Review: The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries (2015)

Format: Mass market paperback
Pub Date: August 2015
Publisher: Pocket
Length: 373 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: Received for free at RT16 Convention

The Art of Sinning takes place within the expanded circle of characters from Jeffries' last series of novels, but is delightfully different. The hero is an American, an artist, and a widower—although that last part is a bit of a secret to all of his distant English relatives. The heroine is extremely tall, aristocratic, outspoken, and collects street cant for her slang dictionaries.

 The set up is a bit unusual, too, because there are multiple motivations going on: Jeremy Keane wants Yvette to model for his new painting. Yvette's brother wants a portrait done to help "sell" his sister's charms to potential suitors. Keane doesn't usually paint portraits, which leads to him scheming with Yvette to do TWO paintings (keeping the second a secret) in exchange for helping her with a potentially dangerous quest of her own. Complicated...and that's just the first few chapters.

I admit that I don't remember the characters or details from Jeffries' previous series very well, so references to events that happened in other books didn't really resonate with me. I did like the secondary characters quite a bit, but I wish more page time had been spent on fleshing out the St. George's club that Yvette's brother and Keane dream up. It flits in and out of the narrative, never really coalescing. Which would be fine, except the club is the basis for the series (of which this is the first). Weird.

I also had issues with a few of the artistic details, and I can't really explain why. Some of it seemed forced, like research that needed to be dumped in somewhere, rather than organic. In particular, the color of the paints. Keane is very specific about the names of the colors, which is to be expected, but *how* he was thinking about them just felt off. It was probably just me, and probably because I grew up with an artist for a parent.

The romance is fairly bland and predictable except the big confrontation towards the end and the revelation about the painting. THAT did surprise me and felt truly emotional. It's one of the most insightful pieces of writing about artistic motivation, grief, self delusion that I've read in historical romance. Ever.

If you haven't read a Jeffries book before, I'd put her style somewhere between the overly light run-of-the-mill offerings at Avon and the gritty feel of Elizabeth Hoyt. Serious, lots of atmosphere, but not as much awareness of life outside the aristocracy. 

My Grade: B

The Blurb: 
At St. George’s Club, guardians conspire to keep their unattached sisters and wards out of the clutches of sinful suitors. Which works fine…except when the sinful suitors are members!

American artist Jeremy Keane refuses to return home and take over his father’s business. He’d much rather sample bevvies of beauties abroad, in search of a model for the provocative masterpiece he’s driven to paint. When he meets Lady Yvette Barlow at a London wedding, he realizes she’s perfect for his work—and determines to capture the young heiress’s defiant spirit and breathtaking sensuality on canvas.

No stranger to scandal, Yvette agrees to be Keane’s subject—in exchange for his help gaining entry to the city’s brothels he knows intimately, so she can track a missing woman and solve a family mystery. But when their practical partnership leads to lessons in the art of sinning, can they find a bold and lasting love?

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