A Sense of Sin by Elizabeth Essex
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Convinced that Miss Celia Burke is responsible for his sister Emily's death, Rupert, Viscount Darling (2 points! And isn't that name darling?) decides to pursue his revenge by betting his friends that he can seduce her and ruin her without once touching her. However, Celia, herself mourning Emily's death, turns out to be much more perceptive and attractive than Lord Darling counted upon. It soon becomes obvious, as their relationship develops with unintended effects on their lives and families, that they are also both pawns in a larger game they don't yet comprehend.
The characters in this book were well-developed and interesting. Darling has a particularly complex background--as a younger man he left his aristocratic family to enlist in the Royal Marines--eventually being promoted into the officer's ranks. Part of the book shows how his behavior affected his family relationships both negatively and positively, and his reconciliation with his parents. I particularly liked Essex's portrayal of Celia as a botany nerd, monomaniacal and meticulous in the way of 18th-19th century scholar/gentle(wo)men.
I really enjoyed this book. The plot was twisty without being byzantine, the foreshadowing was nicely done, and the prose was just delightful. The non-touching seduction was some of the hottest stuff I have read without there being actual touching. And, bonus! The hero was not a spy!
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