Sin and Sensibility
I admit that, in its early chapters, I didn’t like Sin and Sensibility very much. The main characters seemed both unoriginal and unlikable, and I was all set for another stale, uninspired Regency Historical with nothing new or interesting about it. But the author skillfully brings those same characters to life and instills a lot of heartfelt emotion into this story. I’m happy to say that my first impression was completely wrong.
Lady Eleanor is a beautiful heiress and sister to the Duke of Melbourne. Although she is much-sought-after, she’s not having a very enjoyable Season because her three overprotective brothers drive off all of her most interesting suitors. Eleanor longs to live life on her own terms, and demands that Melbourne and her other brothers let her make her own decisions. Unexpectedly, Melbourne agrees, on one condition: if she causes any scandal she will immediately agree to marry whomever he presents. They make a pact, but Melbourne is still worried about Eleanor. He goes to his friend, Valentine Corbett, the Marquis of Deverill, and asks him to watch out for Eleanor and keep her out of trouble. Valentine seems a strange choice for this task: he is a rich and handsome rake who lives only for his own selfish pleasures.
See what I mean? The Innocent-Yet-Spirited-Beauty. The Jaded Rake. Worse, the very first page of this novel activated my Ick Factor. Valentine is at a party, receiving oral gratification from his mistress while idly surveying the crowd. This scene was quite effective at establishing Valentine’s bored Duke-of-Slut persona, but it is so one-sided and so void of affection or respect that I felt humiliated for the mistress, and I disliked Valentine intensely.
However, I soon found myself surprisingly engrossed in this story. Eleanor is not out for the clichéd one night of passion before settling down with a nice boy. Her motives are more complex than that. She wants to learn how to care less about the opinions of others, to somehow escape the suffocating confines of convention. But doesn’t know how to do that without hurting her family or herself. She turns to Valentine for help, since he obviously does whatever he wants without worrying about what other people think. Valentine, too, becomes more three-dimensional. While he does have the expected painful past that explains his selfish ways, he’s not openly tormented or angst-driven over it. Instead, he resorts to wit or self-critical irony. He finds Eleanor’s idea of freedom without damaging anyone a novel one. Obviously, these two people have a lot to learn from one another.
They don’t immediately fall into lustful embraces. Instead, they become friends. They both grow up a little, and become better people for having known each other. The connection that forms between Valentine and Eleanor seemed strong and deep, and when the inevitable crisis arises to drive them apart, the moment was poignant. Much to my surprise, I found that these two characters had become real to me, and I was on the edge of my seat, hoping they’d find their way through their conflicts and fall in love.
There is no suspense plot here to distract from the main romance, although there is a villain. He is a bit two-dimensional, but the way the author set up Eleanor’s situation within her family made his actions believable.
I stayed up late in the night to finish this book. When I finally closed it, long past my usual bedtime, it was with a happy glow of satisfaction. It wasn’t easy for me to get past those first few chapters, but I’m certainly glad I did. I can recommend Sin and Sensibility without reserve.