By Arrangement

††††††††† By Design

By Possession

The Charmer

Lady of Sin

Lessons of Desire

Lord of a Thousand Nights

The Protector

The Romantic

The Rules of Seduction

The Seducer

The Sins of Lord Easterbrook
by Madeline Hunter
(Dell, $6.99, PG-13)† ISBN 978-0-440-24396-0
An inventive plot and Madeline Hunterís usual smooth writing donít quite lift† The Sins of Lord Easterbrook past a hero who is unlikable for much of the book and a heroine who could use more backbone when it comes to dealing with him.

Leona Montgomery has recently arrived in London from the Chinese port of Macao, where her later father ran an import/export firm supplying Britain with all sorts of Chinese goods.† Although Leona was the brains behind much of the firmís success, her brother is now at the helm, and she is determined to meet with notable businessmen and forge trading alliances that will help ensure the success of the company.

The last person Leona expects to encounter is London is the man who broke her heart seven years earlier: Christian Rothwell, Marquess of Easterbrook. Leona once knew him as ďEdmund,Ē a mysterious Englishman to whom she was very attracted, and who seemed to share her feelings.† But he fled Macao to save his life, leaving Leona behind.†

Christian has the unwelcome ability to sense the emotions of those around him.†Leona, however, was immune - her feelings were shielded from him, which was a welcome relief.†For seven years, heís dreamed of her (why he didnít sail back to Macao to find her isnít explained) and now that heís spied her in London, he does what any lovesick man would do to try and rekindle their relationship: he kidnaps her and has her brought to his house so they can talk.

Leona has another mission besides setting up trading contracts.†Her father was implicated in the opium trade, and she wants to see his name cleared. Leona pens a series of travel articles for a ladiesí magazine, and she includes descriptions of the opium trade and the effects of addiction.† Christian knows sheís treading on thin ice, as some very powerful men are involved in the trade, and she may be putting her life in danger.†When Leona refuses to stop her investigations, Christian decides to take her in hand.

Christian is one of the most arrogant, domineering heroes Iíve encountered in years, and thatís not a good thing.† He initially kidnaps Leona because he wants to see her; then blackmails her into moving into his house.†Leona simply canít resist him once he kisses her; every time she puts up any protests, he simply hauls her into his arms and she melts into a puddle, making their romance distinctly uncomfortable.†The author spends too much time telling us that Christian is a tormented soul with big problems, but frankly, he comes across as a bossy, self-pitying nutcase.† Even the big revelation that heís a former opium addict himself (which will come as no big surprise to readers) doesnít excuse him.†The ďemotion sensingĒ aspect doesnít play into the story much, for all he broods on it.†I just plain didnít like him.

Leona is interesting when sheís not melting into the aforementioned puddle.†The plotline of the opium trade was engrossing, and enough historical detail was included to bring it alive.†The last third of the book is the strongest, as Christian finally leaves off brooding and starts focusing on how heís going to keep Leona, who is planning to hop on the next ship bound for Macao as soon as her business is finished.†One can hardly blame her, as Christian spends most of the book declaring they can never be together, then offering to make Leona his mistress.†There is absolutely nothing standing in the way of their relationship except for his thickheadedness.†Not very exciting for the reader, either.

The Sins of Lord Easterbrook is entertaining for its plotline and likable heroine.†The hero, however, may leave you cold.†

--Cathy Sova

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