Jasper Renshaw, Viscount Vale, knows he wants to marry if only to produce an heir, but he's had a run of bad luck in romance. He was already jilted by a former fiancee, and now he's been left at the altar by his latest fiancee on their wedding day. When Melisande, a young woman he vaguely knows, comes to him, offering to marry him herself, Jasper readily accepts to avoid going through the courting process all over again. Once married, his new wife intrigues him in a way no other woman has. By day, she's a prim and proper lady, but by night, she's a seductress who eagerly offers him her body, leaving him wondering exactly what sort of woman he's wed and suspecting that she may be keeping secrets from him. Jasper also has demons that dog him from his time fighting in America. He believes that someone in their regiment betrayed them all, leading to him and his fellow soldiers being ambushed, captured, and tortured by Indians. He's been trying to discern who the culprit might be, but his investigation has struck a nerve with someone who may place both him and Melisande in danger just as he's starting to fall in love with his new lady wife.
Melisande Fleming has been in love with Jasper from afar for years and has seen him go through a parade of lovers, but he barely knows she exists. Over the years, she's watched him closely and caught a glimpse of pain and hidden depths in his eyes. When he's jilted at the altar, she realizes it may be her one and only chance to finally have the man she's been longing for, so she boldly proposes to him and is thrilled when he accepts. They prove to be a surprisingly good match. But Melisande herself was also thrown over years before by a man she loved deeply and his betrayal left her broken. As a result, she has no desire to give any man that kind of power over her again, so while she eagerly offers Jasper her passion, she has no intention of letting him know her true feelings. She senses that he's holding closely guarded secrets, too, and is determined to get him to trust her enough to open up about his past. But she didn't count on Jasper being equally determined to ferret our her secret as well or for Jasper's inquiries to threaten their newfound happiness.
To Seduce a Sinner is the second book in Elizabeth Hoyt's Legend of the Four Soldiers series. In this one, our hero is Jasper, another member of the army regiment that fought in the French and Indian War and that was allegedly betrayed by one of their own members, leading to an Indian ambush. Jasper and several of his fellow soldier were taken captive and tortured by the Indians with some of them dying while in captivity. He's now continuing the investigative work started by Samuel in the first book, trying to ferret out the turncoat. However, the story opens with him being jilted at the alter by his fiance, the second time he's been thrown over in less than a year. As he's trying to process this turn of events while nursing a hangover, he's approached by a woman he vaguely knows who proposes that he marry her instead. Knowing that he genuinely wants to wed and produce heirs and having no desire to go through the courting process all over again, he figures, sure why not? Little does he know, though, that Melisande made her bold proposal because she's been in love with him from afar for six years and sees this as her last chance to possibly snag the man of her dreams since he barely seems to know that she exists. She's thrilled when he accepts, but she has no intention of letting her feelings for him be known. Melisande herself was cruelly jilted many years ago, and after surviving the pain of that lost love, she has no desire to make herself that vulnerable again. However, she's determined to seduce her new husband so that the notorious ladies' man doesn't stray from her bed. Jasper harbors some secrets of his own from his time in the military that he doesn't want his genteel wife to know, so it takes time and patience for each of them to open up. In the meantime, they burn up the sheets together and soon Jasper is as crazy about Melisande as she is about him. But when Jasper's investigation hits an unexpected nerve with someone close to them, it may put them both in mortal danger.
Jasper was a second son who never expected to become Viscount Vale, so his father bought him a military commission. He proudly went with his regiment to fight in the war, but after all that he went through at the hands of the Indians, he's come back a tortured soul. While I wouldn't say that he quite has full-blown PTSD, he is guilt-riddled, deeply affected emotionally, and bears some other sensitivities that are very sympathetic. Within the ton, he's known as a rake, who goes from one mistress to the next. Jasper was engaged to Emeline, the heroine of the first book and Melisande's best friend, but she thought of him more as a brother and jilted him for her own hero, Samuel. So Jasper went through courting another young lady only to have her leave him at the altar. When Melisande makes her proposal, he's rather surprised, but given his track record with fiancees, he decides to take her up on her offer. Once married, he finds himself intrigued by her and wanting to get to know everything about her and sets about doing just that. Then Jasper happily discovers that his new wife is quite the seductress, which only enthralls him all the more until he's totally falling for her and all other women fade into the background. But his investigation into who betrayed their regiment stirs up danger and he also senses that his lovely wife is keeping something from him. Jasper is the classic tortured hero who bears a lot of guilt for things that happened during his captivity, which stirs him to want to avenge the men in his regiment who were lost or harmed. He may have initially married Melisande thinking that one woman was as good as another, but he quickly realizes that isn't the case. I like that she stirs him intellectually. In spite of him not initially being in love with her, he treats her with kindness and gentleness and all his little endearments are really sweet. I loved that when he found out the truth of her past love, he's fully accepting, sensitive, and protective. Jasper was just an all-around wonderful hero that I totally fell for.
Melisande has been in love with Jasper from afar for six years. During that time, he's barely given her notice, while she's watched him run through a parade of lovers. She'd all but given up on him when he's left at the altar by his current fiancee. Believing it's now or never, she works up the courage to make her proposal and is excited when he accepts. Before marrying him, she thought that she could be content if he eventually strayed, but she discovers a jealous side that knows she couldn't bear it. Therefore, she sets out to seduce her husband, which turns out to be a very successful endeavor. However, the one thing she swore she'd never do is tell him her true feelings. Melisande herself was once jilted by a man she loved so deeply it nearly tore her apart, and she doesn't want to give anyone that kind of power over her again. But she didn't count on Jasper sensing that she's keeping things from him and his determination to know every part of her. Conversely, though, she knows that he, too, holds secrets from his time in the war and is equally intent on getting him to trust her with all his dark places. Melisande is a very sweet, reserved heroine, the introvert to Jasper's charming extrovert, but at the same time, she has a secret bold, seductive side. She's been watching him from afar for so long that she already knows a lot about him, but she gently pushes her way a little deeper into his life until he fully trusts her. She's loyal and kind, wanting nothing more than to be Jasper's one and only for the rest of his life, but she harbors a few of her own demons that only Jasper's unconditional love can help her put to rest.
The first volume in the Legend of the Four Soldiers was good, but I didn't love it the way I usually love Elizabeth Hoyt's stories. To Seduce a Sinner completely put everything back on track for me with a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved Jasper and Melisande both individually and as a couple. They compliment each other perfectly and I adored the little game, if you will, that they play, where she can only be bold in the dark of night and he worms his way into her life in the light of day. I think it was a clever metaphor for their opposite personality traits that still fit together superbly like the pieces of a puzzle. They both challenge each other, which keeps their relationship fresh and interesting. They're also both very loving and kind to one another and accepting of the other's flaws. We get a little secondary romance, as well, between Jasper's valet, Mr. Pynch, and Melisande's maid, Suchlike, that was sweet and kind of reminded me of Bates and Anna from Downton Abbey. I also enjoyed the progression of the mystery surrounding who betrayed the regiment, which I have a feeling is going to continue throughout the series. We're introduced to Sir Alistair, a Scottish naturalist who wasn't a soldier but who was attached to Jasper's regiment while studying the American flora and fauna. He was taken captive, tortured and left disfigured, making him a recluse. Melisande meets Helen, a demimonde who has decided to leave her protector. These two get a Beauty and the Beast love story in the next book, To Beguile a Beast. Overall, To Seduce a Sinner was a wonderful story that enchanted me and that has left me very much looking forward to continuing the series.
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