cover image A Sense of Sin

A Sense of Sin

Elizabeth Essex, Kensington, $14 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7582-5156-5

Essex pits a delightful bluestocking against a mysterious blackmailer and a vengeful rake in late 18th-century Dartmouth in this well-researched but uneven tale, a loose sequel to The Pursuit of Pleasure. Rupert Delacorte, Viscount Darling, blames the beautiful Celia Burke, who would rather study botany than attend balls, for his sister Emily's suicide. He vows to ruin her in return. When Rupert and Celia are anonymously blackmailed, they initially suspect each other, but are soon drawn together by their shared loss and an intense sensual attraction as they struggle to uncover the real culprit. Celia is effectively characterized as a would-be academic with a charming mix of intelligence and innocence. Despite some overwrought prose and clumsy handling of the mystery element, the slow buildup of the romance is skillfully handled and takes impressive advantage of the sexual tension created by delayed gratification. (Apr.)