|Madeline Hunter’s latest installment in her “Rarest Blooms” quartet was a step up from the previous book for me, but in the end was still a bit of a snooze. Sinful in Satin finds Celia Pennifold, the illegitimate daughter of a notorious London courtesan, in possession of a small townhouse – and a mound of debts – after her mother Alessandra passes away. The townhouse comes with a longtime tenant: one Jonathan Albrighton, a rather mysterious man who knew Alessandra well. He might have been her lover, or he might not. At any rate, he has no intention of moving out, as he’s trying to find out whether Alessandra passed sensitive information to the French.
Celia has plans for the townhouse. She intends to use it to set several downtrodden women up in business growing flowers for sale, with the help of her friend Daphne. The last thing she needs is Jonathan hanging about. Celia intends to lead a respectable life, and also intends to discover the identity of her father, who might be of the nobility. Jonathan, illegitimate himself, knows exactly who his own father is – an earl. Most of the earl’s family shuns Jonathan, with the exception of his Uncle Edward, who seems to have his own reasons for maintaining some sort of connection with him.
For those following the series, the main players are back, and the debauched Duke of Castleford (who claims to only be sober on Tuesdays) is an unlikely hero in some ways. Since his story is coming up next, it’s a clever bit of plotting to put him in the limelight for part of this story. I’ll buy the next book just to see how Hunter manages to redeem him, as it looks all but impossible at this point.
Celia and Jonathan are both mature characters who think their way out of situations, and that’s always a pleasure in a romance. There are some misunderstandings between them, but nothing that some honest conversation can’t resolve, thank goodness. Celia is no Regency twit. Jonathan is no rake. They’ve both had a life with more than a few hard knocks, and I liked them both.
However, their romance just never heated up. I could completely buy that these two would become friends, but they just didn’t have much chemistry. I never felt the sexual attraction, though the author tries hard to sell it. They’re reserved, cautious, and there’s no passion seething under the surface to make them more engaging. The most Celia can work up is to have a few lustful thoughts after seeing Jonathan with his shirt off. Too bad – they are intelligent and sympathetic characters in other respects.
Sinful in Satin is a pleasant read, but the romance is ultimately too passionless to be memorable. The Duke of Castleford made the biggest impression in the book, and his upcoming romance with the fiercely independent Daphne should make for a fun read. Hopefully Ms. Hunter will turn up the heat in their story.