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GUEST REVIEW: A Taste of Sin by Connie Mason

A Taste of Sin Connie Mason

Dear Ms. Mason:

I recently celebrated the Tamil New Year with my family. Since my resolutions from January had long been broken, I vowed to read the books languishing in my kindle before purchasing any more books. And once I browsed through my electronic library, there was no way I could resist this gem of a blurb.

Lady Christy Macdonald had been ordered to marry St. John Thornton when she was a mere child. But her wedding day was the last time the spirited Scottish beauty had set eyes on her English bridegroom, who has become the notorious rake they call “Lord Sin”. Now she is a woman, and under pressure to end her sham marriage in order to wed the Cameron chieftain, Yet fiery, independent Christy wants a new groom even less that she wanted the first. So she hatches a plan to secure an heir and deter a suitor by seducing the infamous “Sin”.

Come hell or high water, Lady Christy would have her long-awaited wedding night at last. But first she had to seduce the dashing rogue who has claimed her as bride–in name only!

 

I only have one question after reading this blurb: what is up with the trend that heroes must have ridiculous nicknames? I’m not sure who started it, but I do remember reading lots of Cynster books where everyone was named “Devil”, “Scandal”, or “Rogue.” Is the point to hint at the hero’s magical bedroom powers? Because if I could’ve named this hero, I might’ve gone with Lord Asshole, Sir Drinks-a-Lot, or Mr. Unable To Control His Dick. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Our novel starts when King George degrees that the fourteen year old Marquis of Derby marry seven year old Lady Christy Macdonald, the granddaughter of a Scottish laird. Now I’m not sure how legal child marriage was in eighteenth century England, but hey, it’s the king! He could probably degree that Christy marry a ladybug if he was in a pissy mood. And really, the ladybug would’ve been a better husband than stupid Lord Sin. At least if a ladybug wanted to voice misogynistic drivel, the reader wouldn’t understand it. Anyway, after the wedding ceremony, Christy kicks her husband in an act of hatred. Oh, Christy. Why didn’t you continue this excellent tactic later on in life? Kicking him would’ve been a much smarter choice than kissing him.

Fast forward fifteen years. Our hero, St. John “Sinjun” Thornton, is prowling for chicks at a ball. Can we address the dumb nickname? First, Sinjun unfortunately evokes the name “Injun Joe” from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Second, it took me two hours to realize that it’s a play off the name “St. John.” Good grief. Anyway, being the bright-eyed womanizer that he is, Sinjun instantly spots a new arrival that is ripe for plucking. How does the reader know that this female is the heroine? This might explain why.

“Though her décolletage was not severe, it revealed enough of her magnificent breasts to make staring worthwhile. And he’d wager he wasn’t the only one who thought so. Sinjun felt himself harden and was shocked to the core. Bloody hell! He wanted her and he didn’t even know her!”

 GUYS. Sinjun has an instant erection upon viewing the heroine’s luscious boobs. It’s like love at first sight, only not. No, it’s an erection at first sight! Only in the romance genre can a guy spot his true love when his dick hardens. If only this worked in real life. Anyway, rather than soothing his ache in a cold shower, Sinjun hastens to introduce himself to the gorgeous damsel known as “Lady Flora Randall.”

Christy has her reasons to hide her true identity and to pretend that she is a married woman. She’s now the laird after her grandfather’s death and furious at her absentee husband for raising rents and taxes back home. And, like the cherry on top, an Evil Clansman wants her to annul her marriage so he can marry Christy. Deciding that an Englishman is better than Evil Clansman, Christy travels to London so she can consummate her marriage and get pregnant. I’m not really sure why she couldn’t just tell Sinjun who she was. It’s not like Sinjun’s desire to bang her would’ve gone away if he knew Christy was his wife. But I guess the masquerade had to be kept in order to create a Big Misunderstanding later on. I say “a” Big Misunderstanding because there are at least five in this book. The main couple stubbornly refuse to listen to common sense and don’t believe in honest communication. I can’t express how many times I wanted to send both of them to a marriage counselor so I wouldn’t have to read about their stupidity. But I digress. While Christy may be a “spirited Scottish beauty,” she has also clearly never interacted with a male before.

“Have you never hear of destiny?” he whispered against her lips. “The moment I looked at you I knew we were meant to be together.”

Oh, he was good. Very good.

Sure. Or maybe Sinjun’s just very good at really bad pick-up lines. If a guy said that to me within ten minutes of meeting me, I’d probably need a Heimlich maneuver because I choked on something after laughing hysterically. Seriously, can a guy get any cheesier? But Sinjun more than makes up for his less-than-suave seducing tactics while in the midst of coitus.

“You’re a virgin!”

She knew he’d notice. A man of Sinjun’s experience would know everything there was to know about a woman. “Aye, does it matter?”

Sinjun thought about it for a moment and decided it didn’t matter to him if it didn’t matter to her.

Do you hear that sound? It’s the sound of dead silence as romance readers everywhere rub their eyes to make sure they aren’t hallucinating. Dear God. She’s a virgin. He doesn’t care! In fact, he wouldn’t have not fucked her so hard had he known about her pesky virginity. Please pause while I weep in unashamed joy. Unsurprisingly, Sinjun is not the only person shocked at the untorn state of Christy’s hymen. Look at Julian’s (Sinjun’s older brother) reaction.

Julian looked astounded. “A married virgin? I’ll bet that’s a story worth hearing.”

Julian is under the impression that the married virgin is a rare creature. Julian is also clearly not a romance reader.

Unfortunately, this is also the last time I really liked Sinjun. See, “Flora” and Sinjun now embark on an affair that consists of a lot of sex and nothing else (yay, I can rhyme!). Sinjun buys “Flora’s” excuse that she’s a virgin because she’s married to an eighty year old man. And perhaps even more unbelievably, he is willing to get her pregnant because her elderly husband is obviously impotent. Ugh. And when “Flora” leaves him without any notice, he gets into a pissy and drunk mood. See, he can’t understand why “Flora” would leave his charming presence when he’s bought her armloads of expensive jewelry. Gee, Sinjun. I wonder if “Flora” got tired of you treating her like a mistress. Maybe she would’ve been more receptive to declarations of love.

Sinjun’s assholey mood gets even worse when he discovers his faraway Scottish bride is with child. How dare that Scottish wench break her vows to a man she met once fifteen years ago! What kind of scandalous tramp did he marry!?! The horror! The hypocrisy is thick enough to choke on. Thank goodness I had water on hand to quench my rage. And Julian. Oh, I love Julian.

 Sinjun leaped to his feet. “What! Has she no shame? No honor? How could she do this to me?”

Disgust colored Julian’s words. “How can you expect her to honor her marriage vows when your own conduct is less than noble? You’ve flaunted your mistresses without a thought for your wife’s feelings.”

“‘Tis different for men,” Sinjun claimed. “Christy Macdonald is not a courtesan. Those kind of women are sought after by men for their beauty and experience. Christy is a Highland lass, neither beautiful nor experienced.”

It’s times like these when fictional characters should be grateful that they’re fictional. Because if this bastard was real, I’d be flipping him off and slapping him in the face. Maybe in the crotch, if he didn’t instantly beg for forgiveness. If I were a violent sort, I might pull a Jessica and shoot him unflinchingly. By this point, I was ready for Julian to be the hero. Team Sinjun versus Team Julian? No contest.

Anyway, Sinjun and his balls get so upset that he runs over to Scotland in search for justice (justice for his manhood, maybe?). What he discovers completely shocks him (for us readers? Not so much.). I don’t want to spoil any further than 20% of the book, but I will say that the rest of the plot frustrated and pissed me off. It would’ve been cracktastic had I not been so fed up and hateful toward the main characters. Sinjun never really apologizes for his constant stream of misogynistic actions and I never felt that he learned why he was wrong. Christy is so determined to lead her people, yet always runs off to London at the first sign of trouble (this happens more than once). She also exhibits signs of the TSTL virus and is so contagious that she spreads it to Sinjun. Maybe the TSTL virus is a STD. They each did such moronic and selfish things that I couldn’t decide which one I disliked more. It was a tie by the end of the novel. You know a book is bad when not even cracktastic prose can cheer me up.

Presenting Exhibit A:

 “A tenuous hope for a peaceful solution sprouted in Christy’s breast.”                                                          

I always learn the most interesting tidbits from romances that I never learned from my anatomy classes. I mean, who knew that the breast produces hope? Maybe it’s the dick for guys. If I hadn’t read this, I would’ve been under the impression that the limbic system in the brain is responsible for emotional responses. Sorry for the deluge of sarcasm, guys. Out of curiosity, why the breast and, say, not the heart or the soul? Is it to remind the readers that Christy just had a kid and was breastfeeding? You know what the worst part is? I couldn’t even smile when I first read this because I was still pissy over the Big Misunderstanding. And neither could I laugh at the next quote.

 

Presenting Exhibit B:

 

“He prodded her mouth open and wrote love notes with his tongue.”

Considering he didn’t dip his tongue in an inkwell before writing, I’m afraid to say that he probably wasn’t very successful. Maybe he should’ve tried with his dick – the cum would’ve substituted for the ink.

So what else didn’t I like about this book? Sit tight, kids, ‘cause it’s going to be a while before you can leave.

The Romance (or perhaps the lack of it):

With all the terrible lack of communication and Big Misunderstandings, I could never understand why they fell in love. Lust, sure. Sinjun is really attracted to her boobs. And then he is more attracted to her pregnancy boobs. And then he is even more attracted to her post-pregnancy boobs. Do you see a pattern here? But asides from that, I got nothing. Perhaps even worse are the questionable things that Sinjun occasionally does.

“Anger propelled him [Sinjun] forward, rage made him seize the child from his mother’s breast. Deprived of his meal, Niall opened his mouth and bellowed.”

Like what the fuck, dude? I don’t care what horrible thing Christy just did. You don’t grab a tiny baby when he is breastfeeding from his mom. Just, no. Also, the baby’s name is Niall? I had a tenuous hope that he was somehow connected to One Direction’s Niall (maybe with the involvement of time travel). Sadly, I was quickly proven wrong even though it would’ve made the book a lot more interesting.

The Predictability and the Never-ending Clichés:

Okay, this is more a minor tick than anything else. But minor ticks can add fuel to the fire when one is already scorching hot. Let’s take Christy, for instance. A beautiful, red-headed, and green eyed Scottish woman. If romance novels were my only source of information for Scottish people, I would be under the impression that all Scots are redheads. Has anyone actually encountered a brunette Scottish heroine in romance? Or are they all stuck in some well, doomed with only the company of small-breasted heroines and non-rakish dukes? Perhaps even worse is Christy’s accent. She has lived in Scotland for all of her life. Yet she consistently speaks the King’s English throughout the novel. Of course, she occasionally lapses into “laddie” and “yer” every other chapter. Argh.

And then there is the predictability. Every single time a plot thread was introduced, I accurately predicted what would happen. Of course, I also hoped that I was wrong every time, but no. This got old fast. Take Julian, for example.

“He [Julian] took his duties as head of the family – namely, Sinjun and his younger sister Emma – seriously, and his duties to his country even more so. Julian was a mystery to his peers. He disappeared for long periods of time and told no one where or why he went.”

When I read this, I instantly came up with three possibilities for Julian’s disappearances.

  1. Julian is a wizard and he teaches transfiguration at Hogwarts. That explains why he’s never around. To keep his secret from his muggle family, he occasionally apparates back to London.
  2. Julian visits Narnia. Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia.
  3. Julian is a spy for England.

Can you guess which one of my answers was proven correct? (Hint: it’s the least awesome one)

Also, there was SO MUCH sequel bait with Julian and his annoying sister, Emma. If this book ever went fishing, it wouldn’t need to dig for worms because it already had so much sequel bait to attract the fish.

Last, but certainly not least, the contradiction between thought and action pissed me off. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll try to explain in vague terms. There are so many times when characters do assholey things. At the exact same time, they feel really sorry about the assholey thing that they just did. For God’s sake, if you are going BE an asshole, you may as well THINK like an asshole. I felt like the author was trying to redeem these terrible characters by showing the reader a sympathetic thought process. An interesting tactic, but it only pissed me off even more.

Grammatical and Historical Inaccuracies:

Now, I’m not the grammar or the historical police. And I don’t know if grammar errors existed because of a bad job of digitalizing the book. But really, if it says St. John in the blurb, why does it say St.John everywhere in the book? And in the first chapter, Sinjun’s last name is apparently “Thomton,” not Thornton. And there are countless other examples of grammar issues.

Something else confused me. Sinjun’s deceased father is an earl. Julian is an earl and the head of the family. Yet Sinjun is somehow a marquis when he is a younger son. I’m sure there could be a reasonable explanation for this, but the text never explains it.

The Scene That Upset Me For Three Days:

Okay, I am just going to give an excerpt so I can rant about it. Some context: Christy and Sinjun are currently on the outs. Sinjun is drunk out of his mind and Christy is wearing a mask. So Sinjun doesn’t recognize Christy. This occurs at a ball and Sinjun drags Christy outside.

  His knee slid between her legs. Panic shuddered through her. “Stop!”

“Tell me your name and where I can find you tomorrow and I’ll let you go.”

“No, I cannot.”

“Nor can I stop,” Sinjun said, giving her a lopsided smile.

Christy tried to push him away, but he was too strong for her. He lowered his body atop hers and pressed his loins into the cradle of her thighs, giving her the full benefit of his aroused sex.

 “I’m going to have you, my lady. I may regret this tomorrow, but tonight I’m too foxed to care.”

 In the next paragraph, Christy suddenly gets really into it because she remembers that she loves Sinjun. They then have consensual sex. Let me be clear: I do not think that this is rape. But this scene bothers me for several reasons.

  1. Sinjun is drunk as hell. Even if I subscribed to the idea of “no really means yes” (which I don’t), he is drunk. He has no way of gauging if her “Stop!” and “No!” actually mean the opposite.
  2. Because it’s the heroine and we know that she loves him, this scene ends in consensual sex. But he didn’t have a fricking clue that it was the heroine. It could’ve been any random chick that he dragged across the ballroom. He probably would’ve fucked her whether she wanted to or not.
  3. et me clarify something. Obviously the sober Sinjun has no control over the actions that the inebriated Sinjun does. I have nothing against Sinjun for this act. What I do have a problem with is the aftermath. At no point does Sinjun think, “Gee, I made a dumb mistake when I was drunk. It was socially unacceptable.” Christy never mentions it. The text completely ignores it. Sinjun never apologizes for dragging Christy across the ballroom when she clearly didn’t want to at that time. The aftermath of the sex scene is Sinjun finding out he was in fact banging Christy, as well as their journey in fixing their previous Big Misunderstanding. That is what bothered me.
  4.  After searching through the amazon and goodreads reviews, I could only find a couple reviews that even mentioned the “quasi-rape” (as per one reviewer). I understand that everyone has different responses to the text and that’s okay (mine is probably on the extreme end). This is what I’m curious about: would that scene have bothered you? Why or why not? Obviously most of you haven’t read this book to give an accurate analysis, but I’m curious about your reaction to the excerpt.

If there was only one thing that pissed me off, I probably would’ve enjoyed the book more. But the annoying ticks kept getting bigger and bigger. D-/F+

Best Regards.

Divya

P.S. I now need a really good historical recommendation to bleach my brain from this book. Help me! If the author is well known, I probably already have it. No predictable plots, please.

 

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24 Comments

  1. Kate Hewitt
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 11:39:50

    Not commenting on the book or the review, but in England ‘Sinjun’ is a common nickname for St. John.

  2. Sirius
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 11:40:37

    HAHAHA. I vote for Julian being new Hogwarts teacher :). Excellent review, thank you.

  3. Isobel Carr
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 11:49:17

    First, Sinjun unfortunately evokes the name “Injun Joe” from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Second, it took me two hours to realize that it’s a play off the name “St. John.”

    It’s not a “play” on the name. It’s how the name is pronounced. Just as Saint Ledger is sometimes pronounced Silinger.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_John_(name)

  4. Ros
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 12:26:20

    @Isobel Carr: Yes, though I’m not sure I would ever spell it ‘Sinjun’ usually. That is a bit odd.

  5. Sunita
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 12:57:26

    Yay, Divya! Welcome back!

    @Ros: I’ve seen it spelled Sinjun in US-published books, and it throws me out every time. I know how to pronounce St. John, and I understand that lots of non-Brits don’t, but in the US it’s just too close to Injun, as Divya says.

    It’s pretty weird, when you think about it, that a US author decides she has to use a British name that’s one syllable away from what is very close to a US slur in pronunciation, and then rather than spelling it the normal way and chancing that the reader won’t know how to pronounce it, she spells it phonetically, so that the reader is forced to look at this almost-slur and recalibrate to remember why it’s there. Over and over again.

    Edith Layton spelled Bessacarr’s name “Sinjin,” which was better as well as being the phonetic spelling I’ve seen more often.

  6. Jane Lovering
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 12:58:50

    Yep, ‘Sinjun’ is how St John is pronounced. Just be glad he’s not called Featherstonehaugh (pronounced ‘Fanshawe’)

  7. Janine
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 13:02:23

    P.S. I now need a really good historical recommendation to bleach my brain from this book. Help me! If the author is well known, I probably already have it. No predictable plots, please.

    My two most recent historical keepers are Rose Lerner’s Sweet Disorder and Jeannie Lin’s The Lotus Palace. Last year, I loved Cecilia Grant’s A Lady Awakened. I gave all three of these A- grades.

  8. Ros
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 13:27:19

    @Sunita: Exactly. If she hadn’t done that, US readers wouldn’t have been thrown by the Injun thing and UK readers would have pronounced it Sinjun anyway. I suspect the author came up with the Lord Sin thing and then had to work back to explain that. She would probably have been better leaving it on the cutting room floor.

  9. Divya
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 13:33:56

    I did google to see if Sinjun was a nickname of St. John. I’m glad that the author chose it because it does make it more authentic. But like Sunita said, it was disconcerting to read it over and over again from an American perspective. It didn’t have an effect on my grade, but it was something I wanted to point out in my review. I’m sorry if I came off as callous or unnecessarily bitchy, though. It certainly wasn’t my intention but I’m glad you guys came and commented. :)

  10. Isobel Carr
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 13:48:44

    @Divya: Wait, she spells it “Sinjun” in the book? I missed that point in the review. Totally my bad. That would drive me INSANE! IMO, if you have a crazy name, you either trust your readers to know it, or you work in something ONCE to explain it and move on. And in rom land, I guess I pretty much assume (probably incorrectly) that most people have read and seen Jane Eyre enough to know that St. John – Sinjin.

  11. Kate Hewitt
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 14:00:57

    I agree Sinjun is uncomfortably close to injun, but I have seen it spelled Sinjun as a nickname here in England. Maybe that’s not the norm, though!

  12. Anna Richland
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 14:11:22

    Seconding Janine on all three recommendations for historical authors. They won’t do you wrong, not any of their books.

  13. Divya
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 15:23:53

    @Janine:

    Thank you! However, I’ve already read all those books and loved them. I think I actually bought them off your rec!

  14. Sunita
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 16:09:54

    Hey Divya, I’m not reading as much historical romance these days, but I reviewed a book by Nicola Cornick back in January that I liked quite a bit (Whisper of Scandal), and I’m a big fan of Miranda Neville’s historicals as well. If you already have those, then going back in time, have you read Jo Beverley’s Regency trads? My favorites are Emily and the Dark Angel and Deirdre and Don Juan, but you can throw a dart and get a good one. They were reissued in ebook form a few years ago.

  15. Ros
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 16:53:59

    @Divya: What about Amara Royce? Never Too Late came out last year and she has a new book due out in May.

  16. Janine
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 18:02:06

    @Divya: In that case, I second Sunita’s recommendation of Miranda Neville’s historicals. I’m actually reading The Ruin of a Rogue right now, and so far (about two-thirds through it) I’m enjoying it a great deal.

  17. JJPP
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 18:50:57

    For historical recommendations – have you read Fool Me Twice, by Meredith Duran? I kind of fell out of love with some of her other recent books, but Fool Me Twice was excellent.

  18. JessP
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 21:31:04

    I think the instant hard-on for a woman he doesn’t know, and who is not currently naked in front of him, and she isn’t doing an erotic fan dance or anything even remotely suggestive, is an offshoot of the “fated mate” trope. The dick knows what it knows, even if its owner is clueless. And a dick. It will not be denied, you can’t fight it, done deal, strong force – etc.

  19. PeggyL
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 23:39:27

    Great review, Divya, and I have great respect for you because you finished the book!

    I’ve read enough bad reviews in the past to steer away from Mason’s books. But after your review, I’m seriously considering getting this book, just to experience first-hand how aw(ful)esome it is and be done with it. The thing is, she’s still writing and publishing, so I guess I want to know/understand the incongruence in this.

  20. PeggyL
    Apr 28, 2014 @ 23:42:27

    If this is a duplicate, please delete. But I don’t seem to find my earlier comment:

    Great review, Divya, and I have great respect for you because you finished the book!

    I’ve read enough bad reviews in the past to steer away from Mason’s books. But after your review, I’m seriously considering getting this book, just to experience first-hand how aw(ful)esome it is and be done with it. The thing is, she’s still writing and publishing, so I guess I want to know/understand the incongruence in this.

  21. Divya
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 02:24:47

    It’s pretty much impossible to rec me historical romances because I usually have already read the ones with good reviews. I haven’t tried Amara Royce, so I’ll check it out.

    @JessP:

    Yep. I think you’re exactly right. I’m fonder of “fated mates” in PNR, but I dislike it immensely in all other subgenres. To me, it’s like the dick developed a mind of its own and led the owner to the source of lurvve (think a dog on a leash).

    @PeggyL:

    If you do decide to read it, I hope you enjoy it more than I did. It’s not a badly written book, per se. Just that the characters drove me batshit crazy. That might’ve been acceptable if the romance was good (which it wasn’t).

    I actually wanted to read Julian’s book, but then I checked out the reviews for his book. Ugh. Not stepping on that trainwreck.

  22. Kaetrin
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 03:25:24

    First caterpillars and now ladybugs? I’m sensing an entomological theme to your reviews Divya! :D

    Also, I did laugh out loud at this:-

    “Julian is under the impression that the married virgin is a rare creature. Julian is also clearly not a romance reader.” *snortle*

    As far as recs are concerned, if you like medievals then Roberta Gellis is amazing. I second Sunita’s suggestion of Jo Beverly and I’d add Mary Balogh, particularly her early trad Regencies (which are being slowly reprinted as 2-in-1 books and digitally released).

  23. Divya
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 06:36:18

    @Kaetrin:

    If there is an entomological theme, it’s completely unintentional! :D Thank you for your recs (I’ve read all but Roberta Gellis).

  24. Kaetrin
    Apr 29, 2014 @ 07:20:23

    @Divya: Oh, the Roselynde Chronicles are just wonderful. They’re available digitally now too.

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