Title: Lady Sarah's Sinful Desires
Series: Secrets at Thorncliff Manor, Book 1
Author: Sophie Barnes
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Genre: Historical, Regency, Romance
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Welcome to Thorncliff Manor, where London's elite mix, mingle, and may even find their heart's desire...
There are thousands of things Christopher, Viscount Spencer, would rather do than hunt for a bride, especially since experience has taught him that women are not to be trusted. Then he finds the intriguing Lady Sarah scrambling around in Thorncliff's conservatory and he is instantly charmed by her passionate nature. But why is she so intent on avoiding him?
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Despite the title of this story, there is almost no sex in it. Surprised? Yeah, so was I. *smiles* But the lack of intimacy didn't deter from the story at all.
Neither Sarah nor Christopher were looking for a relationship during their stay at Thorncliff. Sarah was there to meet her soon-to-be husband. Christopher was there out of obligation, even though he knew his mother would do her best to foist some unmarried miss on him. They met by accident, their friendship starting off with sarcasm and thoughtlessly spoken words. The more time they spent together, the more they got along. Christopher confided in Sarah his experience with love and why he doesn't believe in it, but Sarah can't bring herself to tell him why she's marrying a man beneath her social class.
Sarah's lack of purity was a big deal, to her parents and to society. Marrying her off to someone beneath her was the easiest way for her parents to deal with it. Of course, they weren't exactly nice about it either. They seemed to delight in reminding her that she wasn't a virgin, that she didn't have a choice in whom she married, that she should be happy someone wanted to marry her all things considered. I hated them for their treatment of her. I hated their view of her because she'd given herself to a man she thought she loved. She made a mistake, yes, but she didn't deserve to be treated like that.
But then, Christopher didn't treat her any better when he discovered her reason for marrying down. My heart broke when he turned away from her. I wanted him to say it didn't matter to him, wanted him to reinforce all the good he knew she possessed rather than dwell on a past mistake. He didn't but his lapse in common sense was only brief, thank God.
I really enjoyed this story. I wanted and needed so much from Christopher and Sarah, and they didn't disappoint in the end. They struggled with themselves, had to find out that their futures didn't have to be determined by someone else or a mistake. They needed to see that what they felt for one another was greater than what they thought they'd felt in the past. They had to understand that what they shared was worth having despite what society might say about Sarah if her past was ever discovered.
Because, really, in the grand scheme of things, who cares what others think so long as you are happy?
Christopher had no doubt about it. If there was one quality his sister didn’t have in short supply, it was tenacity, which was why he was surprised when she dropped the subject completely to say, “I still can’t believe Mama and Papa convinced Richard to join us.”
Christopher curled his fingers into a fist. “He had little choice in the matter. Oakland will be overrun by workmen the entire summer, and I daresay they’ll be busy if Mama’s plan to redecorate the entire place in the Greek style is to be fulfilled according to schedule.”
“Even so, you must admit that it’s surprising,” Laura said.
Christopher chose not to comment. Contemplating his younger brother’s service to the Crown made him uncomfortable. As Richard’s older brother, he’d always felt a certain responsibility—a need to protect him—but the war against Napoleon had left Christopher with nothing but a distinct ense of failure. Reaching inside his jacket pocket, he pulled out his own pocket watch to assess the time. It was one minute after two in the afternoon. He waited a minute before brushing his thumb across the watch face three times.
“There’s no point in that, you know,” Rachel said. “Good fortune is derived from hard work and common sense, not from silly rituals.”
Although her comment was to be expected, it still annoyed Christopher. “I believe in luck, Rachel, and if that means adopting a few oddities, then so be it.” Turning away from her, he determined to savor the gentle sway of the carriage as they tumbled along, thankful that his sister chose not to comment any further. The truth of it was that his superstitious nature embarrassed him, for he knew it defied all logic and reason, yet he couldn’t seem to avoid the feeling that awful things would happen unless he took certain measures to prevent them. He sighed. The hold it had on him had only increased after passing a tree with two ravens in it in 1815. That year, he’d not only been unlucky in love but his brother had also been captured by the French.
“Do you think Chloe will ever remarry?” Laura asked suddenly, referring to their widowed sister and consequently drawing Christopher out of his reverie. “Probably not, all things considered,” Rachel muttered.
It occurred to Christopher that Rachel might be prettier if she didn’t insist on pulling her hair so tightly back. Her sisters ought to offer their assistance, for they all looked pretty with their soft curls framing their faces, but Christopher knew that to suggest such a thing would only invite argument. Rachel had some very stubborn ideas—none of which were likely to get her married.
“It’s a good thing her husband died in that duel, or I would have run him through myself,” Fiona stated.
Christopher frowned. He wasn’t sure if he ought to be proud of his sister’s thirst for blood or terrified. Hell, he wished he’d had the opportunity to challenge the late Lord Newbury himself after discovering the man’s numerous affairs. In the end it had been the unhappy husband of Newbury’s latest paramour who’d seen to the man’s demise. “One can only hope that if she does remarry, it will be to a man who de- serves her,” he said.
Laura’s eyes lit up. “Perhaps she’ll meet an eligible gentleman at Thorncliff!” She leaned forward, her gaze fixed on her brother. “There might even be a young lady there to—”
“You’d better not finish that sentence if you know what’s good for you,” Christopher warned.
“There’s no need for you to be so touchy,” Laura told him primly as she straightened and raised her chin a notch. “I only want what’s best for you.”
Christopher groaned. His mother and father had told him the exact same thing. Repeatedly. It was the reason he’d avoided sharing a carriage with them to Thorncliff. The last thing he needed was to be trapped with them for six hours while they took turns suggesting potential brides to him. As the eldest son and heir to the Oakland title, he knew he’d eventually marry. He just wanted to wait until he was ready—perhaps enjoy another Season of blissful bachelorhood in the arms of that little opera singer he’d had his eye on. He certainly had no desire to repeat the mistake he’d made five years earlier. “If I may offer a suggestion, dear sister—restrict your romantic musings to the heroes and heroines in those wildly creative novels you’re writing and keep me out of it.”
“No buts,” he told her firmly. “I won’t allow you to play matchmaker for me.”
Folding her arms across her chest, Laura stared back at Christopher, glowering. He knew she was struggling to hold her tongue, and he admired her effort. Truly he did. But there was no telling how long her self-restraint would last. Deciding to steer her attention away from him completely, he said, “All things considered, I think it would be more prudent if I were to find husbands for each of you.”
“W-h-a-t?” The outburst came from Rachel, which wasn’t the least bit surprising. Christopher knew her entire world revolved around math and science. Settling down and starting a family was probably the furthest thing from her mind.
“You’re not getting any younger,” he said, indelicately addressing the subject their mother had broached so often that it had turned into a regular sermon.
“I’m only eighteen,” Fiona said with marked indignation. “Hardly an old maid yet.”
“True,” Christopher agreed, patting her hand in a gesture he hoped would soothe her. “I admit that your situation is not as urgent as Rachel’s or Emily’s, who, if I may remind you, are three and twenty and two and twenty, respectively.”
“It’s good to know that when age is of concern, everyone in this family can be quite precise indeed,” Rachel said, her eyes flashing as she pressed her lips together in a firm line.
Avon © 2015 Sophie Barnes
Born in Denmark, Sophie Barnes spent her youth traveling with her parents to wonderful places all around the world. She's lived in five different countries, on three different continents, and speaks Danish, English, French, Spanish and Romanian. She has studied design in Paris and New York and has a bachelor's degree from Parsons. But, most impressive of all, she's been married to the same man three times—in three different countries and in three different dresses.
While living in Africa, Sophie turned to her lifelong passion: writing. When she's not busy dreaming up her next romance novel, Sophie enjoys spending time with her family, swimming, cooking, gardening, watching romantic comedies and, of course, reading. She currently lives on the East Coast.