, I think Edwin was able to help her find her center and make her believe that that it wasn’t her fault. Not at all. They always had hots for each-other, only needed the right sort of push towards their happiness.
The next installment, as I can see, is of Warren’s titled The Danger of Desire. When this ends, he has just returned from Portugal with Niall in toe. They were able to get his sentence pardoned somehow and Niall was once again looking forward to his life here with his family. We still don’t know what happened there and how this connects to Clarissa’s “incident” but I’m sure we will in Warren’s story. 3.5 stars but rounding up on 4.
PS: I didn’t know Jeremy’s sister, Amanda, has already had her story in an anthology? I gotta check that out ASAP! I need to know who she was paired with cause I’ve been very curious ever since I learned it’s not gonna be Edwin. Meanwhile you go and read The Study of Seduction. I can tell you that short story has no ties to this one. Amanda wasn’t even mentioned here once.
I was auto-approved for this ARC from Pocket Books via edelweiss which didn’t influence my review and rating in any way.