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Sever Years to Sin by Sylvia Day

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Seven Years to Sin

Sylvia Day
Historical Romance/Erotica
Published in 2011

H/h - Alistair Caulfield/Lady Jessica Sinclair
Setting: London, Regency era.

Read in Jan, 2012.
My rating:

                                                            [spoiler alert]

TBH, for the half of the book I was skeptical because I wasn’t sure of Alistair at first and Jessica wasn’t impressive in any sense. But the 2nd half covered that and more for me; it made me cry, sigh, laugh and mutter lucky b*tch to Jessica more than once. I was more moved by Jessica’s sister, Hester’s life story and the secret tendre between her and Michael, Jessica’s brother-in-law. SD did a fabulous job of addressing the issue of an abusive household/relationship. So, it was crazy and yet I found the plot very refreshing. I only wished for a few things to go differently. Even then, I loved it and I loved loved loved Alistair. WOW, I want him and I make no secret of that.

The story, 7 yrs ago. Jessica is about to marry Lord Tarley the next day and residing in his estate, Pennington. She 18 and her sister, Hester 16 is taking a look at Tarley’s younger brother, Michael and his scapegrace friend, Alistair as they have a friendly fight of sort. Jessica can’t help but admire Alistair, who is 2 yrs. her junior and already a known rake. He has a proud bearing and a beautiful face with the physic to go with it. She can see why women would fall for him. But she isn’t attracted to him in that way, after all she’s about to marry and he’s younger than her. Jessica had no say in her marriage but she likes Tarley a lot. He’s nice, steadfast and a total gentleman. Growing up in a household where she had an abusive father who would beat both sisters for any little thing, Tarley was heaven sent. That night, Jessica goes out to walk her pug. It was almost dawn, she was sure no one was around. But the pug ran somewhere, chasing something. While she followed it, she came across an old gazebo. And the thing she witnessed was something she could’ve never even imagined. It was obscene; a tryst between Alistair and a married, much much older society slut but it’s not your usual tryst at all, which Jessica understands pretty soon from their talks. Yes he was giving the woman what she asked for but most importantly, what she paid him for. If I hadn’t known about this scene from the reviews, I would be stunned. But I had already fortified myself (hero’s detailed sex with other women, huge pet peeve!) for it. So, when I read that scene, it felt utterly surreal to me. I mean it was dark; she could only see his eyes and hands and nothing else... other than detecting the movement, can’t just NOT detect that movement. He was staring at her while giving it to the woman, hard and fast... it just spelled out loud, from everything, his eyes and the looks he was giving her, his plea to her to wait when he saw her, that he was thinking of her and not the woman he was f*cking. OMG, I never thought I’ll find a scene like that soo hot! *speechless*

Anyway, I can go on and on about that scene but the thing is Jessica fled when Alistair climaxed, knowing a secret no one but the ones take his services know. Tarley found her. Jessica was so aroused that she couldn’t wait til until after the marriage ceremony. Although he heard everything from her, Tarley as the consummate gentleman, never told a thing to anyone. Moreover, he gives into Jessica’s demands of showing what she witnessed in that darkened gazebo. After that, she had 6 yrs of contented marriage. She loved her husband (or at least that’s what she deluded herself with, poor chap!) and Tarley did the same. Jessica never had a baby. Since Tarley had a son from a mistress before his marriage, it was confirmed that she’s barren. But he took care of her and been the spouse she needed. Everyone in the Pennington house including her mother-in-law and Michael adores her. But then the tragedy strikes; consumption took Tarley away, leaving Jessica the grieving widow. But he made arrangements for her, which includes a plantation in WI. Jessica wants to visit this plantation and see what can be done about it. She also wants to forget her life in England, a stay away from the painful memories. Hester has married Lord Regmont a few years later; a match which was sort of arranged by Jessica herself. Like her, Hester didn’t have a season. Like her, she was soon betrothed and married off after her coming out. All because of their abusive father who didn’t even give them a chance for any enjoyment in life. But what Jessica doesn’t know is that Hester’s marriage isn’t as happily ever after as it seemed just after she got married. Regmont was a rake but he was apparently crazy about Hester. Outwardly, he’s charming and good looking; no one can fault him for anything. So who would’ve guessed what he’d been doing to his wife in the privacy of their household?

Alistair is the 4th of Caulfield brothers. Although loved by his mother and the other three brothers, Alistair never had a close and good relationship with his Duke father. Being #4, as the peerage goes, he has nothing do to. Nothing to wait for. And it seems nothing to live for as well. He’s a disgrace and he tried to defy the lack of affection and bonding in his life by acting badly, doing all sorts of things, some more unsavory than the others. Alistair knew from an young age that there was something wrong about his parentage. He looked markedly like his mother while the other 3 brothers looked like his father. His father’s cold aloofness only roused his suspicions and then somehow he was confirmed of his bastardy. Now, it wasn’t revealed for a long time in the book so I was honestly surprised as to why a duke’s son, even if a 4th one, would stoop so low as to whore himself for money? And he needed that, plenty of money. Somehow Alistair’s mother, who still suffered the brunt of the duke’s wrath for her cuckolding ways, managed to get a plantation out of him and bequeath it on Alistair. I don’t know what happened, why she cheated on her husband. It was never revealed who his father was, even though once or twice Alistair contemplated on it. She just never talked about it; he never pushed her to reveal the name. I found it a bit of a bummer because I wanted to know who was responsible begetting such gorgeous creature, if you can forgive my sprouting poetics, that is! Lol Anyway, the duke never gave Alistair any money to keep the plantation going so Alistair knew he had to earn the money in some way because he needed something to hold onto in his life. And so it began, all the gambling and whoring himself out. He was trained by a courtesan, who looked remarkably like Jessica (as he tells her of the amount of obsession he held for her from the moment he saw her in one later, sexy scene). I didn’t particularly like the other details that hinted at ménages and stuffs that a young Alistair would take part in that courtesan’s house. Pretty unsavory even to think of it, accompanying it with his age... OMG but no! And then the idea came to him. He had the looks to kill a woman, now had the bed skills to match with it, so why not use it? 1st times were great, the money and things he got from his paramours. But after sometimes, of course, all the meaningless orgasms in the world couldn’t make him happy. Not more so when he thought of Jessica in a happy marriage with Tarley. Not that he hated Tarly, ill wished him but he was very jealous of the treasure Tarley had that he coveted. So Alistair never thought he’d find joy in having sex ever again in his life.

After that night in the Pennington estate, in the social events they were aloof to each-other; ignored each-other as much as possible. No one ever knew what transpired between them. Alistair always thought Jessica as his, more so after that night. He always thought he’d have her someday, that it was meant to be. But he also knew Jessica is a diamond of the 1st water with her beauty and grace and she’s not the type to cuckold her husband. She was proper, she was goodness; she was devotion and love, if one could earn those from her. She was not as cold as others seem to think of her, he saw the high arousal in her eyes that night and it was all for him. Oh how Alistair coveted this treasure! Poor man! *sigh* So to avoid his despair, he left for WI. He is not the pleasure seeking whore as some might think of him. Alistair is smart and a genius. He proved to be an excellent businessman and worked hard to make money from his plantation and the ships he bought. Alistair could play violin that would make you wet, both eyes and other areas *winkwink*. Also, he can draw so beautifully that would only make you wanna be his nude model and I’ve not even gotten to his bed skills part! But yes, I believed in his other talents, he was good in everything. And he wanted to be good, a guy Jessica could care for (and maybe love), so badly that it brought tears to my eyes from time to time and made me call her a lucky b*tch over and over again. *sigh*

Now, 7 yrs later. Alistair has a chance. His life has changed too and shared tragedies. Two of his elder brothers died while he was in WI. So, he’s genuinely saddened by Tarley’s death but he can’t help think of putting his ‘plans’ in motion; plans to have Jessica one way or the other. As I didn’t know the depth of Alistair’s love and lust for her, I was pretty suspicious of his motives. I thought he’s going to be a jerk a-hole who’s going use her and then make stupid excuses for why ‘love’ isn’t for him. He returns to London because of this and Michael pays him a call. The man is trying to get used to with the title and all the gazillion responsibilities come with it. It shows on his face. They start a friendly banter when Michael informs him about Jessica’s plans for WI. When provided with an opportunity, Alistair never lost it and he never backed down from a challenge, which Jessica will be once she knows of his intentions. Alistair promptly takes the chance to escort Jessica back to WI; he could show her around as he knows about Tarley’s plantation. It borders his own. And then, he came back for Jessica so no reason to stay here if she’s going to WI.

And so, with Micheal’s assurance (who has no idea of Alistair’s plans), Jessica boards that ship. Of course she didn’t know Alistair was here. Didn’t know that he owns this ship. At the evening, with the captain’s invitation, Jessica goes to dine with him and the others. What caught her eyes was the tall man standing a bit far away from the table, with his back to them, playing the most beautiful melody on violin. She can’t but admire the view, all of it, with the music. She’s intrigued; something is so familiar about that figure. And then when he faced her, Jessica was not only stunned but also tries vehemently to fight off blushes. This can’t be Alistair, the man who haunted her dreams even when she was happily married with Tarley. How he’s changed and became more manly but there’s no doubt that he’s still beautiful. She definitely can’t brush off the attraction that started all those years ago, so awkwardly. Alistair gives her every indication that he wants her in his bed. Then she’s racked by guilt because her husband passed away only about a yr ago. She’s also scared that he’d be too overwhelming for her. Once Alistair kisses her and she responds wildly and then again, feels guilty. Then on Tarley’s 1st death anniversary she becomes drunk in her bath. When she’s not out all day, Alistair gets concerned. When he goes to inquire, he founds her like that; in her bath, all naked. Then she provokes him to have sex. Alistair is so crazy for her, seeing her naked doesn’t help at all. But he doesn’t give in entirely and fondles her to orgasm. Then she says something to him when he was backing away because she was drunk and it hurts him terribly. I don’t know, but these guilty feelings from her part bugged me much. As I’ve already mentioned that I wasn’t sure of Alistair’s motives at first, I felt mad that she claimed to love her deceased husband and then let this happen. And after reading some other SD books, I know her H/h can be perfectly ok with casual shagging as long as they can. I was scared that this will happen here too. But I was wrong, sooo wrong! Oh Alistair, bebeh, come and get me now. *pouts*

While Jessica and Alistair were on their way to WI, we get to see Hester’s life. There’s inevitably something wrong about her marriage and it’s soon revealed. Regmont abuses her. He has this inferiority complex that doesn’t go away with anything, not even Hester’s soothing words. So when he’s angry, he gets drunk like skunk and beats Hester. The trouble is, their marriage was a perfect marriage in the beginning. Regmont is a great lover, used to be a rake, as he’s very handsome so Hester didn’t stand a chance. Even now, she can’t and her musings on what her marriage could’ve been would only sadden you. Regmont deems her as his possession and ‘no’ is a word not allowed when he wants sex (or anything else, she’ll have to abide by his wishes, always). And he wants sex constantly; he’s mad or drunk or in a good mood, doesn’t matter. It should be great that a husband is so crazy about his wife, right? But, not here. If Hester denies, he’ll beat her and then he’ll f*ck her anyway. Hester is disgusted by her body’s reaction to her husband. That he can always bring her to an orgasm even after what went on between them. That he’s so knowledgeable about a woman’s body. While talking to Jessica in a later part of the book, Hester very bitterly expressed this about her husband. We have a little glimpse of their disturbing relationship but mostly, those are from Hester’s thoughts. I wanted to know more, read more about it but maybe it’s for the best that SD didn’t give detailed scenes. I felt disturbed by whatever I read. Hester was now terrified of Regmont’s mood swings. It was not love anymore and she was afraid she can’t save this marriage. And then there’s Michael. The more she sees him, the more she wonders how could she have missed his feelings for her? I loved their scenes together, even though there was no intimate scenes between them in that sense. I was more interested in this relationship and badly wanted a love scene between them. I wanted to see the deeper connection. Michael suspects something is not ok in Hester’s marriage too. He simply worships the ground Hester walks on, trust me, which is why it was so depressing so see these two suffer with a situation that is nobody’s fault, not literally. He wants to take care of her so he asks for his mother’s help as Jessica was out of the country. He’d call on Hester and see how frail and gaunt she’s grown. It’d tear at him that he can’t do anything to help her. Then when he sensed that Regmont might be physically abusing her, Michael was at first shocked and then, incensed. He asks Regmont for a fight at the Remingtons, a posh gambling den/gentleman’s club. In between, there are little meetings between them, as Hester more and more becomes aware of Michael’s presence as not just a guy who makes her feel safe but a man who is sexy and warm and wants her with his every breath. It was so depressing for me even to read this. I could go on and on because this subplot greatly intertwined with the main plot ‘til the end. I was so interested in these two, I thought they should have a book of their own because Hester and Michael’s love story is deserve to be told in details. In the meantime, Hester also finds herself pregnant. She tried her best to prevent a pregnancy so far with sponges (knowing her husband and her own childhood) but she couldn’t ultimately because of Regmont’s constant demands. The news of Hester’s pregnancy from his mother tears at Michael again. His mother becomes anxious that Michael must be forming an attachment to Hester that should be discouraged and tries to dissuade him. I loved and then, went all teary eyed by his response; it was so full of despair and heart break. *sniffs* Michael was very unlike any SD hero I’ve ever read; a veritable gentleman in every way but passionate as well. I simply adored him.

Now back to the ship. It leaps a few weeks without any details but Jessica and Alistair have already become lovers. It bugged me because by then they were expressing deeper feelings for each-other and I was left thinking WTF? I felt I missed a chunk of the book because this needed a gradual development. I knew what Alistair felt for Jessica was very deep but I needed that portrayal a bit at a time. What of Jessica? She was attracted to him, yes but how could it became love so soon? I couldn’t help but think that she’s mixing up great sex with love. So although I believed Alistair’s feelings but Jessica’s, I wasn’t so sure about. But, she couldn’t deny him anyway as Alistair kept telling her that it was meant to be. She was also feeling guilty because of the things she said to him while drunk. Lord, Alistair was so freakin’ hot. SO HOT that he burned my poor little heart and body. He was AMAZING! I loved how possessive and insane he was in bed and it was all, ALL because the woman was Jessica; the lady of all his dreams and desires. The one he’d always craved. I loved every single love scene and all his moves. Sex was inherent to him and I believed it totally. And it was him who was emotionally vulnerable for the rest of the story which was sort of endearing. He thought great sex and money can’t keep a woman like Jessica bound to him. Poor thing. For me, Jessica was ok at first but she didn’t really change in that sense, unless if you call becoming a sex-crazed kitten a change. She was just bland for my choice. I thought that had Alistair’s heroine been a commoner, there would’ve been less complications in the story because those did arise as soon as they decided to marry and come back to England.

They don’t stay in WI for long (but made hot, hot love nonetheless *grumbles under her breath*) because of Hester’s letter that brought the news of her pregnancy. Alistair was scared that Hester might object to this match thinking he won’t be a proper match for her proper sister. But Hester had no problem of course. She gladly accepted him. Alistair can’t help but compare the two sisters here; Jessica glowing from his ardor while Hester so frail and thin, almost gaunt. I felt for Hester too, who deserved the happiest of marriages. From Michael, Alistair learns about Regmont but Hester doesn’t tell Jessica the depth of despair in her marriage. When she falls ill from undernourishment, Jessica is very concerned but Regmont is nowhere in sight. All these issues come together in the climax with something from Alistair’s own family. Honestly, this little development in his family was wholly unnecessary IMO. There was a scene where I thought Jessica would break off her engagement to Alistair to give him time to adjust into his new station which made my heart stop, almost. I knew the man would simply die if she leaves him but thankfully she didn’t. Also, my little heart wanted more about Michael and Hester’s life and how they cope with the changes in theirs. But the ending was sweet and sexy and I finished the book with a wistful sigh. I would definitely give this book a 5+ star if I could adore Jessica a bit because Alistair was the man of my dreams in every way. Overall, it’s a great 4.5 star read. Highly recommended!

Update on 2/6/12: SD has given green signal for Hester and Micheal’s book, though according to her it’d be a novella (sigh, I wanted a full novel)... Anyway, no date or anything but still, I'm excited!


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