by Sabrina Jeffries

Rating:
3/5


Plot/Storyline: 📖📖📖
Feels: 🦋🦋
Romance: 💞💞
Emotional Depth:💔💔
Sexual Tension:⚡️⚡️
Sensuality: 🔥🔥
Sex Scene Length: 🍆🍆

This was one of those books that had great potential but didn’t quite reach that potential. The story is about Lord Jarret, a marquesses son and perpetual gambler, who is afraid to love because his parents died when he was young. And Annabel, a brewester’s daughter who is a spinster and never married because her brother is secretly raising her bastard son. Annabel needs Jarret’s help to save her family brewery because her drunk brother has nearly driven it into the ground. Long story short, Annabel manages to get Jarret to agree to help her by winning a hand of cards. No spoilers here, all of this is revealed at the very beginning of the book.

I enjoyed reading this. It grabbed me right away and it was well written, interesting, I liked the characters. The plot was different, albeit with some rather cliche elements woven in. The epilogue was beyond cliche.

Even though I was interested, I just didn’t feel very much for about the first 180 pages or so. The last couple of books I read by Sabrina Jeffries I loved because she had all this great sexual tension. Stolen touches and glances. Longing. But this book was devoid of that, it seemed. They kissed, but I just didn’t feel the tension. There was so much focus on the plot that the romantic part of their relationship seemed to be an afterthought.

Annabel had so many secrets to keep. So, so many. And she persistently lied to Jarret for so long, even after he’d proven he was trustworthy with the truth, if not with her heart, that it became frustrating. Especially when she’d question why he held back. Why he didn’t reveal himself to her. Why they seemed to be such polar opposites. It was like she kept forgetting that she was lying to him about so much. It was understandable that she was lying, but I grew a bit tired of it because I don’t think it allowed their relationship to develop as well as it could have.

One thing I did like about the book was that even though their relationship did begin on a scrupulous wager, it never led them to hold that over one another. Often that kind of thing can lead to guilt trips and manipulations. But Sabrina Jeffries very neatly wove this story so that the two of them were in this journey together and by their own choice. And it was when that started to change that the book took a turn for me. When the lying stopped. When it stopped being about being stuck together and started being about them wanting to be together.

And then there was a 100 page stretch of the book that I really loved. We finally got some inner feelings. Those realizations about falling in love with someone. Some sweetness. And some feels. I thought the book would end on four stars at that point. But after they separated all that fell away again.

They couldn’t be together and yet neither of them pined about it. A week went by, we got no more than a couple of paragraphs about how unfortunate it was. And that just kind of lost me. Because it shouldn’t have felt “unfortunate”. It should have felt devastating. And all this other stuff from the plot with Annabel’s son took a forefront and I lost all the feels. So, back down to 3 stars.

The heat in this book was kind of low. There were two ok kisses. One decent oral scene. One amazing sex scene. And one mediocre sex scene. I liked that they built up to the sex sort of gradually. But I just didn’t feel that longing and desire in between scenes. It didn’t focus enough on how badly they wanted each other for me. And I was surprised because the other books I read by her I thought did a good job of that.

But the thing that bugged me the absolute most about this book was Annabel’s brother’s miraculous recovery from alcoholism. For half of the book he’s a hopeless drunk. Depressed. Down on himself. Basically useless. And then in one scene he does an about face. As if alcoholism can be healed in a single moment of realization about how badly you’ve been fucking up. As if it can be solved with a wake up call and a bit of confidence. That bothered me. Alcoholism is a disease and people don’t just snap out of it. This is not a slight in people who struggle with alcoholism. But rather on the fact that it was so incredibly unrealistic. It just annoyed me.

So, all in all. It was good. I think other people might love it more than I do. I tend to knock off stars when romance novels are bogged down with too many plot elements. And this book just had too much happening to focus on their relationship. The investigation into Jarret’s parents death (continued from book one in this series and still unresolved), Jarret’s gambling and his taking over the brewery, Annabel’s drunk brother, her failing brewery, her bastard son and finding a way to tell him the truth, their wagers, and the whole situation at the end of the book.

And there were so many people involved that they couldn’t truly blossom together. There was always someone around. Annabel’s sister or brother or son. Or Jarret’s sister or brother or his best friend or grandmother or the bow street runner. Or people who worked at the brewery.

All of it just didn’t leave much room for romance in my opinion. I never really felt like they truly fell in love with each other. So that’s the main reason I’m giving it 3 stars.

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