A Lady Never Surrenders - Sabrina Jeffries My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

This book was much better than the previous one, To Wed a Wild Lord. I totally enjoyed the ride with Celia and Pinter, even though there were times I felt ‘that something missing’ from the book. Celia was smart, Pinter was intriguing but I wish I had more exploration of their relationship alongside the murder mystery of the Sharpe parents that has been going on since book #1.

Oliver Sharpe (1st appeared in The Heiresses series), Jarett, Minerva, Gabriel and Celia, these 5 siblings lost their parents in one night. There have been plenty of rumors of what happened that night as both their parents were found dead together. Some said because of the previous Lord Stoneville’s infidelities, Lady Stoneville was upset and killed him and took her own life. In Oliver’s story, we saw a glimpse of what might’ve happened because his mother discovered him with a woman supposedly his father’s current mistress. This resulted into a quarrel (his mother was very upset thinking her son following her husband’s path). A guilty Oliver quite ironically followed his rakish father’s path, only he wasn’t married and had no intentions of doing it soon. Then, in Jarett’s story, we saw flashbacks from his POV. Like this, we see a flashback of every siblings’ POV that night and what might’ve happened. Now, Oliver’s Granny Hetty is the matriarch of the family. She owns a brewery and makes plenty of money. She’s been taking care of the siblings since their parents died. She feels guilty for what happened to her only daughter because Hetty wanted her to marry into a title. Hetty’s done a few things here and there to save the family from the scandal of the possible murders and made up a story of her daughter killing her son-in-law and committing suicide herself. But no one ultimately knows anything. The siblings, now all grown up, have been called in by Hetty. Hetty wants them all to marry! Her condition: marry within a year, otherwise be disinherited! Needless to say, none of the siblings found it amusing. Minerva and Celia actually were spinsters, if one took a note of their age, 28 and 24 respectively, despite their beauty and so on. The siblings want to know what really happened to their parents, too. It’s been such a long time and been eating them up. They all have their vulnerabilities and guilt swirling around this issue. So they re-open the case and give it to a Bow Street Runner, Jackson Pinter (also appeared 1st in The Heiress series).

Oliver, now Lord Stoneville, then finds his love in an American Heiress, Maria. Whirlwind affair followed and they marry. I was rather disappointed in his story and after his dissolute life as a rake... just wasn’t convinced. Jarett was interested in the family brewery, so when Hetty fell ill for a while, he decided to take care of the brewery himself. In the process, he meets Anne, who also owned a brewery herself. She was desperate because of some troubles with her brewing business and a personal secret to hide. Anyway, the brewing business brought them close and they married later on. His story was also ok, nice but not full of many surprises. Then, it was Minerva’s story. She had been attracted to one of the worst rakes of the lot and Oliver’s good friend Giles (appeared 1st in The Heiresses series), who was a barrister and a spy for the crown. They had some love/hate relationship from early on but it never bloomed because of Giles’s manwhoring ways (you can guess why!). In her book, we learned that this attraction, unwittingly, played a part for both of them not marrying at an advanced age (Giles’s was as same aged as Oliver I think, 36/37 yrs old). But they were brought together by a twist when Minerva, who writes romance novels, is forced to put ads on newspaper for a husband hunt. Of course, Giles wasn’t happy because he’d always wanted Minerva for himself. Finally, he got a way to make her his. I rather liked this one, so far my favorite in the series. But I really wished for some more flashbacks on Minerva and Giles’s more scintillating encounters, with snappy words from Minerva. Without it, I had difficulties assessing their relationship as it was in the story. In Gabriel’s story, Gabriel and Virginia started out enemies because Virginia’s brother died in a carriage accident while racing with Gabriel. They were best friends and shared the love of racing. Virginia blamed him for this and we see mentions of this racing and Gabriel’s guilt over Robert’s death in other books as well. I didn’t really like Gabriel’s story because both Gabriel and Virginia came off as immature for the most part of the book. If you read my review, you’ll get an idea of it; a big part would be Virginia’s imbecile Poppy Issac and then his and Hetty’s ‘ewww gross’ lovestory! NO it wasn’t cute or sweet IMO.

I knew I would enjoy Celia and Pinter’s story from the 1st book when Pinter was surreptitiously ‘checking out’ Celia’s arse and Hetty saw him doing it. I chuckled to myself reading that and still remember it after 2 yrs since I read the book. As a character, Jackson didn’t have much exploration in the Heiress series since he was a minor secondary character. In the other books of this series, I didn’t think he got a chance to be explored since he was, still, a secondary character, going in and out of the stories with the Sharpe parents’ murder that he’s investigating. Because of that, his and Celia’s intimacy didn’t feel real to me. It could’ve been rectified if SJ gave these two scenes in between the books as some ongoing incentive for A Lady Never Surrenders. But even then, as a couple and characters in general, I liked them both. Celia had her own vulnerabilities about not being able to look like a woman since she’s on the skinny side, while comparing to a relatively curvaceous Minerva. Moreover, she likes to shoot, a decidedly ‘un-lady like’ game and can discuss about it for hours. Men are interested in her, only for the discussion about guns and stuffs but flirtation doesn’t come naturally to Celia and so, even though she’s attractive and all that, men turn blind eye to her. She thinks she’s not the ‘marriageable sort’, as in not attractive or good enough to find a man for herself. I personally thought it was fun that Celia could shoot point blank and outranked her brothers and their friends in every shooting match they participated. Now because of Hetty, she is giving marriage a serious thought. She secretly wants to show Hetty that she can do it. Can’t blame her because Hetty’s drivels about love, marriage and compatibility with titles were pretty confusing and I wanted to slap her quite a few times for being insensitive to Celia. The woman should’ve retired by now since her brain stopped functioning minimum 20 yrs. ago. I don’t know, in the 1st 3 books, Hetty seemed to me a strong matriarch of the family, if a bit too stubborn for my liking. But since the previous book, she has turned out to be an annoying shrew with the ‘lovebug’ biting her arse, thanks to Issac the grouchy, old moron. Ok I’ll have to give them a paragraph of their own like I did in the previous book. Can’t miss that!

Anyway, so Celia, even though she dislikes Jackson for being a prude of sorts, approaches him to investigate the 3 suitors she deems are good for her. Not that she has a long list or anything but still... Two of them we met in the previous book, Gabriel’s friend, the Duke of Lyons (though a bit starchy, me likey) and Pierce Waverly, the Earl of Devonmont (the whiny rake I disliked much), who was Virginia’s cousin. The 3rd suitor is a foreigner, an older Portuguese Viscount to be exact, Basto. That doesn’t sit well with Jackson of course. He’s already seeing Celia with a possessive eye, even though he knows he’ll never have her. So, it kinda smacked dabbed on my face. Since I didn’t see many scenes with them together in the previous books, I don’t know when he started to see her in such a possessive light. Celia, of course, is a bit clueless when it comes to Jackson, since he seems a bit too manly to her and it’s overwhelming. And then she keeps telling herself that she doesn’t like him because to her, Jackson’s words sound like admonitions or mockery of the nobility. And yet, whenever he is near, she can’t seem to stop following him with her eyes. Things are the same with Jackson. Even though he genuinely doesn’t like nobility in general due to his childhood, he still can’t help but think of Celia as his. Jackson’s lordly father seduced her mother and then left her to marry a lofty lady with money, leaving them to fend for themselves. He grew up living with his aunt and uncle, who had taken them in and treated him as their own when his mother died. His deceased uncle was very affectionate towards him and he’s the reason why Jackson is a detective and an assistant magistrate today. Jackson loves both of these people more than his life, as he did his mother.

Back to the story. So, Jackson and Celia argues over this suitor investigation thing but when Celia threatens to investigate her suitors herself, Jackson relents since to him, all of those men have this flaw or that. Yah, well, we know why, don’t we? ;) lol The 1st few chapters were focused on this. Hetty again reminds Celia of the ultimatum and she informs her that her suitors are being investigated. Hetty doesn’t like the way Jackson and Celia eye each-other when they think no one is watching. She has seen this over the last yr and plans to stop this at any cost. As I said, her drivels were very annoying. She wants Celia to find love but in two months that are left of her ultimatum as she won’t extend it or leave the whole matter be and it has to be someone titled, no matter how rakish, older or boring the man is, doesn’t matter if he’s a fortune hunter. Really Granny? You think love can be found this way? No wonder your daughter’s marriage to the womanizer Earl ended in utter disaster, since you were the instigator behind that one! So, I was mad that she’d be so insensitive to Celia about all these, which would again hurt Celia’s already shaky self-esteem. But she got her comeuppance of sort, from Minerva and then from Jackson in the end, when her stubbornness almost led to an utter disaster. It was fun that someone was giving Hetty the ‘what for’ she was sooo asking for.

Anyway, Jackson stays in the house party give for Oliver’s birthday to investigate Celia’s suitors, but also to make sure no one touches or makes advances towards his Celia. Lol Their banters continue as both of them want to deny the attraction they feel along with the misunderstandings they totally have about each-other. Yet, the more Celia got to know Jackson, the more she saw a different man; whenever he was forthcoming with his inner self, that is. When they share a kiss, Celia knew he isn’t the prude or cold fish she thought him to be and it definitely leaves her wanting more. The duke almost proposes to her on the basis of the practicality (he has some family problems which doesn’t let him to easily find women to marry, even though he’s a duke; I think we’re going to get his story if all goes well) and their family acquaintance. Celia couldn’t like this proposal even though she should be ecstatic. Viscount Basto is older than her, and even though he’s always lavishing her with compliments, Celia isn’t attracted to him. Then she knows for certain that Devonmont isn’t willing to come up to the scratches yet, since he has a long established mistress and so on. (I didn’t think so either, who cares!) It doesn’t help that she keeps thinking of Jackson and their kisses and what could be if she gives into the temptation...

Things aren’t going well for Jackson as well, he can’t abide by Celia’s 3 suitors at all. He wants to smash their faces every time they’re near her. More secret kissing and fondling follow. In between their dancing around all these, we get to learn some new progresses about the murder. Some new developments are unearthed with the Rawdon couple, who were in the middle of the last spat the Sharpes had. It was Mrs. Rawdon with whom Oliver slept with and made his mother mad because it was implied that the woman had already become his father’s mistress. Jackson wants to investigate the woman’s (the couple is apparently out of England at the moment) ex-ladies maid. But before that, he would meet Celia’s old nurse. Another thing I forgot to mention, in the beginning, as every story in this series does, a recollection from a very young Celia was narrated. She was about 5 then and heard someone’s planning an assignation while she was sleeping in her nursery. Celia always thought either it was a dream or it probably was her father and one of his lovers. What I couldn’t believe at all was, a young and then ill Celia remembered the words between the couple so well that she later decided it was her father from some Italian endearment he called her mother? But it seems she had and she informed it to Jackson, which is why he was interested in meeting with her old nanny. Celia intercepts Jackson and kinda charms him to take her to his destination. They got some startling information from her old nanny, which involves her mother. It was so totally unbelievable to Celia that it leaves her shaken. On their way back home, they are attacked and were force to take refuge in a rickety cottage. By the description of it I though the place was dirty, smelly and well... on the verge of falling down. So when they decided to take their relationship (if you can call it that) to the next level, I was going like, huh? Is that the time or place to have sex? When did their relationship progress so far? But thankfully, I wasn’t irritated because I thought Celia needed Jackson in her life as much as he did. Afterwards, they decide that they’d get married. Yet, more misunderstandings ensue as Hetty puts her foot down and tries to tell Celia that Jackson isn’t the best choice for her. She actually already threatened Jackson to leave Celia alone, otherwise she would disinherit her, ultimatum or no. It was so badly done, can’t tell you. After the misunderstanding about Jackson’s apparent coldness about their marriage, Celia retreats in her room as he leaves. Minerva understood that Hetty has done something fishy and confronts her.

Jackson goes back to his home and somehow, ends up confronting his aunt about the truth of his paternity. Some shocking revelations followed, I wasn’t expecting this but it got me there. His aunt, a nice, good woman and I admired her for this, convinces Jackson that Celia is the best thing for him. When he goes back to Hallstead Hall, Jackson finds a friend in Oliver about this match. I loved how slyly Oliver asked Jackson to find Celia’s room at night and ‘make amends’ with her. ;) He’d know since he was a master of those things in his days! Jackson takes full advantage of this, hehe. In the morning, Jackson goes away to meet Rawdon’s ex-ladies maid. The woman confirms some of his suspicions, which lead Jackson to believe that the murderer is still at large and probably closer to Celia than he thought it’d be. Have to mention, I did like how the murder mystery was solved, it had me thinking who it could be. So are we going to see a book for Basto? The poor guy needs some peace in life, I totally felt for him.

For me, Issac played a little positive role when he defended Jackson to Hetty when she was talking crap about his intentions towards Celia. I would that their scenes were minimized to that and not have me gagging the way it did in the previous book. But noooooo! Ms. Jeffries had to go and give me some yukky visuals as well! While talking about Jackson, Issac broaches the subject of their marriage... (Alright!!) Hetty isn’t sure. From Issac’s words it was implied that they were already having, um, er... an affair. (Ewww gross!) And then, when Hetty won’t give into his proposal of marriage, Issac threats her with the usage of more ‘pleasurable methods’ to make her say yes to his proposal... Oh good God, the woman can’t even walk without a cane and wasn’t she very ill, almost dying in Jarret’s book? So, I still have the same word for this ‘epic’ love story as I had in To Wed a Wild Lord:EWWWW!! The epilogue of this book was kinda ruined for me because of their marriage. I still think this ‘lovestory’ was totally, wholly, irrevocably unnecessary.

In the conclusion, Devonmont is getting his book. I wish it was a novella so that I could get through it without chocking on boredom. I know I’m being very mean but I’ve already expressed my feelings about him. The excerpt was good. Now, I only hope that the book would be better overall. I would hate to miss a SJ book, so I have Twas the Night after Christmas on my TBR.

4 stars for A Lady Never Surrenders.