Too Sinful to Deny
by Erica Ridley
(Zebra, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-1-4201-0994-8
**
Too Sinful to Deny is a gothic historical romance about a young woman banished to a distant relative by her family and ends up growing up while also finding love. Unfortunately, the story isnít as captivating as it could have been.

Susan Stanton is a young woman who has been confined to her room. She is affluent and spoiled and makes sure everyone knows it. Susanís favorite pastime is gossiping, which does not look good for the good Stanton name. Susan sneaks out of her room to join the Frost Fair and finds herself being saved by a man when she cracks the ice and falls in. This was just another strike against her. Since locking her in her room doesnít help, Susanís family sends her off to Bournemouth, a small desolate town on the coast. Moonseed Manor is her destination and Lady Beaune is the distant relative Susan has come to stay with until her family lets her rejoin London society.

Evan Bothwick is a mysterious man who is currently working with a group of men on smuggling jobs. The boat on the latest job is running late and this has Evan worried. The next job is coming up soon and if his brother, Timothy, doesnít dock soon, the captain isnít going to be happy.

Susan arrives at the Manor and the structure is so depressing she doesnít know if she can stand one day there. When she is greeted by the butler she isnít introduced to Lady Beaune as she expects. Instead she is introduced to Ollie, the Manor owner. She is also introduced to Evan who she is immediately drawn to, but at the same time is intimidated by.

On day two of Susanís banishment, she determines that she has to leave Bournemouth as fast as she can. The place creeps her out and she isnít so sure Lady Beaune is still around. While walking to town a man approaches her and walks right through her. Susan is stunned and traumatized and later that day discovers that she can see and communicate with ghosts.

Susan also keeps running into Evan, who she wants to avoid. She has her virtue to think about. A London nobleman isnít going to want her if she is ruined. Evan is pre-occupied with his brotherís death. The boat was found at the seashore and Timothy had been murdered. Evan wants to get to the bottom of the murder of his brother, but canít seem to stop thinking about Susan. Too Sinful to Deny has a lot going on, which may be the reason why it is hard to read. It is a confusing story to follow Ė there is smuggling, murder, a disgruntled debutante who can see ghosts, ghosts who want justice, and romance thrown all into one. And for a romance novel, the romance is definitely lacking.

In addition, the writing is not as descriptive as it could be. Again, this is likely due to too much going on and not enough space to better develop the story. I wish the author had picked a few things to really focus on and expand.

Susan Stanton is a character introduced in Erica Ridleyís first book Too Wicked to Kiss and this may be why the character development on her in Too Sinful to Deny is deficient. For someone who has not read the first book, it is definitely a hindrance in understanding Susan.

Susanís storyline from is not entirely believable. She is 20 years old and her family exiles her because she embarrasses them? The examples of embarrassment given donít seem to be detrimental enough for exile, but maybe more happens in Too Wicked to Kiss that is missing in this book. And they send her alone to a town far away to a distant cousin Ė a cousin it turns out they havenít heard from in a long time? It seems a little farfetched. When she starts seeing and talking to ghosts, it lost me even more.

Iím sure there is an audience who would enjoy this gothic historical romance with a touch of paranormal, but I have to give this book two hearts based on my reading experience.

--Nichole Howell


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