Dear Ms. Enoch:
It is always very difficult to live up to one’s own hype. The Sins of a Duke is the fourth and final entry in the Sin series. I have read two of the previous three. In the previous stories, Sebastian, the eldest brother, has played a large role. He was a strong and influential member of his family, as well as a powerful man of England.
He had lost his wife a few years ago and has been raising his daughter by himself. He’s much used to responsibility, having inherited the dukedom at age seventeen. The novel opens well enough with Sebastian acting every inch the autocratic lord that he is, displaying political savvy and usefulness to the crown. He’s portrayed as an attentive father and a good brother as well as one who is subconsciously is missing something in his life.
Enter Josefina Katarina Embry. Josefina is the daughter of the Rey of Costa Habichuela, a country on the coast of South America. Her family is in London to gain financial and political support from the crown. Instead of getting the Bank of London to foot the bill, Josefina and her father propose that they sell bonds to any “progress-minded Englishman.” Sebastian recognizes that when things look too good to be true, they usually are and he sets out to discover the secrets the Embry’s hold.
The main part of the story is marked by uncharacteristic actions by Sebastian (I couldn’t figure out why Sebastian, doubting her character would bring her into his home to be the mother of the being most precious to him) and a forced attraction between himself and Josefina.
There wasn’t anything about Josefina that I found particularly loveable. She was complicit in her father’s schemes. She showed little remorse until the end. If Josefina had been more carefully drawn, more multi-dimensional, she may have been more appealing. As it was, she was a puppet, acting first at the behest of her father and then, at the behest of Sebastian. Her efforts to manipulate Sebastian (at her father’s directive) with her body were both unsavory and unbelievable. She is supposedly a virginal miss bent on marrying Sebastian but her actions waver between being a practiced courtesan and a rube debutante.
You also employ a writerly cheat by telling us a character motivation that was completely untrue in order to misled the reader into doubting the intentions of one character. When the “cheat” is revealed, it falsified so many of the previous passages.
The overall love story failed to deliver for me. Sebastian and Josefina appeared to have very little chemistry and their love scenes were quite tepid despite the coarser and more graphic language used in describing them.
The story is probably a must read for the fans of the Melbourne family. The book was at its most engaging when it depicted the family dynamic. Those parts clearly showed the love and affection the members had for each other. It were those scenes that I found the most romantic. C-