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One Night with a Prince

Indonesian edition’s cover

At last, the Royal Brotherhood trilogy has come to its peak. Sabrina Jeffries ends it with One Night with a Prince, a not-so-stunning-but-enjoyable historical romance with typically stubborn characters and an air of hatred and vengeance. Once again, Jeffries comes up with an idea about an illegitimate child who’s seeking revenge for the suffering of his mother. As always, the historical aspect we find in any of Jeffries’ works is never merely a sticky note glued at the corner, and so is it in this particular number. Still set in the Regency era of Britain, One Night with a Prince offers a quite unusual event through a quite usual plot.

Taking place about a year after the second installment, To Pleasure a Prince, this last part has a story of Gavin Byrne, the oldest among the brotherhood, the farthest from nobility, and with the hardest childhood of all. Among his half brothers, he is the one having the deepest vengeance for their sire, Prinny. His chance to take revenge on the regent comes when Christabel, the widow of Marquess of Haversham, comes to him for a favor. She asks him to help her sneaking into Lord Stokely’s house party to get back her father’s secret letters about Prinny. Byrne knows very well that this is his slight chance, if any, to make Prinny pay what he’s done to his poor mother.

But Christabel is more than determined to secure those letters so that her father won’t be accused of treachery and punished by the Crown. And she is willing to do everything to get her hands on those letters, including becoming Byrne’s sham mistress. Playing a sham couple is never an easy thing for Christabel, and not for Byrne, either. Almost from the start, he has fallen for her charms and wit, and he’s already known that he is in danger, his revenge is in danger, and most of all, his mission is in danger.

Some reviews said that Gavin Byrne is the best and the most loveable hero of all the Royal Brotherhood men. But I see him as stubborn as Marcus North, as selfish as Alexander Black. At some point along the book, I even hated him for thinking only about himself without sparing a little room for others. Thankfully, Christabel is such a determined, strong, and clever woman who will not fall into a man’s arms just because he seduces her nor because she’s in love with him. It’s so satisfying to see her push Byrne to the limit and drag him back to his human nature. Christabel’s character is just lovely, reminding the reader that sometimes women have to say no and be persistent in what they are doing.

Like in the other two of the Royal Brotherhood series, Sabrina Jeffries is pretty much serious in working out and presenting the historical aspect of One Night with a Prince. Though not truly accurate, the book tells the reader a bit about Prinny’s secret marriage and its impact on the throne of Britain. The tiny bit of that British history becomes the foundation of the story and is interlaced with the conflict inside. I was not really attached to the story being told, I must say, but the interaction between the two main characters had drawn me into it, and the way Jeffries tells it is captivating as well. So far, Jeffries’ style of storytelling never fails to stun me, even though some of her ideas are disappointingly dull and her typical plot and characters are almost all similar. One Night with a Prince is one of those which is very much disappointing in the plot and character departments, for they are just same old, same old. I really wish Jeffries could come up with a different kind of plot and a totally new characterization. An author indeed needs a trademark, but telling the same thing in the same style almost in every book is sometimes unacceptable.

All things considered, One Night with a Prince is just averagely nice, because I cannot say that it is as stunning as I hoped it was. Some aspects are presented brilliantly, but some others are hopelessly dull to my way of thinking. However, I appreciate Jeffries for ending the series just right here, and for not prolonging it with another and another book, as is the case with her Swanlea Spinsters series. I would say that this book is recommended to those who seek for entertainment, and, of course, who are Sabrina Jeffries’ die-hard fans.

Rating: 3/5

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The French Maid

What do you really want in a short story? A short story is nothing more than simplicity. But something simple can sometimes be more satisfying than a long, intricate masterpiece. Sabrina Jeffries’ The French Maid is a great example of it. Set in a historical period of England, this work of romance suggests an idea about beauty and insecurity, two things women are always associated with. Jeffries may not be the only writer, or rather, the only female writer, who explores this particular theme, but here in The French Maid she plainly elaborates the main problem with women’s self-confidence through a story of a troubled marriage.

The story introduces us to Henry, Lord Langston, a very busy British prime minister with indifferent nature and not much attention for his plain wife, Lady Eleanor Ruskin. He’s too drowned into his work to allow himself time to come to her bed, or even to dine with her. While on the other hand, Eleanor never fails to attend to him, obey him, do what he wants her to, do everything. It is then unsurprising to see Eleanor having an issue of insecurity, unconvinced that she’s beautiful enough to make him love her. Well, it is true that Henry marries her for her father’s political connection and her mother’s outstanding position in the society. But it’s also true that Henry has a thing for her, a certain affection for her, albeit it doesn’t show. So there is this bit of misunderstanding going on between them. But it is not long until comes a French lady’s maid named Babette. The coming of the maid becomes such a blessing for Eleanor as she washes away her insecurity, beautifies her, makes her a sexy nightgown to seduce her husband to her bed, teaches her how to be confident and tells her not to give up her husband’s love before she tries to win it.

The characters of Henry and Eleanor may not be the typical stubborn couple Sabrina Jeffries usually sets for her novels, but such a shame that she doesn’t seem to explore more of their nature. I can see that Henry is a sad and wounded man, deliberately setting himself to become a stiff person without love and compassion. But the lack of detailed description makes him only appear to be someone indifferent and fearing love. The revealing change of his character almost at the end of the story is merely encouraged by Eleanor’s sensual surprise for him and the passionate lovemaking it spurs. Once again, as ridiculous as it may seem, I cannot agree with the idea that sex is the answer to everything, especially to the problem with a person’s personality. It’s truly a downside of the whole characterization. The positive side is, to my relief, that Jeffries describes Eleanor’s character better, both physically and mentally. Everything about her is well depicted, her insecurity, her restlessness, her deep love for Henry, her physical lack. At the very least, Eleanor can shoot through the narrative and attract the reader’s attention.

The French Maid is a unique story, I’d rather say, and the final execution of the idea seems too clichéd. But that’s what we get when we read a romance. Nevertheless, the issue of insecurity is always interesting to discuss, especially in the realm of womanhood. There is always a notion that men try to love women they are attracted to, so without a pretty face, or at least an attractive looks, there will be no love. This is what subtly yet vividly proven in The French Maid. Without trying to degrade the womanhood nor the importance of sincerity in a love relationship, Jeffries wants to point out that love can be fought for, must be fought for, even if by way of beautifying ourselves to catch our loved ones’ attention. This may sound a bit sexist to some people, but we have to admit that beauty and sexuality have been parts of feminist ideas these days, and romance is always on the front line to suggest and spread those ideas. Beauty is not the only deciding factor, though, for there are many other things to consider in making a relationship work, as we can see at some point in the story. Jeffries is really genius at concocting all those complicated things in a light but gripping narrative, and she formulates it very well, without leaving a hole in it. The plot is nicely flowing and the way Jeffries unfolds it is very sweet.

All in all, The French Maid is a very nice short story. It may be too packed and lacks of detailed characterization on Henry’s part, but the idea is very natural and the run of the story is just sweet and romantic. I can say that this is what romance writers should write about. And this is really something I would recommend to any romance readers, and other readers who want to get more insight into a bit of women’s issues.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Married to the Viscount

Indonesian edition’s cover (source: facebook.com/dastanbooks)

After a long journey, Sabrina Jeffries’ Swanlea Spinsters series has finally come to an end. It has been too far away from the main characters of the Swanlea sisters, and it really, really should have stopped two books ago. Be that as it may, Married to the Viscount, which was first published in 2004, seems to me a nice, sweet end for a series which has to pass a twisted road before reaching its peak. It has, thankfully, a quite different type of female character and a quite nice premise. It’s not the best in the series, and it’s certainly not Jeffries’ best work also, but it is enough to compensate for the failure of the previous two installments.

Set in a Regency era of early 1820s, the story opens with the long voyage the Viscount Ravenswood takes to America with his younger brother, Nathaniel. Nat intends to have some shares in a medical company owned by Doctor Mercer in Philadelphia, so he needs Spencer Law, the Viscount, to see around and then support him to buy the shares. Upon their arrival, they get to see Abigail Mercer instead, and Spencer can’t help but fall in love with her, instantly. Unfortunately, as much as he adores her, he never has any intention to marry and settle down with a family, so he avoids having some serious relationship with the half-Indian woman. But Nat has another plan.

Back to England, Spencer finds that he is married to Abby Mercer. On the one hand, it’s a miracle to him for he is indeed in love with her, but on the other it’s a pure disaster for it undoubtedly ruins all his plans for his life. But Nat has her dowry and disappears, so although Abby knows she cannot remain married to the Viscount, she cannot get back to America, either. Spencer offers her a stay in London as his sham wife until he can locate his brother and recover her dowry, and Abby happily accepts the offer in the hope of convincing him that they truly can live happily ever after.

The cheerful, innocent, yet determined Abby Mercer can indeed make a balance for the stubborn, commanding, officious Viscount Ravenswood. She is not the common stubborn woman we usually find in Sabrina Jeffries’ historical romance novels, despite being so determined, but she’s nevertheless a strong woman of her own character. Once she says:

“A woman of character stands by her choices.”

However, that’s not the most interesting thing about her. It’s her portrayal as an American that attracts me so much: She has a loose tongue, an inappropriate, unladylike manner, and, borrowing the old-fashioned European term for Americans, uncultured. She is all the European people have in mind about Americans, and the fact that Jeffries made an effort, with quite a success, to put that kind of character in contrast with the English people of the old Regency era is so brilliant, and I’m very appreciative of it. To match her, Jeffries created the character of Spencer Law. This was not the first time I found a stubborn man in her stories, but the deep-rooted fear and everlasting wound he has make him just realistically the way he is. He might be despicable and disgusting at some point, but at least he has a good reason for being so, however inexcusable it is in the eye of the reader.

Married to the Viscount is actually a quite nice story, a pure drama without trying to act like a spy novel or being mysterious with a crime feature. It’s somewhat unusual to have this kind of love story, except that it disgracefully falls back into Jeffries’ same pattern with a taste of “agreement” between the two main characters at the beginning of the book. The storyline is a bit clumsy where Abby and Spencer has a quarrel in one chapter, and then in the next chapter they suddenly jump to two weeks after and their war in silence breaks up in a sexual intercourse. I know this is a romance, a bodice-ripper if you will, but I really hope that a problem between two people is not easily settled with sex. But, despite the poor plot, the narrative is nicely written and sweetly delivered. It makes you smile at some parts and laugh at another. Jeffries might not put some jokes along the book, but it’s still quirkily, groggily funny.

Overall, Married to the Viscount by Sabrina Jeffries is a consolation for a broken heart after having two disappointments. It’s nice, it’s sweet, and it has quite different characters. It’s still not the best in the series, but I liked it enough to recommend it to all historical romance fans.

Rating: 3/5

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Dance of Seduction

Indonesian edition’s cover (source: facebook.com/dastanbooks)

A sappy romance never goes well with a spy/crime story, to my thinking, but sometimes an author needs an idea. Sabrina Jeffries is not the first romance writer to borrow the idea of marrying romance to crime, and not the first one to fail in executing it, either. The 2003 Dance of Seduction is definitely the reason why I said so. Despite my initial low expectation of the book, it’s still hard to have an adequate opinion about it at the end. I never even expected it to exist, to be honest, for I hoped the Swanlea Spinsters series would have just stopped at the third installment. But a reader can only hope.

Subsequent to the revealing story of Sebastian Blakely, Sabrina Jeffries seems to decide that it is just appropriate to have a romantic tale of his twin brother. Morgan Blakely, or preferably known as Morgan Pryce, is thrown by his employer the Viscount Ravenswood into a mission to capture a sly criminal named Specter. To accomplish the mission, Morgan has to settle in Spitalfield, running a shop near the Reformation Home managed by Lady Clara Stanbourne and acting a dangerous criminal himself. But the lady has a dream to reform all the ex-pickpocket children in Spitalfield and she doesn’t want this mysterious, handsomely intriguing man to ruin her effort. She is thus determined to get him out of Spitalfield. However, in the middle of her meddling, she’s unexpectedly yet uncontrollably caught in the charm of the disguising captain and unable to untangle herself from the fact that she is in love with him. Then the question is, does he feel the same way, too? And if he does, will he marry her? And if he will, can he surrender to Clara’s demand to stay in London instead of setting sail again?

While reading Dance of Seduction, I had this question in my mind: is it so hard to create a different character? I found the description of Morgan Blakely very much like Daniel Brennan: he’s sinfully wicked, he’s humorous, he’s funnily charming, and he eats a lot. The fact that he is more burdened by his horrid past than Brennan is the only difference I could find. It’s not that his is not an admirable character, but reading the same portrayal continuously in the same series by the same author is just tiresome. And, as his couple, Lady Clara is as annoyingly stubborn as any female character in the series. What makes her worse is that she’s more horrible and meddlesome. I could bear reading Lady Juliet Laverick, to a certain degree, but I couldn’t stand reading Clara. What’s more, her stubbornness blends with ignorance and innocence, making her ridiculous as both a woman and a person. As a result, a deeply hurt man and a strongly stubborn woman create not only an endless argument, but also an unrealistically longer plot than it should be. Together, they blast the whole book.

As a romance spiked with some criminal case, Dance of Seduction has failed to maintain a balance. Sabrina Jeffries might have never intended to make such kind of story at all, she might have aimed to write a purely historical romance, but the lack of a proper atmosphere can still pique any reader, expectant or not. It might be better than any other historical romance of the same kind I’ve ever read so far, in its premise, story, plot, and even in its description of characters, but unfortunately not in its climax. I wished I could’ve had more fight, more gun shooting, more argument, more violent atmosphere. Instead, the climax is so dull. The very long narrative has to poorly end up in a short, unbelievable peak of line. And what’s more disappointing, I didn’t find Jeffries’ typical funny jokes, nor even a single hilarious, witty dialogue. Nothing entertaining. Nothing to laugh about. The good thing about Dance of Seduction is its nice storyline, which is surprisingly very much different from any other Jeffries’ works I have devoured.

All in all, Dance of Seduction is not really a huge disappointment, but it’s not a marvelous historical romance, either. Its crime component doesn’t successfully blend with the basic idea, making it more or less a patch of unattached decoration. I won’t recommend it, but I’m sure Sabrina Jeffries’ fans will give it a try.

Rating: 2.5/5

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After the Abduction

Indonesian edition’s cover (source: facebook.com/dastanbooks)

Sometimes, as genius as an author might be, they can unconsciously follow the wrong path after walking the more favorable one. After the Abduction is a vivid example of Sabrina Jeffries’ failure to keep up her good work. At least, in my opinion. First published in 2002, the book fails to convince me that it has the quality of both A Dangerous Love and A Notorious Love, or that it’s not only a bodice-ripper historical romance anyone can enjoy. Its lack of strong foundation of a premise and superb characters shake my previous opinion that Jeffries’ Swanlea Spinsters series has something more about it.

Two years after her abduction, Lady Juliet Laverick is looking for the man who kidnaps her in the past. When she comes to see Sebastian Blakely in a digging mission with her sister Lady Rosalind and brother-in-law Griff Knighton, she has a very bad feeling that he is the culprit, the man who takes her away from her family to trade her for a tidbit of information about his brother, the man who fills her dreams for over two years. Oddly, the man doesn’t use the same name, and Juliet believes it’s only a camouflage, a mask he deliberately puts on his face to hide the actual truth. Somehow, Juliet can sense that Sebastian Blakely is Morgan Pryce who seduces her into elopement with him, from his eyes, his voice, his attitude and behavior. But no matter how hard Juliet forces him into a corner, Sebastian won’t admit that he is Morgan Pryce and keeps lying about his true feelings and identity. It’s going on and on and on until Sebastian finally gives up and Juliet gets the truth she wants. But this hide and seek continues to go on when Juliet demands Sebastian to reveal himself to her family and he refuses to do so. All you get for almost hundreds of pages are only their pride, dignity, selfishness, and stubbornness. There is not much of a story.

Despite her great effort, Juliet Laverick still looks childish and immature to me. She may be already grown up, in how she looks and how she behaves, but her stubbornness and childish insistence make her look like the much younger version of herself. I don’t view stubbornness as a bad thing, sometimes we need to be stubborn. But her stubbornness is too much to bear. I know that the trait has been Sabrina Jeffries’ trademark in almost all of her stories, but that doesn’t mean that all of the readers have to accept it voluntarily. And the character of Sebastian Blakely doesn’t seem to balance her, either. He has the family’s dignity to defend and a beloved brother to protect, which makes him just as poorly headstrong. His cool, calm, collected behavior only strengthens his annoying nature and worsens the already disgusting narrative. His firmness in keeping his secret may be admirable, and his determination to protect his brother and his family’s name is quite understandable. But all those things only drag the story too far away to be irresistible, or enjoyable.

Sabrina Jeffries is a brilliant romance writer, at least in my opinion, but I don’t find anything great about Juliet and Sebastian’s story. Instead, the side story in which Griff Knighton and Lady Rosalind are battling with trust to each other and still longing for children gets more of my attention. Their marriage problem seems to me more significant to make a story, rather than the urge to know who has kidnapped you in the past or having a Stockholm syndrome after it. The whole narrative is so frustrating that it’s even too far away from being good enough. And there is nothing new, too, since Jeffries hasn’t gotten out of her usual pattern of plot yet. After the Abduction is a huge disappointment to me, it has no compelling story, no deep characters, no emotions, no lesson to learn, no heart-wrenching moments, no serious problem, no funny jokes nor nice humor, no witty conversations. Everything is dull. The only good point about this book is its style of writing, which is, I have to admit, still nice to follow.

All in all, I can say that I seriously won’t recommend After the Abduction to anyone, unless you’re a die-hard fan of Sabrina Jeffries. The fact that it received a certain award doesn’t help me to have a better opinion of the book. And I’m so sorry about it.

Rating: 2/5

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Dancing at Midnight

Indonesian edition’s cover

Trust Julia Quinn to make you laugh. Any historical romance writer could be funny, but Quinn’s sense of humor is quite particular and, if I may add, simply irresistible. It’s been her trademark, I think. And Dancing at Midnight does not miss this trait out. It was first published in 1995 and is one of Quinn’s remarkably hilarious historical romance works. I’m not sure if it’s the best one, but I dare say that it’s the epitome of a complete work of entertainment fiction, comprised of a light narrative, fun-to-follow plot, and definitely ridiculous scenes and laugh-triggering dialogues.

The story opens with a quirkily amusing encounter between the newly knighted Baron, John Blackwood, and the smart and stubborn Lady Arabella Blydon on the border of the noble man’s estate. They like each other instantly, just like what happens in almost all historical romances, if you don’t mind me pointing it out, but they are both hindered by their own feelings, of insecurity and reasonable dislike respectively. As much as she likes John, Belle finds his icy attitude hurting and hard to comprehend, for she believes that John must be a very nice and good person. But the iciness is not without a reason: John has this horrid past inflicting heavy burden of guilt on him which in turn, gradually, shapes what he is and what he feels about himself. However, strong-willed as she is, Belle does not just give up making John confess his feelings for her. By some dramatically childish way of hers, Belle successfully gets him coming after her and admitting his deep love for her. Unfortunately, it happens just exactly the same time as his finding out that someone lurking in the dark plans to murder him. He decides that he cannot risk Belle’s life, but with Belle’s strong love and stubbornness, he fails to push her away.

I wouldn’t say that it’s a novel thing to couple a sad-secluded-hunted-by-a-horrid-past hero and a sweet-beautiful-nice-young-stubborn heroine together in a historical romance. And I wouldn’t lie that I am so bored and tired of those kinds of characters. But Julia Quinn has somehow presented John Blackwood and Lady Arabella Blydon in a very different way. They are not frustratingly annoying to read, and their funny interaction and conversations shed joyful light on their portrayal even more. The character of John Blackwood might be interlaced with a horrible past and shameful guilt, but I honestly didn’t find him too dark nor complicated. He’s lighter than any burdened-by-his-past male character I’ve ever found in historical romances I’ve read so far. And he’s got Belle Blydon’s light, oddly hilarious stubbornness to match. Belle is not a female character you want to slap just because she is steadfastly determined nor because she is childish by nature. Her character is more of smart and funny, yet innocent and loyal, undoubtedly bearable to read and enjoy. Quinn has definitely created John Blackwood and Belle Blydon to be meant for each other. Together, they comprise a charming, amusing couple.

The problem is, being fun and entertaining is not enough for a novel, however trivial people think the genre is. Dancing at Midnight is written in a light narrative, and it has a naturally flowing plot, seeming not to be unrealistic albeit it’s not a long book. But it’s just such a shame that it lacks the supporting yet deciding factor, which is the solid foundation for John Blackwood’s past bringing a sense of guilt to him. Sometimes a small mistake can indeed make someone feel bad for the whole of their lives, but I seriously don’t get the importance of John’s guilt about something which is not his doing, something which is not directly his fault. His sense of guilt is too big and heavy, and taken too seriously by the author, for him to refuse an unconditional love. Since John’s physical handicap is not that serious, too, I guess that icy and secluded attitude of his is not necessary at all. And there is this particular scene that annoyed me, the climax scene where John and Belle cs trick their enemy, George Spencer, into their capture in Lady Tumbley’s party. I expected it to be better written, better described, more detailed, and emanate more of violence air. I won’t argue about its necessity of being funny and ridiculous, since it’s Julia Quinn’s work, but I genuinely feel awkward every time I read a violence scene that is not violent at all. Among all the weaknesses in a historical romance, this is the least that I anticipate.

All in all, I can only say that Julia Quinn’s Dancing at Midnight is a totally light read. It’s meant to entertain us, to make our day. There is nothing particularly serious about it, there is even nothing special about it aside from its hilarious, and sometimes slapstick, jokes. I personally think it’s fun, especially for its funny scenes and dialogues, but I don’t think it’s marvelously great.

Rating: 3/5

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A Notorious Love

Indonesian edition’s cover (source: facebook.com/dastanbooks)

A historical romance, to my thinking, is just the right and the best kind of narrative to explore sexuality, what with its prissy female characters, strict rules of propriety to break, and wickedly rake gentlemen, but if you toss in some issue of insecurity, then it’ll be a blast. That is pretty much what Sabrina Jeffries presents in A Notorious Love, the second book of her Swanlea Spinsters series. Beginning months after the first story ended, it invites you to look on the journey the two main characters, Lady Helena Laverick and Daniel Brennan, are going through in an attempt to save her sister, while, in between, saving herself from a loveless, lonely life. Unlike its predecessor, A Notorious Love is not full of hatred and vengeful atmosphere, but it is guaranteed to wrench at your heart even more and make you fall in love with the gallant hero.

While Griff Knighton and Lady Rosalind are going on their honeymoon, an unexpected disaster falls upon the Laverick family in Swan Park. Lady Juliet, the youngest girl, has eloped with a mysterious, unknown man whom Lady Helena believes to be a fortune hunter, or worse. At her wits’ end, she then comes to Daniel Brennan, Griff Knighton’s former man of affairs, for help. Daniel’s notorious reputation as an erstwhile smuggler is the only guarantee Helena has to track and find her running sister. As much as her heart is still hurting after what happened in Swan Park last summer, and albeit she has to risk her own reputation in society, Helena has no choice. Saving her sister is more important than keeping her distance from someone who has deceitfully toyed with her feelings.

Daniel cannot bring himself to say no to Helena’s fervent request. And even though it is very much dangerous especially for a noble lady like Helena to come along, he has no choice but bringing her with him. On the road, the sparkling feeling between them, which has been swept away since Griff married Rosalind and Daniel went back to London, starts to ooze again. It’s not that they do not realize it, but they stubbornly smother it. However, being together, their flaring desire and longing cannot be clamped shut no matter how hard they grip them and keep them locked in one part of their lying hearts.

A Notorious Love has as much interesting characters as A Dangerous Love. Daniel and Helena might not trigger the reader’s hatred towards them,but they are not ordinary characters, either. Like her sister Rosalind, Helena is portrayed having a physical lack, only hers is worse by far. Her deformity, and her painfully broken heart, stop her from believing in love and in any man. The strict rules of propriety she strongly holds with iron fists seem to be only her shield to protect her already fragile heart and to shut her life close. Her unforgiving and untrusting nature seem to be merely her weapon to hide her insecurity. But Daniel Brennan is a gallant hero, in every single way a man could be. If I am to describe him in one sentence, I would use one of his dialogues in which he says:

“A man is what he is, no fancy lodgings or fine clothes will change that.”

He may not a filthy, stinking rich man who has everything, but he is certainly a hard worker. He is not a man who spoils the woman he loves with luxury, but he can naturally understand her. And, in addition, he is so funny and gentle, a nature every woman loves to cherish.

Following Daniel and Helena’s journey was not only amusing and a lot of fun, but also encouraged me to think. At some point in the story, my mind got boggled at the conversation occurred between them. Sabrina Jeffries has proved herself to be a romance writer with a sharp wit and great sense of humor, but she never leaves her works dried of lessons to learn. She doesn’t try to be a smart aleck, so she wraps all the meaningful dialogues up in a blanket of jokes and amusing scenes so the reader won’t feel that she’s trying to preach. I cannot say that she is a genius at making a storyline, for A Notorious Love doesn’t have quite a good plot, but she never fails to tug at the reader’s heartstrings with her wonderful stories and deep, complicated characters. Jeffries is also adept in twisting words and idioms linguistically, which is very much fun and smart of her. All those amazing skills are compiled into this one great romance novel.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A Notorious Love is not just another fun bodice-ripper novel to light your day with its explicit sexuality and romantic love story, it has something more. Never before I read a love story as mind-blowing as A Notorious Love. It’s a complete novel in some ways, putting aside its awkward plot. What’s more, it has awesome classic poems and ballads at the beginning of each chapter to represent its particular scenes. So, I highly recommend this book to anyone, not only to historical romance readers, but also to those who want to try one.

Rating: 3.5/5

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A Dangerous Love

Indonesian edition’s cover (source: facebook.com/dastanbooks)

What will you do to prove yourself? Will you just do anything? The answer is explicitly implied in Sabrina Jeffries’ groggily funny, heart-wrenching historical romance of Swanlea Spinsters series, A Dangerous Love. Set in early 1800s’ England, as many other historical romances commonly are, it is an engaging family drama filled with hatred, revenge, rightful wrongdoings, emotions, and, of course, blazing love and sexuality. A Dangerous Love is not a sweet, sappy love story, though it still has the basic “ended in living happily ever after” premise, and it definitely will not lead you to adore the main characters. Readers might want to prepare themselves for something tricky and treacherous, for that’s what this book is all about.

It all starts with an agreement between Griff Knighton and his man of affairs, Daniel Brennan. In exchange for an enormous amount of money, Daniel agrees to change places with Griff as they come visiting the Laverick family in Swan Park so that Griff can sneak around and steal his parents’ marriage license. After years and years of suffering from having a bastard status, it is Griff’s chance to vindicate his mother and get his legal title back, plus to expand and strengthen his business even more. But meeting Lady Rosalind proves to be a disaster, both for his carefully arranged plan and his heart. Soon, it is not enough for him to only seduce the already suspicious, plump and smart Lady Rosalind to smooth his way, and it’s definitely not enough just to satisfy his St. Peter. His cold heart is clamoring to be heard for the first time in his entire life, asking for something that requires him to sacrifice not only his plan, but also his future, his rights, and the legal status of his existence.

A Dangerous Love has one of the best characterizations of all Sabrina Jeffries’ works of romance I’ve read so far. Griff Knighton is not a likeable hero, he is selfish, stubborn, unforgiving, holding a grudge everywhere he goes. He may be well-built and handsome, but that’s very much beside the point. He spends his life trying to fit in, to get what he wants, what he thinks he deserves, and to prove himself respectable and noble to anyone who wants to listen. His heart is so full of hatred and revenge, merciless to a fault. That’s why falling in love with Rosalind is confusing him. Not to mention that Rosalind is not just another “lady of the noble family”. She is not only scandalously brave, emotional, well read, and don’t forget stubborn, too, but also determined and true to her heart. She is not physically pretty, either, with a plump build, round face, and oddly red hair. All these are combined into a heart-wrenching, mind-squeezing relationship guaranteed to make the readers mad.

I don’t think bringing up the subject of revenge in a love story, moreover in a historical romance, is something unusual. But Jeffries composes it in a very vehement narrative with such a vengeful character as Griff Knighton that every sentence and the dialogues occurred in between radiate hatred and tiring emotions. Jeffries’ typical sense of humor is still there, thankfully, and her concoction of desire and romanticism leaves us dangerously high on its atmosphere. Though sprinkled with explicit sex scenes, some of which might make your pores oozing sweat, A Dangerous Love is not merely one of those bodice-ripper novels you look down your nose at. It’s something more. It has a great story, unusual, hateful characters, nice humor, meaningful dialogues, strong emotions and all. The only disappointment is its unbelievably unrealistic plot. It happens a lot in many romance stories, I don’t doubt that, but falling in love only in one week and finding out that it’s truly our true love in life are just too much for me.On the positive side, it has the best scene of all, the best scene that forced me to cry when reading it. It’s in the last chapter before the epilogue.

In conclusion, A Dangerous Love by Sabrina Jeffries is not only an entertaining story to devour, or even a light reading to wash our stress away and make our day. It’s something to ponder about, something which gives us more than just a love story and a lot of sex. This is the kind of historical romance that I’d highly recommend.

Rating: 3.5/5

fiction, review

To Pleasure a Prince

Indonesian edition’s cover

As historical romances go, Sabrina Jeffries’ To Pleasure a Prince is not that frustratingly bad. Being the second installment of the Royal Brotherhood series, it has even a better premise and deeper characterization. Forget about the bawdy, improper title, for it has nothing to do with the light yet sad and complicated story, the darkly secret history of the main character, or even the romantic atmosphere shrouding it. Once again, Jeffries tries to connect her entertaining romance tale with the historical fact so that it won’t appear only as an attached, useless background. Having read this book, I would say that she, to a certain degree, quite succeeds in doing it.

The story follows Jeffries’ usual pattern: having a practical agreement and then falling in love in the middle of the plan. Miss Regina Tremaine comes to Marcus North, the sixth Viscount Draker, for help. It seems to be, in the realm of historical romance, a reasonable thing to do, and, to some extent, a reasonable help to ask, however trivial it may be. Regina wants Marcus to give way to her brother’s courtship to Marcus’ younger sister, Louisa, for she believes that her brother, Simon Tremaine, the Duke of Foxmoor, truly has sincere feelings for Louisa and solely intends to marry her. Marcus doesn’t approve of the already running courtship for, somehow, he knows that Simon is Prinny’s right-hand man and that marriage is never his intention. But, eventually, they come to terms: Marcus will let Simon court Louisa on the understanding that Regina will let him court her. The planned courtship is, of course, not only about going to social parties, operas, balls and such, but also sparking emotions and desires rising up to the fever pitch. Jeffries also spices it up with clash of words, battle of wits, allegations, opposing points of views, and a bit of shame and insecurity. Before you know it, Marcus and Regina’s marriage is on the line, making Simon’s ploy to get Louisa fallen into his hands, and the reason behind it, quickly forgotten.

Knowing from first-hand experience, it seems to me so reasonable for any romance to have stubborn characters. But stubbornness has been Sabrina Jeffries’ trademark, I guess. Marcus North and Regina Tremaine do not seem to fit each other, because they are too stubborn to bear some balance. Some romances put two stubborn characters together, yes, but their stubbornness is too overwhelming for words. This nature of theirs is indeed the base of their conflict, and what strengthens the already tight tension gripping their relationship along the whole book. But, if the author is not careful, an intense stubbornness can also be a tricky trap in which readers fall into boredom and do not bother to finish the book anymore. Fortunately, the deep and intricate characterization Jeffries put on Marcus makes him forgivable to read, and the immaculately researched disease she describes in the portrayal of Regina makes this book even more bearable to finish. And they both are not merely some flat characters to peruse, either. They drip with emotions, and that’s just the best thing Jeffries can do about this book.

The plot To Pleasure a Prince has is simplicity itself. It’s so poorly predictable, though I cannot say whether it’s been the marketably acceptable pattern or it’s just Jeffries’ typical mindset of plotting. Be that as it may, I must confess that I was quite shocked in the middle of the book, where marriage is set to become a part of the conflict building instead of the exciting climax or even the ending we all expect to have. But what’s impressive about this book is, as always the case with Jeffries’ works, its witty humor, funny yet meaningful dialogues, and the style of writing Jeffries consistently uses. They are all the features of Sabrina Jeffries’ writing I’ve always been fond of ever since the first time I read her work. The hilarity is undoubtedly simple, as well, but still triggering my smile and laugh. To Pleasure a Prince might seem so simple, and don’t forget entertaining, in every aspect a historical romance could have, but the fact that it has a great story and characterization cannot be overlooked. To be honest, this second book of the Royal Brotherhood trilogy is so much better than the first one. In my opinion, at least.

All things considered, To Pleasure a Prince is a must read for the sake of entertainment, if you can forgive its poor plot and annoyingly stubborn characters. Its historical aspect may not be that accurate or believable, but that’s because Jeffries is too busy making an acceptable connection between her story and the history she wants to use as the background. So, yes, I quite recommend this book, especially to those who love historical romances.

Rating: 3/5

fiction, review

In the Prince’s Bed

Indonesian edition’s cover

Romance is always about love, no matter what other genre you put into it to blend them together and make something new. So, to my thinking, having historical romance doesn’t mean that you’ll get historical facts nor a story about something happened in the past, which is carefully retold by modern authors. It only means that you’ll get a romance tale shrouded in a “historical” atmosphere, with a setting and period convincing enough to make you feel it. But Sabrina Jeffries can do something more about it. In one of her historical romances, and the first in The Royal Brotherhood series, In the Prince’s Bed, Jeffries puts a lot of effort to synchronize a cheesy love story with a historical fact. Set in the Prince of Wales period, In the Prince’s Bed tries to present a tale of a bawdy, lustful romance quite historically.

The name is Alexander Black, everyone close to him calls him Alec, and by the time he’s coming back to England after a long period of exile he finds out that he’s not his father’s son. The letter he gets tells him that he actually is the bastard son of the Prince of Wales, widely known as Prinny, and one of many, to his dismay. He immediately calls the other two he knows, Lord Draker and Gavin Byrne, to his place and then together they establish the secret Royal Brotherhood, a circle aiming at providing help for each other so that they can reach their goals without having their secret uncovered. So Alec asks Draker and Byrne to help him finding a rich heiress to marry, considering the ugly condition of his estate. Byrne then instantly finds him Katherine Merivale, a potential heiress who’s going to inherit her grandfather’s money. To Alec’s disappointment, Katherine has already a fiancé and they’re about to marry soon. Frustrated, Alec tries to court her, wielding his charm and good looks and, of course, hiding his real financial condition. But there is one thing that he fails to anticipate, the fact that there is something more than just lust and desire between them. Alec, for sure, has to rearrange his secret plan.

Alexander Black is an epitome of any male main character a romance has. But Jeffries makes him more humorous and mischievous, wilder in a sexually dangerous sense. And Katherine Merivale has certainly matched him in any way but one, for she cannot match him in bed. Reading Katherine, I can only say that she’s also quite typical, with her innocence, witty mind, sharp comebacks and a body burned with passion. What’s surprising about this book is that Jeffries is game enough to create a homosexual character in the middle of 1810s’ England. I am not sure about the existence of homosexuality back in that period, although historically there were some countries I know of had such kind of thing. But that doesn’t stop Jeffries from creating a character like Sydney who has to hide his true sexual orientation behind a mask of an engagement.

All historical romance readers who love to read Sabrina Jeffries’s works may find that In the Prince’s Bed has a very typical plot she usually used to arrange some of her novels. It starts with a deal, a false relationship, secrets hidden behind desires that flare up between the two pretending characters, and ends up with their secrets revealed unexpectedly but they’ve already fallen in love to each other too deep to let that break their love and separate them. And, as it’s been the nature of today’s romance, they declare their love through a series of sexual intercourse, touches, kisses, seductions and everything. The good thing about reading Sabrina Jeffries’s books, and this novel in particular, is the hilarious atmosphere wrapping it up, how the main male and female characters sometimes get into a battle of wits, and how Jeffries narrates her story in a seriously funny way. I don’t think I liked the story of In the Prince’s Bed quite so much, but I really found it entertaining.

All things considered, In the Prince’s Bed may be too bawdy to my taste, but it’s still nice to read if you’re willing to put aside that aspect. And I may not want to recommend it to anyone, but for those who enjoy historical romance very much, it can be an option.

Rating: 3/5