A Little Bit Sinful by Robyn DeHart

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Justin Rodale is the wealthy bastard son of the Duke of Chanceworth. He owns the most lucrative and luxurious gaming establishment and caters to London’s elite. Educated with the rest of the aristocrats, he knows all the rules by which Society lives, but he is beholden to no one.Clarissa Kincaid has been raised to be the perfect English lady. She knows precisely the sort of match she should make and she’s fairly certain she’s found that with a respectable gentleman. But the man won’t commit and she finds herself seeking assistance in the form of seduction lessons from Justin.This is a challenge the charming Justin can not resist. She may think that he knows nothing about her needs, but he’s determined to show her that he knows plenty about her secret desires. He has no intention of publicly ruining the girl, but he’s determined to privately tempt her into some slightly sinful behavior.

Rating: D-

When I’m faced with having to write a review of a book I thought was bad and didn’t enjoy, I always try to find something positive to say about it, because nothing can be all bad. But I really struggled with A Little Bit Sinful. The best I can come up with is that part of the story features a forced marriage, which is one of my favourite tropes in historical romance, and that the hero is attractive and honourable, although his character never really rises beyond the two-dimensional. But that’s all I can say.

The plot, such as it is, concerns Clarissa Kincaid and her determination to marry the handsome George Wilbanks, for no other reason than that her late, beloved sister-in-law told Clarissa that George was exactly the sort of man she should marry. Despite the fact that he’s been “walking out” with her for years and has never shown the slightest interest in kissing her or asking her to marry him, Clarissa persists in believing him to be on the point of proposing, despite his evasions and what she later discovers to be outright lies.

Added to this mix is the gorgeous and wealthy Justin Rodale, long-time family friend and bastard son of a duke, who is deeply attracted to Clarissa but believes himself to be unworthy of her due to his birth and the fact that he is the owner of London’s most successful gambling club.

Clarissa spends a lot of her time navel-gazing and agonizing about the fact that while she finds Justin’s kisses to be knee-weakening, she feels nothing with George, and wondering why that is. Then she fears that she is undesirable when Justin cops a good feel and then doesn’t take things any further, despite his telling her twice that he stopped because he didn’t want to deflower her.

To further affirm her TSTL status, Clarissa continues to believe the best of George and insists that Justin teach her how to seduce him – despite the fact that Justin has discovered George’s predilection for bare-knuckle fighting and availing himself of the services of prostitutes– and made Clarissa aware of it. The coup de grâce, though, is her plan to be found in a compromising position with George, thereby precipitating his proposal. But George, like the weasel he is, manages to sneak away as soon as they are discovered, meaning that Clarissa is ruined without anyone knowing he was the one responsible. Of course, Justin steps in to save the day and offers to marry her instead, still believing himself to be socially beneath her.

By this time, I was about three-quarters of the way through the book. The only other thing of importance that happened up to this point was the fact that Clarissa has assumed control of her family finances in the guise of Mr. Ignatius F. Bembridge, LLB, and enlists Justin’s help in recommending the services of Mr. Bembridge to her best friend’s father, who is experiencing financial difficulty.

Having had very little happen up to this point, the last part of the book suddenly explodes with plot. Justin has been trying to find out the identity of his mother for years without success – but Clarissa and her best friend Ella uncover a lead quite by chance which leads them to the Manchester House Hotel, whose owner is suspiciously un-cooperative. They then visit the elderly Lady Manchester (who is described as having dementia, but who seems lucid enough) – whose information leads Clarissa and Justin to break into the basement of the hotel to look through the records which had earlier been denied them.

Justin thinks that Clarissa’s desire to discover that his mother was, in fact, a French aristocrat has more to do with her wanting to raise his – and thus, her –social standing, than with helping him, and he withdraws from her. Clarissa receives a completely unexpected visit from George who, now she is safely married, wants to sleep with her – which he’s about to do on the desk to which he has “penned” her, when Justin arrives in the nick of time.

Not only is the book poorly plotted and paced, the characterization lacks depth and the writing is incredibly simplistic. It’s hard to believe this is the work of a multi-published author; apart from the sex scenes (which are very lackluster), in terms of the writing and sentence structure, it reads like a book for children – although thinking about it, that’s an insult to children’s authors.

I’m not sure if the copy I received was a finished one or an ARC, but there were errors in grammar, punctuation and sentence construction on practically every page, and several instances where sentences simply didn’t make any sense.

I would hope that these things have been picked up and corrected in the editing process – although a thorough re-write would be needed in order to correct the most serious flaws.

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