Seducing Mr. Sykes
By Maggie Robinson
Publisher: Lyrical Press
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Reviewed by Janga
Reviewed by Janga
Lady Sarah Marchman, only child of the Duke of Islesford, has been fighting her father’s attempts to marry her off to one of his debtors since she turned seventeen. Lady Sarah, known as Sadie to her few intimates, will inherit her late mother’s fortune when she turns twenty-five or upon her marriage. She is determined to hold out until her fortune is hers rather than yield to her father’s efforts to use her marriage to add money to his empty coffers. With her fortune, her lineage, and her beauty, Lady Sarah has an abundance of suitors. Her battles to remain unmarried have sometimes been literal; she has blackened a few eyes in the process. More often, she has used her wits to make herself a scandal. As a last resort, her father has used the last of his funds to send her to Puddling-on-the-Wold, a Gloucestershire village where generations of Britain’s wealthy families have sent their non-conforming relatives to be “restored” to more conventional behavior.
Sadie is an expert at breaking the rules the Puddling-on-the-Wold Foundation has laid down for their visitors. Her antics, which include theft of items ranging from pants to pastries, have drawn comparisons to another duke’s daughter, Lady Maribel de Winter, who terrorized her hosts eight decades ago. Sadie has already exceeded the usual twenty-eight-day stay, but she is not eager to leave, fearing that her father’s threat to have her declared insane and institutionalize her may be more than an empty threat. She must walk a fine line to convince her hosts that she remains unrestored, but not hopelessly mad.
Tristan Sykes is an architect by profession and a member of Puddling-on-the-Wold’s first family. His grandfather, Sir Colin Sykes, married the infamous Lady Maribel, who remained a law unto herself. After a tempestuous marriage that ended in a scandalous divorce shortly before his wife’s death, Tristan wants a life free of chaos, shattered boundaries, and troublesome women. He thought he had found that ordered life in the space he created for himself on his father’s property and filling in for his absent father as head of the board of governors for the village enterprise. He refuses to allow one headstrong woman to violate his peace, regardless of the unwelcome desire the tall, voluptuous, flame-haired beauty stirs in him.
Tristan’s resolution is put to the test when the cottage where Sadie is housed catches fire, and the board of governors pressures him to move her into his father’s house. Now the exasperating woman is in his face every time he turns around, and she appears to delight in wearing trousers that make her long legs impossible for him to ignore or undergarments that reveal far too much of her other assets for his peace of mind. When Sadie’s father shows up during one of these encounters, irate at finding his daughter in a compromising situation and threatening the village’s reputation as a safe rehabilitation site, Tristan does the honorable thing and proposes marriage. However, when two people, neither of whom wants to be married but neither of whom can ignore the chemistry between them, are forced to marry, the journey to an HEA is filled with adjustments, misunderstandings, problems--and for the reader, delightful fun.
Seducing Mr. Sykes is the second book in Maggie Robinson’s Cotswold Confidential series, and it is even better than the first book, Schooling the Viscount. Sadie’s behavior may seem a bit over the top in the beginning, but the reader soon comes to understand that she is a smart, great-hearted woman driven to desperate measures by her particular circumstances and a culture in which a family-sanctioned marriage was the expectation of women of her class. She made me laugh, and she won my heart. Tristan comes across as a classic controlling prig until the reader learns his history and understands that his need for order and control are credibly rooted in his experience. I loved seeing this hero’s pomposity punctured by an audacious, unconventional heroine who lost her heart while winning his. Although this novel unquestionably has the qualities of a romp, it also has substance in its revelations about women’s roles and marriage and, less obviously, in determinations of insanity. The reader may laugh at Sadie’s ploys, but the threat she faces is real and scary.
I give high marks to Maggie Robinson for a book that made me laugh, sigh at some sweet and spicy scenes, and consider some grim historical realities. If you enjoy historical romance that has a light-heartedness without being lightweight, I highly recommend Seducing Mr. Sykes. And when you have finished this rewarding read, mark November 21 on your book calendars. That’s the release date of the third Cotswold Confidential book, Redeeming Lord Ryder, in which the lovers are both Puddling-on-the-Wold “guests.” It is a highly anticipated, starred item on my list.