The Pleasures of Passion is an entertaining second-chance historical romance that had me hooked within the prologue! You won’t want to miss Sabrina Jeffries latest novel.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
[For Mature Audiences; Some Spoilers]
When I received The Pleasures of Passion review copy in the mail and read the summary, I was instantly intrigued… and then I started reading, only wanting to skim the first few pages for some more insight. 30 pages later, I was 100% hooked on this novel, so much so that I stopped at page 30 and promptly filmed a video of my flails (below). I really can’t recommend this book enough and historical romance readers will definitely enjoy it too.
When we first meet Lord Niall Lindsey, he’s in a major pickle. Earlier that morning, he challenged a man to a duel and won. Keep in mind, this means he just killed someone… Niall doesn’t regret it, but fighting duels is illegal, so he has to flee the country. Before leaving, Niall goes to see Brilliana Payne, who he’s been courting in secret. The two have a deep connection, and when they meet he asks her to elope with him. Brilliana is shocked because this is not the type of marriage proposal she’s expecting. While she cares for Niall, Brilliana can’t leave her mother, who’s sick. So, unfortunately, the two part ways, but there’s hope that, soon Brilliana might be able to join Niall on the Continent. Some time later, Niall receives a letter from his father notifying him that Brilliana has married another man. The news devastates Niall… how could Brilliana marry another man? Has she forgotten him? Did she ever care about him, or was her intention always to use him for wealth and position? These are the questions that fuel Niall’s resentment for seven years…
…so when Niall, now the Earl of Margrave, returns to England from exile, he’s surprised to see that Brilliana, in fact, resents him. After Niall first leaves the country, she finds herself in dire straits and repeated attempts to contact Niall go unanswered. On top of that, the gossip around town is that Niall fought a duel over some lightskirt he was seeing while courting Brilliana. To save her family from her father’s poor decision-making, she marries Reynold Trevor and resolves to make the best of the situation. But seven years later, she’s a widow with a young son and floundering estate. Brilliana doesn’t believe love is in the cards for her, but her aunt and sister-in-law are determined to see her remarried.
What a small world that Niall happens to be cousin to her sister-in-law’s husband? And whenever he and Brilliana are in the same room, the fireworks are still there…along with a whole lot of bitterness. Things become even more complex when Niall and Brilliana must pretend to be affianced in order to uncover a counterfeiting ring that her father has gotten caught up in…WHAT?! As the two a forced together, their old attraction resurffaces. But even more interesting, as Niall and Brilliana learn the truth behind their separation, they consider whether they should make their arrangement a real one.
I think what I enjoy most about The Pleasures of Passion is that we hit the ground running and as the plot unfolds, the story becomes even more engaging. This is the fourth book in the series, so perhaps TPoP can just build on the worldbuilding that occurs in the earlier novels. At the same time, I read this as a standalone and never felt like I was lost (though, I now know that Niall and Brilliana make appearances in earlier books that follow their family/friends).
Brilliana is the type of heroine we adore–kind, forthright, and (now) independent. She’s an artist who designs pottery. And Brilliana is so devoted to her family, willing to make what she sees as necessary sacrifices for wellbeing. Interestingly, Brilliana and Niall have this in common. This isn’t exactly a spoiler since we learn this plot point within the prologue (and in the series’ second book), but the reason Niall fights the duel is to avenge his sister, Clarissia, who is raped. And when he returns to England, it’s his concern for Clarissa that compels Niall to keep her confidence, even from Brilliana. Despite each of their relationship hang-ups and lingering resentment, the two eventually open up to one another and find that they people they are now could definitely fall in love too:
…Then he caught her head in his hands and kissed her. Hard. Intimately. He pressed his tongue against her teeth to gain entry, the way he’d never dared to when they were courting. The way he knew she would like now that she was a widow, now that she’d experienced a man’s bed. The way he’d dreamed of kissing her for seven years. When she froze, he feared he’d gone too far and put her even further on her guard. But as he slid his hands into her hair and ran his tongue over her trembling lips, she opened her mouth, and he exulted. In this at least, she was his again. And he meant to make the most of it…
…Brilliana tried to resist Niall’s kiss, but it was impossible. She’d dreamed of this for years, and now that his mouth was on hers, she realized her memory hadn’t done it justice. Especially since they’d never kissed this way in their youth. How she wished they had! She’d never liked it when Reynold did it, but with Niall it was glorious. He plundered her mouth like a pirate at sea, commanding everything before him. His breath mingled with hers, his lips molded to every line of hers, and his tongue… Oh, it took and gave and played and drove, as if he meant to possess her again. Only this time, he meant to take both heart and body.
“Damn it, Bree,” he whispered, “you don’t know how I’ve missed this—being with you, touching you, kissing you.”
Next thing she knew, he was walking her backward until she bumped up against a plane tree. Then his mouth was on hers again and his hands fumbling with her shawl, and she was reveling in every moment. His body covered hers as he drank of her mouth and she drank of his. Niall’s eyes gleamed in the dark.
“I want to touch you.” He removed her fichu, then tugged her clothing down to expose one breast.
“Yes . . . please . . .” she breathed, hardly conscious of what she said. Need flaring in his face, he covered her breast with his large hand, and started caressing it, kneading it, thumbing the nipple to a fine point that shot sensation down to her toes. Goodness gracious, that felt amazing. She must be out of her mind. Anyone could happen into this corner of the garden, evening or no. And if they found her and Niall doing this . . . What kind of wanton creature was she, to allow such madness? The kind who’d once dreamed of doing this with him in their marital bed.
“Do you like my hands on you, my beautiful rose?” he asked.
“Delicious.” He brushed kisses over her cheeks, her eyelids, her temples. “I love how you blossom beneath my touch.”
“Because right now I want only one thing—to make love to you. To remind you that there are things between us that transcend the past. I know how to make you yearn and burn. I know how to give you pleasure.” He lowered his voice to a harsh rasp. “And you want me to. You know that you do.”
When she swallowed hard, he exulted. She wasn’t as immune to him as she tried to pretend. “I—I said no bed play.”
“I see no bed.”
She eyed him askance. “You’re splitting hairs, you devil. You knew what I meant.”
When he pressed her up against the tree, she lifted her eyes heavenward. “What is it with you and trees, anyway? My maid still hasn’t worked the stains out of the last gown you ruined. And why must we do this here, where anyone might find us?”
“Because we can,” he rasped against her lips. “Because we want to. Because I own every inch of this land, and I want to take you in the place where I mean for us to build a life together…
…God, she was as luscious and juicy as ripe fruit. He could dine on Bree for hours. Or at least long enough to show her that there was so much more to making love than her arse of a husband had shown her. He thrust her gathered skirts into her hand, and miraculously, she did his bidding. Then he set about giving her delicious honeypot the attention it deserved. He’d always loved the taste of a woman fully aroused, but God, Bree tasted better than anything. And she was so receptive, too, clutching at his head to hold him to her as she pushed her cleft against his tongue…
…He intended to make her blood race and her head spin, to make her forget about anything but how this felt, how they felt together. It was the only way he could think of to reassure her that they would make a good match. That they could start again. Together. No matter what secrets he had to continue keeping…At least he could make her feel this, damn it. Perhaps for now, that would be enough for her.
The romance is so on point! Niall and Brilliana’s story is a little heartbreaking, which makes it even more compelling and passionate. I love watching these two try to find their way back to each other. But what makes The Pleasures of Passion even more entertaining is the added suspense because of the counterfeiting and Niall/Brilliana’s undercover mission. The big reveal in this plot line is pretty good too.
The Pleasures of Passion is MUSTREAD for historical romance fans, especially if you enjoy second-chance romance. Truth be told, the Sinful Suitors Series as a whole is charming. In addition to this one, I’ve read the second book, The Study of Seduction (following Niall’s sister Clarissa and Lord Edwin Barlow, a family friend) and The Danger of Desire (following Niall and Clarissa’s cousin, Lord Warren Corry, and Delia Trevor, Brilliana’s sister-in-law). All of these characters appear in The Pleasures of Passion, along with Lord Fulkham, a scheming spymaster working for the British Crown and also the hero in the series’ fifth book, The Secret of Flirting.
The Pleasures of Passion is now available from Pocket Books and is a great entry into the series. Add it to your Goodreads TBR list, then you can read an excerpt from the first chapter and grab your copy from your favorite retailer today!
Many thanks to the publisher for an advanced review copy.