"A secret is a kind of promise.... It can also be a prison." – Jennifer Lee Carrell
I haven't read Isabella Bradford since she was Miranda Jarrett, and I think that is about to change. Can you say Glom? In case you haven't guessed, I liked A Sinful Deception. I liked almost everything about this delightful book!
Here's what makes this story a great read - Geoffrey Fitzroy and Lady Serena Carew. These two are not complex, complicated people. They are drawn pretty realistically. Their romance develops slowly and was a pure joy to read. There was some really lovely writing in this story.
The story starts in 1771, which means that we have gigantic, lush dresses with hoops, satin, silk, lace and on our head we have lace, flowers and powder. Think Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Thomas Reynolds, and a young Marie Antoinette. This is one of my favorite time periods, (even with all the smells that must have permeated the land). Visually this had to be a vivid, lush time period - if you had money.
Geoffrey. On the surface, what we have in Geoffrey is your typical rake who seems to have plowed a few fields, stuffed a few olives, swabbed a lot of decks, poked some pumpkins. In fact, he's one of those Romanceland rakes. I found myself wondering how he arrived at the age of 25 and still had his overused Mr. Toad attached to Bert and Ernie. In this story it all starts with a glance from across a crowded room (sounds like a song). He spots this gorgeous, sensual, exotic woman and is instantly enthralled. He must have her. However, he knows she is an innocent, so that is a problem. You see, marriage is a word that hasn't found its way into his vocabulary. But he can dance with her. His brother, Harry, bets him that he won't be able to persuade her onto the floor. It seems that Serena is a tad bit aloof. Because Geoffrey has tons of women falling at his feet every day, he doesn't think he will have a problem with this one. Much to his surprise she all but ignores him. This only makes him more intrigued. He knows she spent her childhood in India and he's just returned from there, so reaching down into his bag of tricks he pulls out some Hindi words. Those words work. He wins his bet, but by the end of the evening he is no longer interested in anything but Serena. He’s not interested in marriage, however, that doesn't prevent him from courting her. He never considers why he's courting her; all that he knows is that he wants to be with her. I loved watching a completely out-of-control, lust-filled rake fall in love.
However, he hasn't taken into consideration the reaction of Serena's grandfather. Her grandfather doesn't have a very high opinion of Geoffrey's family. The fact that Geoffrey's father is a duke doesn't matter one bit to her grandfather. You see, Geoffrey is descended from a French woman who was a mistress to a king and that is unacceptable to Serena's grandfather - big time.
Serena. Serena has a secret. As secrets go, it is a doozy. We the readers know from the very beginning what that secret is. Spoilers ahead, sort of. Serena is posing as her dead half-sister, her dead legitimate half-sister, her dead white legitimate half-sister. Unbeknownst to her pure blood stickler English aristocratic family, Serena's father had numerous Indian mistresses. His favorite one was her mother. Serena was the only survivor of a deadly fever which infected and killed everyone in her father's household - including servants. She was thirteen at the time, and when she was rescued by some British soldiers, she's mistaken for her sister. She decides not to correct them.
All through the book we witness her struggle with the fear of being discovered. She's the apple of her stickler grandfather's eye and beloved by her aunt. The secret was a very intense part of the story; we know that sometime it's going to explode into the air. We just don't know when and we don't know how everyone will react. The secret was very well done.
Secondary characters. The Sinful Deception was loaded with a cast of great supporting characters, from Selena's dreadful villain Uncle Radnor to Geoffrey's strong willed father, the Duke of Breconridge. Let's talk about the duke. I found him an irritating, but at the same time, fascinating character. He was/is determined that one of his sons will give him a grandson. In the process, he doesn't seem to care about whose feelings he dumps on or who he has to brow-beat to achieve his goal. His treatment of Gus (heroine from A Wicked Pursuit,) was just dreadful. He is controlling and abrasive to his sons. However, underneath all of his bombastic actions is a calm, silent caring. Because of his determination to have a male heir to continue his family’s legacy I had my doubts when I read his calm reaction to Serena's secret. I had a feeling that anyone who so dictatorial in his need for a male scion to carry on a family linage would be less than happy when their son married a woman of mixed blood. But hey, what do I know? However, Breconridge just didn't seem all that flexible to me.
I did have an almost ewwww moment in The Sinful Deception. All I'm going to say is spit, Timothy Toad and hands.
Overall, this was a delightful book with a gentle yet intense love story. Geoffrey and Serena were a great couple and I'm looking forward to the third book in the series. I'm also going back for the first in the series!
Time/Place: 1771 England