Wendy the Super Librarian‘s review of The Greatest Of Sins (The Sinner And The Saint, Book 1) by Christine Merrill
Historical Romance published by Harlequin Historical 23 Apr 13
I always like to read Christine Merrill’s work – mostly because she’s a writer who will take risks. Given that she most notably works within the Regency landscape, I’m always intrigued to see what twists she’s going to throw in the most omnipresent setting within the genre. Sometimes the risks she takes work for me and sometimes they don’t. This first book in a duet is an instance of where they don’t. She tries some clever things here, but it all comes off as rather distasteful to me in the end.
Dr. Samuel Hastings was rescued as an infant from a foundling home by Lady Evelyn Thorne’s father. He agreed to help out a notable peer whose indiscretion with Sam’s less-than-noble mother led to his conception, because 1) one doesn’t turn down a Duke and 2) it was believed he and his wife would never have children of their own. Until, of course, they did. Evelyn was born a few years later, her mother passed away, and the two children were raised together. That is until Daddy realized that his precious snowflake daughter was getting entirely too attached to Sam. So he told a despicable, horrible, disgusting lie – thereby making Sam think he was a deviant, diseased pervert. Sam went off to school, joined the Navy, and didn’t answer any of clueless Evie’s letters for six long years. However, now he’s back in England. And Evie? Evie is still desperately in love with him, even if her father does want her to accept Duke of St. Aldric’s proposal.
Ward/Guardian romances certainly have some popularity within the realm of historical romance, and I appreciate that the author gives us a different spin on the trope. Sam is the ward and Evie just happens to be the guardian’s biological child. I also really like that Sam is a physician, and Merrill does some nice homework and includes some interesting medical tidbits in this tale. Sam, despite having a wealthy patron early in his life, is a self-made man, always an intriguing addition in any historical romance, but especially in a Regency.
What didn’t work for me was pretty much everything else. The lie keeping Evie and Sam apart is a simple (albeit odious) one. All that needs to be done to resolve the issue is for Sam to open his damn mouth and SAY SOMETHING! Does he? Of course not. Because then Evie’s perception of her father would change – you know, even though the guy is a raging asshole. Gee, wouldn’t that just be a tragedy? So, Evie remains clueless of the truth until the very end, Sam plays the noble martyr until the end, and for added kicks they both end up cuckolding Michael, Duke of St. Alrdric, who seems like a genuinely nice guy. The only thing keeping me from feeling completely sorry for him is that he’s scheduled to be the hero in the second book of this duet. So the author isn’t going to keep him dangling on the helpless schmuck line for all fictional eternity.
As much as all that doesn’t work for me, ultimately what sinks this story is how distasteful I find the romance. Evie and Sam were raised as brother and sister. Sam has literally known Evie since the day she was born. He was a child when she was born. He did not come to their household as a teenager. He was raised with her. Certainly, he knew he was a ward, but from a very early age these two were raised together as brother and sister. All I could think about was my adopted niece (who knows she’s adopted) and biological nephew and…..ick! Yes, Evie and Sam are not related by blood – but the fact that they’ve literally known each other for their entire lives? Were raised together as children, as brother and sister? I don’t care if there is no blood involved, I still find it icky. Maybe I wouldn’t have found it icky if I didn’t have an adopted niece and biological nephew, or if Sam and Evie weren’t thrown in the same household until they were both on the cusp of adulthood. However, as is, it is a mighty big elephant in the room that I couldn’t work my way around.
Ultimately there are a only a few elements to this story that work for me. Merrill’s writing style continues to appeal though, and after over a month of slogging through books, I positively zipped through this one. I’m also keeping an open mind about maybe reading the next book in the series featuring Michael, Duke of St. Alrdric. As it stands though, the romance of Evie and Sam doesn’t work for me.
Giving in to temptation would be the ruin of them all!
Having spent years believing a lie about his birth, Dr. Samuel Hastings has been condemned to a personal hell of his desire’s making—his sinful thoughts of the one woman he can never touch would damn his soul for eternity.
Lady Evelyn Thorne is engaged to the very suitable Duke of St. Aldric when a shocking truth is revealed—and now Sam will play every bit of the devil to seduce the woman he thought would always be denied him!