Review: Sinful by Charlotte Featherstone

Publisher: Harlequin
Where did you get this book: E-Arc from Netgalley
Release Date: Out now

In Victorian England vice of every kind can be purchased, and Matthew, the Earl of Wallingford, makes certain he avails himself of every possible pleasure. Bored and jaded, he is as well-known for his coldness as for his licentious affairs with beautiful women. While these numerous dalliances fulfill Matthew’s every physical need, they secretly leave him numb and emotionally void. Until one night when he finds himself beaten, eyes bandaged and in the care of a nurse with the voice of an angel—and a gentle touch that soothes the darkness in him and makes him yearn for more. Yet Jane Rankin is a lowly nurse, considered shy and plain by most.

There is no place for her amongst the lords and ladies of the aristocracy—despite Matthew’s growing craving for the fire that burns behind her earnest facade. And then there is Matthew’s secret. A secret so humiliating and scandalous it could destroy everyone he loves. A sin, he fears, not even the love of a good woman can take away…

I am usually a huge fan of this premise: the injured and bitter rake who falls in love with a smart but independent heroine. The book had a great start that featured a fantastic introduction of Jane, who is nursing Matthew after he suffers a brutal attack. Their initial encounters at the hospital were filled with emotional and sexual tension – especially when he had no idea what she looked like. But despite Matthew not knowing what Jane looked like, he becomes obsessed with her because she senses and looks at the real man beneath his cynical rakish demeanor. However, I did think Matthew idealised Jane and although he saw her as his ‘perfect angel’, when she meets up with him for an arranged asignation, he rejects her because she was not the beautiful woman he envisioned. At this point, the story started to falter and any liking and sympathy I had for Matthew dissappated like a deflating hot air balloon

This was a man who was weary and had used sex as a tool to numb himself from an abusive childhood – as well as to rebel against his authoritarian aristocratic father’s dictates. I really found at this point that the build up of tension from the positive beginning lost momentum, and then the book carried on in angst filled mode, with an emotional overwrought muddle in the middle of the story. Matthew’s shallow and arrogant behaviour to Jane was pretty annoying – especially when he finds out the truth about Jane, who I didn’t blame for hiding her identity. And once Jane and Matthew finally got together – with a lot of angst on Matthew’s side – I didn’t really care. I also found the love scenes to be melodramatic, and I think the emotional intensity missed way over the mark. And although I think this is the kind of book with erotic love scenes, I found myself skipping them.

I love dark, gritty stories but the more I read Sinful, the more frustrated and disappointed I got – especially since it had a promising beginning. I felt that there was forced angst and obstacles which was pushing the plot of the book. And when there was a real reason, such as the circumstances behind Matthew’s ill but mentally disabled sister (which in my mind should have been developed more because I liked this plot point with it’s twist), the build up to the ending began to pick up. But at this time, I just wanted to finish the book.  Matthew was so antangonistic and there was so much angsting over Jane, that it just made the tone of the book emotionally hysterical.

I am not saying this was a bad book. I liked the writing, and I loved the opening of the story, but the muddled middle and forced angst just made me dislike Matthew. It also affected the pacing with the constant torturous angst between Matthew and Jane, and I did not care if they did end up together or not. However I did find the ending interesting and it was brave to end on that note – especially since it was an ending which Matthew and Jane was afraid of having, and it was not an easy way out. It doesn’t have a traditional Happy Ever After which I found to be realistic and fitting. I know there is an epilogue at the author’s site, but I am actually happy with the way it ended. I just wished I liked the characters, especially Matthew, who wasn’t very likeable and seemed to overpower Jane, which created an inequality in their relationship.

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