Sabrina Jeffries’ Hellions of Halstead Hall are in the House
I’m a long time Sabrina Jeffries fan, having devoured each and every one of her books, so I can say with some certainty that she has the just the right amount of humour, romance, suspense and drama in her books. The drama and suspense are usually interlinked and keep the novels flowing and the pages turning. Up till now, the mystery in each novel was usually solved at the end and characters (not just the hero and heroine) had a definitive ending. However, in her newest series Ms. Jeffries proves that she is a true master of suspense and can stretch out a single mystery throughout a series.
The big question is “What really happened to the parents of the Sharpe children?” – as in who killed them, etc.
While I usually read romance for the romance, I do like the occasional mystery thrown in and for me, the “Hellions of Halstead Hall” series has just the right amount of both to keep the reader guessing.
The first novel in the series is Oliver Sharpe, Marquess of Stoneville’s story, The Truth About Lord Stoneville:
The oldest of the scandalous Sharpes—five hell-raising siblings tainted still by the gossip surrounding the “accidental” deaths of their parents two decades ago-—Oliver Sharpe, the Marquess of Stoneville, like his brothers and sisters, has lived life on his own terms. In his case, as an unrepentant rakehell. Or so life had played out until Grandmother Hetty got a bee in her bonnet. Now the five Sharpe siblings face a daunting ultimatum: Marry by year’s end—or kiss their inheritance good-bye.
Oliver vows to fulfill the bargain in true Sharpe style—by bringing home a fake fiancé from a brothel! But his scheme backfires when he foils a robbery and rescues an American beauty instead. Maria Butterfield came to London to find her missing fiancé, but her prior engagement won’t stop Oliver from getting what he wants: Maria in his bed. His rebellious charade may just call Hetty’s bluff, but not before it become all too real—stirring up a love that tempts him to be a hellion no more.
What can I say about this book? Well, Grandmother Hetty is one crazy lady, and I love her for it. She issues an ultimatum to end all ultimatums and all I could think was “finally.” I’ve been waiting to see Oliver wedded and bedded since Ms. Jeffries novel Wed Him Before You Bed Him and the rest of the “School for Heiresses” series where he was a red herring thrown at the readers by Ms. Jeffries as a possible hero for Charlotte.
Though, in this novel, we see that there’s a lot more to Oliver that meets the eye. He’s not just a rogue, though he is that too, but someone who has gone through his own tragedy and lived with the guilt that he was the cause of it for most of his life. Every believes Oliver killed his father for his inheritance, but Oliver thinks it was his mother who killed him and he was the one who drove her to it. For a while I was convinced that Oliver had some validity to his guilt, mostly because he was so convinced but also confused about what really happened that night…
Cue for Maria. Maria enters Oliver’s life at a just the right time. Oliver, who’s lived his life drinking, gambling and wenching, is about to find a fake fiancee from a brothel. Maria, who happens to be in London looking for her own fiance, meets Oliver as he is about to leave a brothrel due to a mishap caused by her cousin, Freddy. (Freddy, another great character but more on him later.) Maria is good for Oliver. She’s smart and practical, which Oliver is not but that mostly because he’s letting his guilt blind him. Maria is also very sweet, but it’s her spitfire moments that I love the most. She can really put Oliver in his place which I admired.
That is not to say all is well in paradise. For one thing, the initial “arrangement” between these two is of a business nature. Oliver wants to use Maria bold American ways to convince his grandmother to rescind her ulimatum and Maria agrees as long as Oliver helps her find her MIA fiance since he knows London better than her. The business arrangement doesn’t last, of course, due to the lust phase but immediately after we have Oliver’s I-want-her-but-can’t-love her phase. He does have a better reason than most to shun love considering how it destryoed his mother’s life but still, since I already knew he was in love with her – and so did every other character in the novel – I just wished he would admit it.
I liked the interactions between the secondary characters, particularly their matchmaking ways. Oliver’s brother’s used every opportunity a their disposal to make Oliver jealous – which is always nice. 😉
Speaking of Oliver’s brothers, one brother in particular gets his own story next. Jarret the second bro meets his match in A Hellion in Her Bed:
Mired in scandal after his parents’ mysterious deaths, notorious gambler Lord Jarret Sharpe agrees to tamely run the family’s brewery for a year if his Machiavellian grandmother rescinds her ultimatum that he marry. But the gambler in him can’t resist when beguiling Annabel Lake proposes a wager. If she wins their card game, he must help save her family’s foundering brewery. But if he wins, she must spend a night in his bed. The outcome sets off a chain of events that threatens to destroy all his plans…and unveils the secret Annabel has held for so long. When Jarret discovers the darker reason behind her wager, he forces her into another one—and this time he intends to win not just her body, but her heart.
As a character Jarret is even more complex than Oliver. He’s feels jealousy, betrayal, anger and love towards his grandmother. As a child, Jarret wanted to run the family brewery and for a while it seemed like he would get his wish, but then his grandmother suddenly sends him away to school. He still a kid and has no idea why that is, so he feels betrayed by his grandmother who promised to keep him close and lashes out at school, gets into fights, etc. Jarret the man still holds on to this hurt and tries to feel no ambitions towards anything in life but when he’s given the chance to run the brewery he jumps on it.
Enter Annabel. Annabel’s got her own secrets to deal with and these make her very, very vulnerable. Annabel has a bastard son by her fiance who died in the war. Annabel has kept George a secret from everyone but her brother and sister-in-law who raise him as their own. Even George doesn’t know that Annabel is his mother. My heart broke for Annabel every time I saw her interact with George who called her “auntie” and I could see how much she cared for him. Annabel was a mother to George in every way she could be. She protected George from the stigma of a bastard child by letting her brother adopt him, despite how much she loved him and wanted to keep him.
Another thing I liked about this novel was that the heroine and hero were shown in the phases of falling in love, and actually got to spend a good amount of time with the other. Revealing secrets to each other in turn. I admired Jarret for the way he handled Annabel’s revelation and how he didn’t blame her for her past. I also liked how he made an effort to get to know George. Jarret and Annabel truly deserved their happily ever after, despite things not turning out as expected between Annabel and George.
The third, most recently released, novel in the series is How to Woo a Reluctant Lady which tells the story of Miverva Sharpe, the gothic writer in the family:
Lady Minerva Sharpe has the perfect plan to thwart her grandmother’s demand that she marry by year’s end: become engaged to a rogue! Surely Gran would rather release her inheritance than see her wed a scoundrel.
And who better to play the part of Minerva’s would-be husband than wild barrister Giles Masters, the very inspiration for the handsome spy in the popular gothic novels she writes? The memory of his passionate kiss on her nineteenth birthday has lingered with Minerva, though she has no intention of falling for such a rakehell, much less marrying him! Little does she know, Giles really is a covert government operative. When the two team up to investigate the mystery behind her parents’ deaths, their fake betrothal leads to red-hot desire. Then Minerva discovers Giles’s secret double life, and he must use all the cunning tricks of his trade to find his way back to her heart.
I love a hero with ulterior motives that involve trying to sweeping a heroine off her feet and marrying her without her knowledge…Yup, Giles thinks he’s one sly guy. And maybe he is, but not when it comes to the woman he loves – but doesn’t admit to loving. Seriously, what’s with heroes who try to deny that their falling in love, when everyone and their grandmother knows that they are? But, oh, how the mighty fall. Giles convinces Minerva to enter a “fake” betrothal with him, hoping to persuade her to make it a real one.
Minerva, on the other hand, enters in hopes of making her grandmother regret her decision to see her married by picking a man she thinks Hetty will despise. Her plans goes awry from nearly the start, since Giles and Hetty are working together to get her to marry Giles. (Good stuff, good stuff!) Minerva has some valid reasons for not wanting to marry Giles. One, she thinks she will have to give up her writing – which is what she lives for – because most consider it a scandalous occupation for a barrister’s wife. Two, she knows as a female she’ll be powerless in marriage and she saw that powerlessness destroy her mother.
Giles and Minerva also have history, with Minerva having fallen in love with him at 9 and then Giles having broken her heart at 19 and then Minerva wanting revenge till she is 28. Giles doesn’t know he broke Minerva’s heart, onlying knowing that he was cruel to her because he panicked after he kissed her at a masquerade ball.
One, though not very romantic scene, that stood out to me was the court case. The way Giles went at the woman in the witness box was like watching the last court scene from Legally Blonde. EPIC!!!
Finally, there is Freddy. Maria’s sweet, dense, clumsy, romantic and ever-hungry cousin who appears in books one and three. One thing I could say about him was that despite being dense, at least he knows how to admit it when he’s in love and doesn’t enter “business marriages:”
“I always say that love is like the meat in a pie,” Freddy put in. “The crust is what people see—the practical things that hold a couple together. But love is the important part—without it you’ve got a meatless pie, and what’s the point of that?”
“Why, Freddy,” Minerva said, “that was almost profound.”
Is it wrong of me to find him adorably romantic?
All in all, I am loving this series and all the mysteries it entails. Like I said before, Ms. Jeffries is keeping the readers with all the red herrings she’s throwing our way. She far in each of the novels their have been dead-end leads, false leads and some more hopeful leads as to what really happened to the parents…and I, like the Sharpe children, will not rest till I’ve find out “who did it.”
–Rika Ashton (aka The Curious)
P.S: And so the mystery continues in Gabe’s story (out December 2011) and Celia’s (hopefully) shortly after.
P.P.S: For book trailers, interviews and background info on any of the book visit Sabrina Jeffries’ website.
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This entry was posted on January 24, 2011 by Rika Ashton. It was filed under Book Reviews, Favourite Authors and was tagged with A Hellion in Her Bed, Annabel, book reviews, Celia, Gabe, Giles, Hellions of Halstead Hall, historical romance, How to Woo a Relectant Lady, Jarret, Maria, Minerva, Oliver, regency, review, romance, Sabrina Jeffries, series, The Truth About Lord Stoneville.