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REVIEW: To Seduce a Sinner by Elizabeth Hoyt

Dear Ms. Hoyt,

I hate this title but suppose that few readers would buy a book called “She is a balm for his soul.” Nah, not catchy enough but so accurate for this book. In “To Taste Temptation,” you gave us the secondary character of Jasper Renshaw, Viscount Vale. Jasper’s a former Army Captain, current “hale fellow well met,” slightly unlucky at love and possessed of nightmares that would curdle the entire milk supply of the state of Wisconsin. The boy’s got a few issues.

What he doesn’t realize he has is one strong woman who loves him above all others. When Melisande Fleming sees that Jasper is being thrown over on his wedding day – and for a curate, if it can be believed – she seizes her chance with both hands and hangs on for dear life. She knows that Jasper has never taken much notice of her beyond what politeness demands but she stiffens her spine, sneaks off to the church vestry and proposes to him. Slightly stunned, first to have lost his second fiancee in mere months and then to be on the receiving end of a marriage proposal, Jasper blinks then thinks, “what the hell. Got to get married and do my duty to the succession” before he accepts.

He thinks he’s getting a woman of good family, etc, who will be a dutiful wife, etc, and bear him children, etc, etc, etc. Melisande knows she’s getting the chance of which she’s hardly dared dream in all the years since she saw more depths to this man than most people who’ve known him for years ever noticed. But he doesn’t love her. Not as she loves him. And so she can’t reveal her love to him as that would make her too vulnerable. She’s been there and done that before only to have her heart crushed. And so begins a marriage of convenience that quickly becomes more as 1) Melisande watches Jasper try and discover who betrayed his regiment to the enemy deep in the primeval forests of North America during the late war and 2) Jasper begins to see the depths of this quiet wife who only wears drab dresses and hides her feelings better than he does.

Jasper’s little verbal witticisms – such as at his mother’s garden party – reminded me of Bertie Wooster but that’s natural as Jasper plays the slight fool in public to cover what he’s feeling inside. Melisande thinks she’s loved him for years but even then, after all she knows about his past lovers and the women he’s flirted with, she still doesn’t know him or know how to help him until after she begins to see what he hides. At first I questioned how deep could have been Melisande’s attachment to her first love but her confession of what happened after Timothy spurned her made it a bit more believable.

I have to agree with Munroe and Horn in their thoughts on Jasper’s scars – which have to be much worse than the physical ones those two men bear. Their pain was over seven years ago while Jasper’s still lives on. His sense of duty and honor are almost crushing him under their weight and I can see why he can’t let go of the search for a traitor. We finally begin to get some details about the torture that followed the betrayal and battle at Spinner’s Falls.

As Munroe tells Jasper, Melisande has courage. And as one of the few survivors of the torture inflicted on them by the Indians, he ought to know. She has the guts to take her only chance and go for the man she’s loved from afar, she decides to try for the kind of physical relationship she decides will take the place of romantic love and she confronts someone whom she suspects her husband fears blames him for the events at Spinner’s Falls. Melisande faces Jasper’s darkest fears and holds his hand while he walks through them. She sees the way he deals with the nightmares that still haunt him and makes no comments – only joins him in the rituals he needs in order to live through each dark night. I guess these two will be sleeping on a pallet bed with a loaf of bread and canteen of water until they’re eighty or so.

But was it ever revealed what in Melisande’s past made her the quiet, self controlled woman she grew to become? I do like that she doesn’t throw off her dull, brown clothes to don a rainbow of gowns as the book ends. Jasper falls in love with her as she is, as she looks, as she dresses and as she acts. Yet, what’s with the dress on the cover? Melisande is famous for her mud matching gowns and here she’s decked out in ever-lovin’ yellow.

It takes Jasper a long time to truly begin looking at Melisande as his early nice, but basically useless, present shows her. No woman has ever held his heart and despite the flowery phrases he uses about her in conversation with her, she’s not his dearest one or own true heart until he sees past the mask she wears in public to hide her inner self. And even after he gifts her with the lovely prezzie at the end, it’s still the small things he does for her that I remember – training Sir Mouse – despite the fact that the dog bit him – because Jasper realizes the dog is Melisande’s only friend, the promise of a huge bowl of pink blancmange just for her at Christmas and the elimination from her life of a past cause of pain while they revisit his aunt’s house in Edinburgh.

The plot is mainly a character study of Jasper and Melisande. The continuing arc of who betrayed the 28th Regiment is there but it mainly throws light on these two as Jasper continues his dogged search for the traitor. I still have a few doubts about these men being held for ransom, and how that was conveyed to the British authorities and how they got the remaining men away from the Indians. But now I’m almost as determined to discover who the blackguard is as are the men who suffered for his actions. From the “save” that Melisande makes, I think I know who’s the hero of the next book and who his heroine will be. I’m ready and waiting. B

~Jayne

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

22 Comments

  1. Jana J. Hanson
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 15:49:03

    I didn’t like To Seduce a Sinner nearly as much as To Taste Temptation, but I’m still anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.

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  2. sandy l
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 15:54:17

    I really enjoyed this book, but it felt too condensed. I wish that Ms. Hoyt had the word count to expand the plot and characters. Also add more secondary characters.

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  3. joanne
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 16:00:32

    What I liked most about this story was what you mentioned: Jasper changed, Melisande didn’t. If she had changed her look or her looks half-way through the book then that would have been a definate ‘bump’ in the read for me.

    I did have a few “hmmm” moments when Jasper seemed to just accept the heroines’ sexual experience without any questions. Yes she has a past but he didn’t know about it when they first consummated their relationship …and it just felt, given the era, that he would mention it…. afterward, of course!

    I too found it to be a nicely written and satisfying romance with the added bonus of an unsolved mystery to look forward to in the next book.

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  4. Michelle
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 16:05:20

    I’ve just not gotten into this series like I did the previous one. I put both TTT and TSAS down around page 150 and took weeks before I picked them up again. It does make me question whether I’ll buy the third.

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  5. Jayne
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 17:29:41

    I did have a few “hmmm” moments when Jasper seemed to just accept the heroines' sexual experience without any questions. Yes she has a past but he didn't know about it when they first consummated their relationship …and it just felt, given the era, that he would mention it…. afterward, of course!

    He did ponder her experience later on and of course then came the revelations in Edinburgh. But I agree that I expected a more immediate response from him and a bit more concern about whether or not he could expect her children to be his own.

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  6. Jayne
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 17:31:30

    Michelle this series has garnered B grades from me where as the first series got an A and B+ grades but still, in a world awash in Regencies and vampires, her writing combined with the setting makes me happy.

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  7. MoJo
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 17:41:31

    I liked Hoyt’s Prince series enough that I remembered her name (this is a feat for me, trust me).

    What I want to know now is WHY WHY WHY isn’t this book in MS Reader format? This hide’n’go seek with ebook formats is making my head explode!

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  8. Jayne
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 17:46:09

    God, that is so weird that this is the only book of hers at Fictionwise with so few ereading options. And I despise it when my choice is limited to Mobi. I loathe Mobi. But only a little less than I hate secure ereader. What sucky choices. I’m glad we got a print review copy!

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  9. MoJo
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 17:49:52

    Books on Board has an Adobe Epub and an Adobe Digital Edition, which are damn near identical, so I don’t know what the point of that was.

    Agreed on Mobi and add eReader to that since, you know, the only device I can read any of them on is my laptop and I avoid doing that like the plague.

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  10. Jayne
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 17:56:57

    Agreed on Mobi and add eReader to that since, you know, the only device I can read any of them on is my laptop and I avoid doing that like the plague.

    Which is the exact reason I hate them both.

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  11. orannia
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 18:27:00

    Thank you Jayne :) I’m actually in the middle of reading To Taste Temptation at the moment, and while I found the first half a little slow I am enjoying it more as I progress. And I have heard some interesting things about the third book.

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  12. Danielle
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 18:35:22

    I didn’t read the review because I’m reading the book now — but I did see the grade that you gave it. WHEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  13. Lorelie
    Nov 25, 2008 @ 19:46:00

    While I agree re: Jasper’s non-reaction, I absolutely lurved the fact that Melissande hadn’t been torturing herself to bits over her actions, but rather the fall out.

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  14. Marg
    Nov 26, 2008 @ 02:54:36

    I was a little disappointed by To Taste Temptation, mainly because I didn’t connect with the heroine at all. I did love this one!

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  15. loonigrrl
    Nov 26, 2008 @ 03:00:08

    It takes Jasper a long time to truly begin looking at Melisande as his early nice, but basically useless, present shows her.

    I almost started crying when I read this scene.

    I’m actually still in the middle of this, and am enjoying it a great deal. I wasn’t so sure about Jasper at first, but he’s starting to grow on me.

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  16. Jayne
    Nov 26, 2008 @ 06:15:15

    I wasn’t so sure of Jasper in the last book after he went postal but yes, I agree he does grow on one as this book progresses.

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  17. GrowlyCub
    Nov 26, 2008 @ 08:32:28

    I just finished reading this and was left totally unengaged. I’m pretty disappointed because I love marriage of convenience stories and I had high hopes for this one.

    I don’t know if this was because I started it right after I finished Broken Wing, which I loved and in which the hero’s tortured past really felt like a tortured past or whether it was the writing or something else.

    Jasper and Melisande’s relationship didn’t touch me at all and I never felt emotionally connected to them; to me this was a prime example of tell. We were told Jasper felt badly, we were told how much worse his invisible scars were, we were told he loved Melisande and saw her real self under her drab exterior, but I didn’t believe it.

    And I hated, truly hated, the slapstick moments that Hoyt put in this book.

    The plot is mainly a character study of Jasper and Melisande. The continuing arc of who betrayed the 28th Regiment is there but it mainly throws light on these two

    I felt exactly the opposite. The subplot overshadowed the relationship for me completely. Isn’t it fascinating how we can read the same book and have such totally opposite reactions?

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  18. Jayne
    Nov 26, 2008 @ 09:54:07

    Isn't it fascinating how we can read the same book and have such totally opposite reactions?

    Oh, absolutely. I’m sure there are, or will be, people who read your comment and say, “Yes! That’s exactly what I thought too.” We always get plenty of responses when the grade we give much anticipated books doesn’t live up to their hype.

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  19. Michelle
    Nov 26, 2008 @ 10:23:52

    Jayne,
    I really do want to like this series. While I do still enjoy regency-set historicals, I miss the variety of settings from when I started reading historicals in high school. I assume I’ll eventually pick this one up again to finish it. I’m not so sure how quick I’ll be to buy the third – especially since some of the commenters had the same reaction as I did.

    Speaking of a variety of settings – If anybody reading this review is drawn to the French and Indian War as a setting, I’m enjoying Pamela Clare’s current series set during that war.

    -Michelle

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  20. Jayne
    Nov 26, 2008 @ 13:23:36

    I don’t know Michelle. It kind of sounds like you should skim your way through this one and wait for reviews to come in on book three before trying it.

    And I do have our copy of the Clare book too.

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  21. willaful
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 01:30:57

    So did anyone love both TTT and this one? Or hate them both? Opinions seem quite divided. I am in the did not care for TTT camp; like Marg, I could not connect with the heroine. I liked this one very much and suspect it will even improve with rereading, because of the intricacy of the themes.

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  22. Jayne
    Jan 22, 2009 @ 04:24:28

    My grades for these two books are both “B’s” so I guess you could count me in the “liked both books” category.

    ReplyReply

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