The Sinner Who Seduced Me
by Stefanie Sloane, historical (2011)
Ballantine, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-345-51741-8


Five years ago, James Marlowe and Clarissa Collins are making sweet music of love together. However, things are not what they seem here. James is a secret agent belonging to a group called Young Corinthian, of which Clarissa's father is also a member of. Of course, both men kept this from the women they claimed to love. When Clarissa's father was said to be having an affair with a woman he was actually working with on a case, that man couldn't say anything without jeopardizing the case. Clarissa's mother was heartbroken, and Clarissa lamented to James about how fickle a man's heart could be. James couldn't tell Clarissa that her father might be just having a professional relationship with that other woman, but he insisted that Clarissa should trust her father if she loved him. That didn't go down well with her, and they separated, each believing that the other broke his or her heart. I'm on Clarissa's side on this - it is very presumptuous of James to expect that a woman should trust him despite mounting evidence to the contrary, if she truly loves him.

So, we have two kids who behaved silly in the past. Well, they are reconciled when the story opens. You see, Clarissa is now an apprentice of a famous French painter, while James has engineered a fake defection to the group of French spies, Les Moines, so that he can keep tabs on them. The Les Moines wants to force Clarissa's mentor to go to London and paint the portrait of a Canadian heiress, but the mentor ends up... incapable, let's just say, and Les Moines has to put Clarissa in a man's garb and let her take her mentor's place.

Yes, that's about right, the plot. Now, if you ask me to go into detail the twists and turns of this plot, however, I'd have to confess that I have no idea half the time what is going on in this story. Perhaps it's because this is the third book in a trilogy and I'm reading this book before the other two. But whatever the reason is, I have a hard time following the story because there are always a few pieces of the puzzle that I am missing. This one is pretty short for a full-length book - it clocks in at a mere 276 pages - and that's because it is almost devoid of description. The characters are always running around up and down, doing things, that they don't always talk to each other, and as a result, I rarely know what is going on inside their heads. I am forced to just go along, like a befuddled tourist looking out the window at the scenery but never knowing exactly where I am going.

The romance is a bit lightweight here, but that could be a consequence of all that focus on the undercover gig. Our characters quickly succumb to their attraction to each other shortly into the story and yes, it's beautiful, and so is the next one, and the next. When they finally have the chance to talk, they get over their silly spat five years ago to vow eternal love to each other. On one hand. I'm pleased that both characters are so mature and sanguine about letting bygones be bygones. On the other hand, I'd love to have some romantic drama - any drama - to distract me from the bewildering undercover gig happening in the pages.

When it comes to The Sinner Who Seduced Me, I like how the author has her characters getting over the issues that stand between them in a mature way, and James's protectiveness can be very appealing. It's too bad that I'm not sure what to make of everything else in this story.

Rating: 66


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