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The First Sinners, the e-novella that introduces this new series, left me with a very good impression so I was eager to try out the first book, The Sinners Club. Luckily, my ARC request was approved and I immediately read the book as soon as I got it.
A bit of a warning: this book is an erotic historical romance and does contain M/M and menage scenes.
But what this book also contains is the engrossing story of two siblings and a secret agent who gets tangled up in their labyrinthine plan to secure the late Earl of Storr's estate for themselves.
Jack Lennox never knew he had nobility running through his veins. He never knew that his father was the youngest son of the fifth Earl of Storr. His entire life, Jack survived by doing what was necessary, honour and morals be damned. His situation improved when he worked as an agent for the crown. Discovering his bloodlines, Jack now has a chance to live the life he has dreamed of -- and maybe put down some roots in a place of his own. But his claim to the title isn't without complication: the Lennox Family lawyers hint that there is some trouble at the late Earl's estate and asks that Jack go to investigate it.
Not knowing who or what to expect when he arrives at Pinchbeck Hall, Jack pretends to be Jack Smith, the secretary to John Lennox, who has been sent ahead by his employer to inspect the estate. When Jack arrives there, what he sees is the place of his dreams: a land that calls out to him, a land where he feels he belongs -- but he also meets the late earl's widow, Mary Lennox and her brother, Simon Picoult. The family lawyers were never informed of the former earl's marriage and neither was Jack -- add to that, the young countess is pregnant and Jack's claim to the title depends on the baby's gender.
Jack's claim is further endangered when he comes to know and like the siblings, whose lives were not so different from his own: forced at a young age to do the unspeakable and the unthinkable -- the sacrifice of one's innocence -- for survival.
The premise of the story is deceptive in its simplicity (and even the blurb is only 5 sentences long) but Kate Pearce impresses me with how well she plots out the mystery involving the Picoult's. Beyond that, I loved seeing Jack's transformation from ruthless and ready to take no prisoners to a man who finds his heart (and conscience).
"Don't do that. Don't pretend."
"How do you know I'm pretending?"
"Because like knows like, and in your position, I'd be offering exactly the same currency."
"And what would that be?"
He slowly turned to face her. "My body for a few hours of pleasure."
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Mary is an equal match for Jack: she will stop at nothing in order to get what she and her brother worked so hard for, struggled so hard for. She initially considers Jack Smith and John Lennox as collateral damage but has a change of heart when she sees Jack's goodness and integrity -- two virtues she had not experienced in a very long time.
Finally, I like how Kate Pearce depicts sex in the story. It is never gratuitous and never just sex for the sake of sex (but it is explicit). In this particular novel, the meaning behind the act shifts as the story progresses: from an act of power and manipulation, to an act of sacrifice, to an act of healing before finally becoming an act of love. It's an interesting reflection on the part of the reader but the characters in the story experience this as well and becomes part of their growth.
She tangled her fingers in his hair and held him close. There was nothing to say. Words were for clients. This was for each other. Mary closed her eyes and went straight to sleep.
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There's really a lot more to talk about in this story but I worry that I might spoil it -- and part of what makes this story so interesting is how the author will gradually reveal the layers of Mary and Simon's and Jack's stories. My one complaint is how Mary's parentage gets sorted in the end. I thought it was a little too convoluted, considering how complicated the plot was already and I wish that this particular point had been simplified.
The Sinners Club is the first book in Kate Pearce's The Sinners Club series. It will be released on December 31, 2013. To find out more about Kate Pearce and her books, click below:
Disclosure: I received an ARC copy through Netgalley. Thank you to Kate Pearce and Kensington Books for the opportunity. Yes, this is an honest review.