Fed up with her three older brothers always interfering in her love life, Eleanor Griffin declares her independence. From now on, she's determined to be the one who decides whom she courts. Although a tad perturbed by his sister's demans, her oldest brother, Sebastian, reluctantly agrees to her terms, so long as she doesn't do anything that causes a scandal. If she does, their agreement will be null and void, and she will immediately marry a man of his choosing. Thrilled to have gotten that much of a concession from Sebastian, Eleanor excitedly goes about searching for the right man and planning what sort of adventure she wants to embark upon before settling down. Little does she know her brother has enlisted the help of his best friend to help look after her, thinking that she will be more amenable to his presence in her life than that of her siblings. But he also happens to be the man on whom Eleanor has had a crush for years.
Valentine Corbett is a dissolute rake. After his mother's death and watching his father bring a parade of women through their home, Valentine has little respect for those of the female persuasion. They're great for bedding, but he has no intention of ever marrying. He also has no liking for family drama, so he's none too happy when Sebastian drags him into their family business. However, owing Sebastian a debt, he reluctantly agrees to look after Eleanor. Until then, she'd been nothing more than the youngest sister of his dearest friend and totally off limits. But now that she's acting the part of an independent woman, he's seeing her in a whole new light. Valentine finds himself enjoying her company and agreeing to assist her with whatever adventure she chooses. When that adventure turns out to be a midnight swim in a Hyde Park pond, it's more temptation than Valentine can bear. Before he knows it he's ruined the little vixen, but it's not until another scandal, which he'd tried to help her hide, comes to light, sending her brother scrambling for a husband, that Valentine realizes he's truly fallen for Eleanor. But if she discovers that he was there at her brother's request all along, can she ever forgive him?
Sin and Sensibility was my first read by Suzanne Enoch and the first in her Griffin Family series. Ms. Enoch has long been on my TBR list, so I was really looking forward to trying her work. However, this first foray into her writing left me with very mixed feelings. First, I thought the plot could have been better constructed. It took a really long time for things to get moving. Eleanor takes what seems like forever to make up her mind as to exactly what her adventure is going to be, and during that time, the story moves very slowly with little of note occurring. Even after she has her little adventure, it still plods along for a few more chapters until Valentine realizes that he can't bear the thought of any other man claiming Eleanor and acts upon his feelings. I thought the characterizations could have gone deeper too. While enough backstory was given to help me generally understand where both of them were coming from, I couldn't help feeling like I wanted to know more. Finally, there are some events that occur that IMHO, weren't very well explained. ****************Spoiler Alert****************For instance, the villain interrupts Valentine and Eleanor's mad dash to Gretna Green, but no explanation is given for how he knew where they were going. Since Valentine's decision to kidnap Eleanor and elope was made on the spur of the moment and not one that he seemed to have shared with anyone, I was baffled as to how Cobb-Harding figured it out. Also, it's revealed at the end that Eleanor's oldest brother, Sebastian, was actually matchmaking by throwing them together the way he did, but again no explanation for why he would want to match his only sister with a notorious rake - even one who's his best friend - was ever given. ****************End Spoiler Alert**************** On the upside, though, there were some good moments of sexual tension and a couple of pretty romantic scenes for Valentine and Eleanor, such as their midnight swim in the pond and parts of their elopement, so I did feel a connection between them. However, it just wasn't quite enough to push this one into the realm of greatness.
Valentine is easily one of the most dissolute rakes I've ever read. I've heard some romance readers complain about historical romance heroes who are described as rakish not really being rakes at all, so I don't think those readers would be disappointed with Valentine in that regard. In the opening scene, he's receiving a blow job from one of his numerous paramours, and a married lady at that, at a ball while he indolently watches the proceedings from their hidden alcove. I can't say that he really changed all that much throughout the remainder of the story. It seemed to me that he'd done little else in his life other than drinking, gambling, and womanizing, yet despite his frivolous lifestyle, he'd somehow managed to maintain his family fortune even though we never see him doing any actual work, not even looking over estate ledgers or anything. I suppose Valentine had his charms, but overall, he wasn't a very heroic romance hero for me. I understood that he didn't think much of women because of the parade of women his father brought through the house while Valentine was growing up after his mother died. Because of that, he'd come to the conclusion that all females were conniving and manipulative and only good for one thing. Throughout the story he said some extremely unflattering things about women in general which rubbed me the wrong way. He's known Eleanor for most of her life, but perhaps because she's the youngest sister of his best friend, he's never really taken much notice of her as a woman until she declares her independence. There are a few moments where he seems to realize that she's somehow different from the other women he's known, but by and large, I had a hard time discerning what precisely made him fall for her when he didn't seem to have much of a heart. He says that he enjoys her company, but I felt like that was more told than shown. I would have liked to see more instances of him specifically having a good time with her. Also, he vacillates back and forth between doing something honorable, such as rescuing Eleanor from a man who had drugged her and was about to rape her, and then saying something terrible about women that seems, to some degree, to encompass Eleanor as well. It was just really hard for me to truly like Valentine and understand what Eleanor saw in him when he's all over the board. It was also a little difficult to believe that she truly had changed him when his declaration of love, or even his own realization that he's in love with her, doesn't come until the very end.
Eleanor is a young woman who is tired of her three older brothers constantly interfering in her love life and scaring away potential suitors in whom she might be interested. She wants the freedom to choose the man with whom she's going to spend the rest of her life and not end up with someone who's old or boring, so she writes up a declaration of independence and presents it to her oldest brother, Sebastian. He isn't too thrilled by it, but reluctantly agrees to allow her the latitude she seeks so long as she doesn't cause a scandal, in which case, the agreement is voided and she will immediately marry a man whom he deems suitable. Little does she know, though, that Sebastian has engaged the help of his best friend, Valentine, to look after her, thinking that Eleanor will be more receptive to his presence than that of her siblings. Eleanor did have a point about a woman deserving more freedom, but at the same time, she could be quite the handful. Sebastian became duke when he was only eighteen and Eleanor was just a little girl. She was allowed to run wild on the estate, but when she became a young lady, she had to button down those tendencies, which now chafes at her.
While Eleanor was certainly opinionated, not afraid to speak her own mind, and perhaps even a bit reckless and daring at times, I appreciated that she had some sense of caution. After her run-in with the man with dishonorable intentions, she didn't really go out without one of her brothers or Valentine nearby. I did have to admire Eleanor for her fearlessness, not only in going up against her brothers, but also for taking her own destiny in hand. However, it was a little frustrating at first when she doesn't seem to know her own mind. She knows that she wants an adventure, but what exactly she wants to do eludes her for a long time. There were also a few times when I felt like she was a little too stubborn and dismissive. She seems to have no qualms whatsoever about giving up her virginity to Valentine, even though she fully believes it's a one-time deal. Also, neither of them seems the least bit concerned by the possibility that she could be pregnant or about her future husband being upset about her not being a virgin. Eleanor also says some pretty ugly things to Valentine when she finds out about his agreement with her brother. Much like I had a hard time discerning Valentine's attraction to Eleanor, the reverse was true as well. I just couldn't quite seem to figure out what she saw in him, and I had a somewhat difficult time believing in that forever love when she was prepared to marry someone else right before Valentine kidnapped her. I think that if both of them had opened up about their feelings for one another a little sooner, this would have been a lot better for me.
Sin and Sensibility had it's good points and not so good points, but overall, it was a fairly entertaining read, which is why I decided to give it 3.5 stars. Some parts could have been stronger, leaving my mind wandering at times, but other parts were engaging and fun, almost making me bump it up to four stars. The only real stand-out secondary characters were Eleanor's three brothers, Zachary, Charlemagne, and Sebastian, all of whom get their own stories in the series, in the order in which I've listed them, which is youngest to oldest. Even though Suzanne Enoch didn't exactly hit this one out of the ballpark for me, I still have lots of her books on my TBR list, including a couple more of the Griffin Family series, so I'm sure I'll give her another chance to wow me in the future.
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