Sinfully Yours by Cara Elliott

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After an eventful Season, Anna Sloane longs for some peace and quiet to pursue her writing. Though her plots might be full of harrowing adventure and heated passion, she’d much prefer to leave such exploits on the page rather than experience them in real life. Or so she thinks until she encounters the darkly dissolute-and gorgeously charming-Marquess of Davenport.

Davenport has a reputation as a notorious rake whose only forte is wanton seduction. However the real reason he’s a guest at the same remote Scottish castle has nothing to do with Anna . . . until a series of mysterious threats leave him no choice but to turn to her for help in stopping a dangerous conspiracy. As desire erupts between them, Davenport soon learns he’s not the only one using a carefully crafted image to hide his true talents. And he’s more than ready to show Anna that sometimes reality can be even better than her wildest imaginings . . .

Rating: B

This is the second book in the Hellions of High Street trilogy which features the Sloane sisters, three unconventional young women who, by virtue of their father’s belief that women should not be kept in ignorance of the world, are well educated and rather more savvy than the average debutante.

Anna is the middle sister and, like her siblings, is a writer, albeit in secret. Whereas Olivia, the eldest sister had penned political articles for a newspaper, Anna writes adventure novels under the pseudonym of Sir Sharpe Quill, featuring the swashbuckling and sometimes racy adventures of Emmalina Smythe and her swain, Count Alessandro.

With a deadline approaching and an unco-operative muse, when the ladies are invited to a house party in Scotland, Anna thinks such a remote location will afford her some peace and quiet in which to write, and hopes that her imagination will be stirred by spending a short time at a remote castle among the moors and crags of the Scottish Highlands.

Part of Anna’s problem is that her imagination has been rather occupied of late with the roguish smile, daring kiss and witty quips of Devlin, the Marquis of Davenport, widely known to be penniless rake of the worst sort, who cares for nothing and nobody. I confess, it was Davenport’s appearance as a secondary character in the previous book which was the principal reason I picked up this one. It was clear that there was something more to him than appearances suggested, and the verbal spats he engaged in with Anna made me want to read more about both of them.

In London, Anna finds herself far too preoccupied with the charming rogue, and decides an escape to Scotland is just the thing she needs both to finish her book and dispel her growing fascination with him.

But of course, that is not to be, for Devlin has also been invited to the house party, although his presence there is not for a simple visit. He has been sent there by the Home Office to investigate the threat to the life of a fellow guest – a German prince – to report back and, if necessary, help to neutralise the threat.

So the stage is set for an entertaining, madcap romp featuring two protagonists who are not what they seem to be at first glance. Devlin’s rakish reputation is not undeserved, but he is quietly attempting to rebuild his family fortune by his own industry; and Anna, who has spent her life being the perfect young woman, is, in reality, just a little more like her adventurous and inventive heroine.

The story may be a little formulaic (and somewhat daft!), but what lifts Sinfully Yours above the run-of-the-mill is the quality of the writing, and especially the dialogue, which is excellent. The verbal sparring between Anna and Devlin is some of the best I’ve read recently, and I enjoyed the author’s little double-ententres:

In this scene, the widowed Comtesse de Blois is trying to… attract Devlin’s attention:

“I much prefer to sketch handsome men.” Tracing a finger over the teardrop-shaped pendant nestled between her breasts, the comtesse added, “And beautiful baubles.”

And later, when it emerges that a ring belonging to the comtesse has gone missing:

“She does seem to have a flair for the dramatic,” commented Devlin

Anna […] then couldn’t resist doing a little needling of her own. “You were the one who had the closest look at her baubles. Is it your opinion that one could have come loose from its settings?”

Their eyes met, and his were dancing with mirth.

“Alas.” Devlin exaggerated a sigh. “I did not ask permission to make a thorough examination of her jewels. However, from what I could see, they looked quite well made to me.”

I rather liked the way that we saw Devlin being just as much thrown-for-a-loop by his attraction to Anna as she was by hers to him. He was just as likely to find himself short of breath from looking at her or forgetting what he was going to say as she was, and when it came to their collaboration later in the book, I was pleased to see that he never made light of her contribution or her abilities. When he insisted she back off if he thought things were becoming too dangerous, it was never because he didn’t think she could handle it, it was because he was concerned for her safety. And Anna didn’t argue in the way of the TSTL heroine and then flounce off and put herself stupidly in danger trying to prove herself.

Sinfully Yours is one of those books where the reader knows exactly what they are getting before turning the first page, but it’s no less enjoyable for that. The plot is silly, but the chemistry between Anna and Devlin leaps off the page, and that, together with the fast pacing and sparkling dialogue makes it a fun and thoroughly enjoyable read.

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