by Suzanne Enoch, historical (2006)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-084255-5
Lord Charlemagne "Shay" Griffin is in a dilemma. One evening at the ball, he sees a new face, Lady Sarala Carlisle who has just returned from India with her family. As he tries to get her attention (and hopefully more), he thinks that she's an airhead so he decides to impress her by telling her about this shipment of fine silks from China that only he is aware of. He intends to buy those silks at a good price since Captain Blink is eager to get rid of his shipment to pay off his debts. Isn't Sarala pleased that Shay is such a smart man? Oh yes, she is. The next morning, she snatches the shipment from under his nose. Shay now wants those silk bolts back but Sarala is not going to just give in and sell them to him at a ridiculously low price that he quotes. Naturally, attraction sizzles between the two of them. So what now, really?
Something Sinful is a very familiar story that is both good and terrible at the same time. I like the fact that for the first half of the book Sarala is pretty level-headed. On the other hand, Ms Enoch keeps telling me that Sarala is good at handling the family finances but she never shows me that. All I get is Sarala exchanging repartees with Shay. A little more showing will be nice, since it's not always that I get a heroine in a romance novel that comes off as more intelligent than a tree stump. Still, Sarala is equal to Shay when it comes to seeing through his motivations at courting her and giving back as good as she gets. Her developing relationship with Shay sees her playing fast and loose with the liberties she allows him with her body but hey, this is, after all, an Avon regency historical romance and expecting anything else would be akin to expecting the sun to rise in the west.
But then comes the part when Sarala, after happily allowing Shay to play fast and loose with her, has to pay the piper. That's when her intelligence plummets completely down the drain. Her family is in debts since her father inherited the bills as well as the title, but now she decides that because she cannot bear to marry without love, she will do anything to get out of her impending nuptial to Shay, including offering him the bolts of silk for free. I love a heroine who is so bent on hanging herself on the cross that she'd damn her family in the process. Then again, I suppose it is so awful a fate to marry a man who makes her laugh, adores her, and is good with his hands and more because he doesn't mention the L word to her. It's better to die on the streets, knowing that she has done the right thing because it is far better to be a tragic unloved heroine than to - eeeuw - be so disgusting as to marry a nice man.
For the rest of the story, Sarala behaves like an idiot while a tacked-on external plot involving angry Chinese swordsmen wanting the silk back clumsily and a villain from Sarala's past lumbers to the forefront. Also, the villain plays a part in Sarala deciding that Shay will hate her if he knows about her link with this villain, so Sarala gets more determined to play the martyr. Perhaps if Sarala's link to this villain is introduced early on, I won't see this plot element as yet another contrived excuse for Sarala to play the martyr. The timing of the introduction of this element suggests, to me, that Ms Enoch is really trying to find ways to pad the pages.
The first half of the book, when Sarala and Shay are quietly exploring the attraction between them, is a very nice read. The second half when Ms Enoch decides to get the external conflicts rolling, however, has too much contrived inability to communicate and the heroine's increasing desperation to play the martyr in the silliest ways possible. Reading this book is like attending a dinner where the main attraction promises to be a bachelor auction of Hugh Jackman only to realize, ten minutes before the start of the main event, that Hugh Jackman can't make it and Richard Simmons will be taking his place. Ugh! Rewind! Rewind!
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