Tis the Season To Be Sinful
by Adrienne Basso
(Zebra, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-14201-1191-0
Another tale set around Christmas, Tis the Season To Be Sinful is one of those holiday stories to lift your spirits and to engage all of your senses. I enjoyed this story.

Juliet Wentworth is a widow with three children. Her husband left her an estate and his brother is now the guardian of her son Edward, who will inherit upon his majority. At age 12, that is a bit of time away. The current Earl has strict ideas and refuses to let Juliet do what is best. He is stingy with the money and she struggles with providing for her children and their servants. She decides to rent out the manor and live in the dowager house.

Richard Harper is an American businessman who is trying to make his mark in England. He has built his riches from scratch and seeks respectability. He has convinced himself that owning a country estate where he can hold events and entertain the aristocrats will help him in gaining investors and in gaining even more lucrative contracts. His past is sad, having lost his wife in childbirth and his newborn son soon after. He is certain that had he had money, he could have paid for the doctors and the care they both needed.

Richard comes to purchase the manor, only to find out that there is a misunderstanding. He is determined to gain the property. After finally reaching a deal with Juliet, he discovers that the Earl refuses to allow the sale. Rather than alienate the Earl, he convinces Juliet to marry him. He gets the estate and she gets financial security for herself and her children. Their attraction and Julietís passionate nature keep this from being a marriage of convenience, but the very passion that Juliet hopes will lead to intimacy outside the bedroom scares Richard. He leaves her to her own devices for several months following their wedding night. Upon his return, he finds that Juliet is going to introduce him to family life at Christmas whether he wants it or not.

I loved Julietís resiliency. She had a happy first marriage and learned the hard way that life could change in a moment. She missed the sharing and love and was determined to convince Richard that they too could have that type of marriage. She is not blatant in her attempts, merely persevering. Her plan is to let him see what life could be like and he will fall into her plans readily.

It takes a little more than that to convince Richard, but here is a man who is sure of his worth, convinced of the rightness of his path to financial success and one who soon recognizes that he might be wrong. He is strong yet not stupid. His demeanor was refreshing in a hero.

I enjoyed this tale more than I anticipated after reading the description. There was new ideas and plot variations that captured me and kept me coming back for more. The secondary characters were realistic. I especially liked the two boys, ages 12 and 10. They acted like children and were portrayed like children would have been expected to act when confronted with a reticent and somewhat reclusive stepfather.

Tis the Season To Be Sinful is a good blend of holiday cheer, historical romance and two characters who are strong alone but stronger together. Enjoy.

--Shirley Lyons

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