The Dangerous Duke

Sweetest Little Sin
by Christine Wells
(Berkley Sensation, $7.99, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0-425-23480-8
In my opinion, a great way to start a romance novel is to have your hero have his butt handed to him in the first paragraph. It sets up the protagonist as a person with vulnerabilities that don’t always have to do with the character’s ‘dark and tumultuous’ past. So when the Marquis of Jardine is ejected from a carriage after a sound beating on the first page, it made me smile.

This first scene sets the tone for Sweetest Little Sin. Christine Wells weaves a tale of intrigue and subterfuge not only of the plot line, but also of the relationship between the two lead characters.

The Marquis of Jardine (often simply referred to as Jardine) and Lady Louisa Brooke have been secretly married for the past eight years. Due to Jardine’s career as a spy, it is dangerous for anyone to link the two of them together. For this reason, Jardine and Louisa pretend to barely know each other in their day-to-day lives. On Louisa’s birthday, he was supposed to sneak away and come see her. When he doesn’t show up, Louisa fears the worst and goes to Jardine’s town house. Jardine, desperate to keep Louisa safe and away from his life as an undercover operative, breaks off their relationship and tells her he no longer loves her and that their marriage is void as all of the people who witnessed it are either dead or have moved away and lost contact.

Shortly before the breakup, Louisa is approached by another spy to help in a clandestine plot to retrieve a sensitive document from Lord Radleigh, a nobleman with a questionable past and questionable means of getting money. Shortly after the breakup, Louisa accepts this role as a spy as a means of getting back at Jardine.

  As you can imagine, this leads to all kinds of problems. Louisa accepts a marriage proposal from Lord Radleigh, at the behest of Faulkner, a high-ranking spy in the Queen’s Service and is sent to a party at his estate to spy on him.

  Jardine, having no idea Louisa is working for the crown, believes that she has moved on and has truly accepted the proposal of a very dangerous man. Now Jardine must try to keep Louisa safe from her new fiancé while keeping up the ruse that he no longer loves her, when all he wants to do is keep her for himself. 

  Sweetest Little Sin was a fun book to read. I enjoyed the mix of spy thriller and romance.

Like any good spy thriller, the story snowballs, picking up in intensity as it goes along. As the stakes are upped, the tension grows and I found myself being drawn into the story the farther I kept reading.

Jardine is not your typical handsome hero. In fact, when Jardine is described, he doesn’t really sound that handsome at all. He’s pasty and sports a widow’s peak. He’s also a complete jerk to Louisa and if it wasn’t for his love of Louisa and his desire to keep her out of harm’s way, I don’t think that he would be very likable at all. That being said, he does become more likable as the story progresses.

Louisa isn’t a typical beauty either. She’s cold, not terribly well endowed and a little too tall to be considered highly attractive by the ‘ton.’  However, she’s rich, which makes her very attractive to Lord Radleigh. Louisa is smart, strong, stubborn and loves Jardine with all her heart. This mix of attributes makes her a very interesting character to watch.

The pacing in Sweetest Little Sin was well done and I found the way Wells revealed crucial pieces of the plot surprised me and caught me off guard as they should.

My only complaint with the story was the chemistry between the lovers. The chemistry was there, but not with the intensity that seemed proportionate to the amount of love they have for each other. 

  Other than the issue with the chemistry, Sweetest Little Sin is a solid and highly enjoyable story. I would gladly recommend Sweetest Little Sin to anyone who likes a little intrigue mixed in with their romance.  

--Lindsey Seddon

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