Reviewed by Mandi
What a cute little story this is. This series is centered around a village called Puddling, which is known as a rehabilitative place that families can send their loved ones for care. Whether it’s because of a traumatic event, or just need of a reputation repair, the people who work at this foundation put the “patients” in a strict regime.
Puddling was known as a famous reputation restorer, a place to rusticate and recalibrate. Prominent British families had sent their difficult relatives here for almost eighty years.
I didn’t read book one but I think Seducing Mr. Sykes is very much a stand-alone read. Our heroine, Lady Sarah Marchmain, has been sent to Puddling by her father because she absolutely refuses to marry the man he has selected for her. A Duke, he is in need of funds, and he needs his daughter securely married. But Sarah is an absolute spitfire. She not only refuses marriage, but she knows how to make big, dramatic scenes. Her father hopes her attitude and reputation can be restored and she will be sent back to him a lady. When we meet Sarah, she is lying on the floor of a candy shop, howling her head off just to be a brat. I think her father is going to be disappointed.
This is also how our hero, Tristan Sykes finds her. Tristan is a local baronet’s son, who is running this foundation while his father is out of the country. Tristan has seen many spoiled rotten people come to his town and is nonplussed by Sarah’s behavior. When a fire breaks out in the house she is staying in, Tristan reluctantly agrees to let her stay on his property. While Sarah is loud, prefers men’s clothing, very tall, and extremely chaotic, he is drawn to her. She fascinates him – she holds nothing back. She is always looking for trouble.
Trouble finds them both when Sarah’s dad arrives, unannounced, and witness Tristan patting Sarah’s bottom. It’s a long story, a more innocent story, but Sarah’s dad will not hear of anything but a marriage announcement.
” You look fine. I’m sure you won’t encounter so much as a tweenie on the back stairs. Hurry up.” And for some reason, Tristan patted her bottom. By God, it was soft, so he did it again. And that act was how the ninth Duke of Islesford discovered his difficult daughter and her apparent lover.
Sarah does NOT want to get married. Tristan just finds it all exhausting but wants to do right by her and not let down his town by bringing a scandal. Off they go to the altar…one groom, and one bride in handcuffs – did I mention it’s a long story? *winks*
Sarah is such a fun heroine – she really, truly could not care about getting into trouble. She will do anything not to marry the man her father selected, or any man for that matter, so when she is compromised and forced to marry Tristan, she does everything she can to make a scene. Trying to run away, wearing men’s clothing to embarrass him, theft etc.. Tristan is a good guy, just trying to keep Sarah’s reputation somewhat intact and his village’s reputation intact. Having been divorced from a woman who was tended to be violent, Tristan isn’t looking to marry Sarah, who isn’t violent but isn’t calm and collected either. But he likes her and she secretly likes him and they do their duty and get married and then deal with living together. Their physical relationship starts off very awkward:
“What the devil did you think you were doing?” His voice was as frozen as snow. He fished out a handkerchief and was blotting his lips as if she’d contaminated him, the rotter.
“I wasn’t thinking. Obviously. And I certainly didn’t mean to really kiss you.”
“No?” Then why did your mouth touch my face?”
“That’s it – I only planned to kiss your cheek. A friendly gesture. As if you were my…grandfather.”
He snorted. “I pity all the grandfathers you’ve tried to bamboozle. I know your sort, Lady Sarah. You are here on sufferance, and I’l not be tricked by your feminine wiles.”
Feminine wiles? How absurd. She’d not made the least effort to extract them from her arsenal. In fact, her wiles were on the dusty side, virtually atrophied.
But things progress very well indeed:
A roughened fingertip lifted her chin. She wouldn’t look.
At first she wasn’t sure she’d understood him correctly. His mumbled words vibrated against her temple, causing a chilly lick down her spine.
God help me.
This was an odd time to pray, wasn’t it?
Maybe I would have liked a few more quiet scenes between just Tristan and Sarah where I really felt like they fall in love. I believed in their HEA but there is a lot that happens towards the end of the book, and it takes a little bit away from their romance. But otherwise, this is cute.