Let me start by saying I want to lick this cover. A lot. Methinks this book should come with a protective veneer 'cause it's that lickable. I had to put my Kindle in a ziplock bag. Just kidding. Maybe.
Okay, enough about that delicious cover...I loved Addicted, Ms. Featherstone's first book in this series (my review here). In Sinful, the hero is Lindsay's best friend, Matthew, Lord Wallingford. I did not realize from reading Addicted how tortured Lord Wallingford is. Talk about your Tarnished Hero; he's as bad boy as they come: Condescending view of women? Check. Dysfunctional family? Check. Sexually promiscuous? Check. Skeletons in the closet? Check. He's been a terrible disappointment to his father, who's tightened the purse strings, and in order to fund his dream - an art gallery - he's painted a scandalous painting and auctioned it off. On his way out of the auction, he is attacked and left for dead. He ends up in a hospital on the other side of town, an obviously wealthy, anonymous patient.
This is where we meet Jane Rankin. She also has had a horrible childhood - she was an illegitimate child whose mother was deserted by Jane's father and left penniless, so she turned to prostitution. Although Jane was not a prostitute, she suffered the effects of having a parent working this profession. Luckily she was saved by Lady Blackwood who cleaned her up and took her in as a Lady's maid. Jane has been happy working for Lady Blackwood but recently took up nursing at her local hospital as a way to pay off debt, and once the debt was paid off she stayed on because she liked it.
When Lord Wallingford is brought in with a head and eye injury, Jane assists the young doctor caring for him. Although she's seen many male patients, she is attracted to him for reasons she doesn't understand. There is an intimate moment or two, and once he is better and able to leave, Wallingford wants to keep meeting her; he can't get her out of his mind. He is temporarily unable to see, but he knows she is lovely and he wants her in a way he doesn't understand. They meet once, but she wears a veil as she doesn't want the hospital employees to know she's meeting this man - she only knows him as Mathew, she doesn't realize he's the infamously scandalous Lord Wallingford. Their second meeting is heartbreaking; I felt so bad for Jane!
They next meet at Lindsay and Annais' wedding; Wallingford is Best Man and Jane is Maid of Honor. They detest each other (Wallingford does not realize who she is) and verbally spar back and forth, until a shadow crosses Jane's face and he realizes who she is. He's shocked, refuses to admit it, and has to have her, all at the same time. And she'll have nothing to do with him.
Wallingford and Jane's story is a very dark story. It's a story about pride, secrets, trust, redemption and love. Wallingford's secrets are indeed deep and dark. In this day and age maybe not so much, but for the time in which the story is set they're definitely scandalous. As Wallingford's secrets are revealed, the reader begins to understand why his life turned out the way it did. Jane has issues of her own due to childhood circumstances that make it difficult for her to give Wallingford what he wants and needs. Their path is a difficult one full of obstacles both internal and external.
Ms. Featherstone is a master (mistress?) of anticipation. For a good portion of the book, it felt like an "almost-kiss" - you know, where your heart is beating in anticipation and you're all tingly but you're not quite there yet? The tender scenes between these two were intimate and sensual and sometimes painful to read.
The story took a turn I wasn't expecting, which led to events that were heartbreaking. I'm not going to mince words here - this book did not end the way I wanted it to end. I do, however, understand why Ms. Featherstone ended it the way she did; it was the natural course of the storyline. To end it any other way would not have been true to the characters or the times they were living in. That's not to say it was a bad ending, just a dark one; not every book is cotton candy and unicorns. As an interesting side note, the end of the book mentions that Ms. Featherstone will publish an epilogue to this book on her site in May 2010.
This was a difficult book to put down, and I continued to think about it long after I finished it. I give this book 4/5 stars.Sinful is available for purchase May 1, 2010.
This book was provided to me by NetGalley free of charge in exchange for an honest review.