The Sins of Viscount Sutherland
by Samantha James
(Avon, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-006-176554-4
***
James has a style that flows and her stories are often engaging. This one is no different. But many of her tales contain a prolonged series of anxiety and, at times, actions that just seem forced. The Sins of Viscount Sutherland meets that description too.

Claire (or Clair as it is at times in the story) Ashcroft is alone but not without some means. Her brother was killed in a duel, and coming on the heels of her mother’s death, hastened her father’s from grief. There is only one man to blame and she is out to get her revenge. Her half-thought out plan is to make him fall in love with her and then leave him heartbroken. Now this is an interesting plot for Claire, who is an innocent who has never even had her season. Her best friend agrees to assist her by helping to introduce her to society as a widow from the country.

The man in the crosshairs is Grayson, Viscount Sutherland. Gray is considered a scoundrel and a rake by most of society. Previously married, but now a widower himself, Gray has spent the last three years going from bed to bed of women who are like minded – sex and no attachments. He is in fact, one of four men all with similar reputations, of which one is his best friend Clive, the Duke of Braddock.

The story is really set up in about three parts – the first is this plot. Unfortunately for Claire, she is actually the one to be left broken, as she finds herself attracted to Gray and filled with passion when he approaches. Gray too is attracted and is almost destroyed to discover that she was a virgin. He is also angry at himself and at her for making him discover his long hidden conscience.

Part two takes place as Claire discovers she is pregnant. She is determined to raise the child, and even finds a slightly older widower from her local village that is willing to marry her and raise the child as his own. Just in the nick of time, Gray discovers her condition and rides in to change the groom at the ceremony. The rest of the story, nearly half of the book, follows these two as they try to build a life. In their way stands a variety of past issues, with her brother’s death just one.

Gray is a bit of a tortured hero with many things in his past around his first marriage which keeps him from fully engaging his heart with Claire. He is also stubborn and has convinced himself that he is strong, right and truly beyond saving. Meanwhile, Claire is a mix of naiveté and a stubborn minx. Their arguments are full of passion, but they often sling insults and hurt at the other before their passion can completely take over. On the one hand, that is a good thing – as sex does not solve their problems. On the other hand, it is frustrating for the reader when they act so stupidly at times.

I really enjoyed them when they could be civil and act like people who are trying to build a relationship and forge a bond. I did not enjoy it when they let misunderstandings stand in their way. Luckily they have good friends willingly to point out their foolishness and push them towards the other.

As a whole this story maintained my interest but there is just enough frustration to keep me from strongly recommending The Sins of Viscount Sutherland.

--Shirley Lyons


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