Sunday, November 20, 2011

Early Review of Sabrina Jeffries' To Wed a Wild Lord

Title: To Wed a Wild Lord (Hellions of Halstead Hall #4)
Author: Sabrina Jeffries
Publisher: Pocket Star Books
Format: Mass Market Paperback & eBook
Source: Purchased
Publication Date: November 22, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5

Sabrina Jeffries is one of my favorite historical authors, and her Hellions of Halstead Hall series is a hoot! I was lucky enough to find an early copy of the fourth book in the series, To Wed a Wild Lord, at the bookstore this weekend, and I devoured it in no time flat. Even if you haven’t read any of the other books in the series, you’ll easily be able to enjoy this delightful book.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the series, Lady Hetty Plumtree has grown exasperated with her five grandchildren and has issued an ultimatum. Either they all marry within one year or she’s cutting them out of her will. Since she’s quite wealthy and the principal source of their income, her grandchildren are less than thrilled with her threats. To Wed a Wild Lord focuses on the fourth of her grandchildren, Lord Gabriel Sharpe.
Ever since Gabriel’s best friend died in a horse race against him over seven years ago, Gabriel has been known as the Angel of Death for his ability to cheat Death in daring races. But no one outside his family knows that he’s wrought with guilt over Roger Waverly’s death. After Gabriel’s most recent race, Roger’s sister Virginia challenges him to a race, which offers Gabriel the perfect opportunity to assuage his guilt while meeting his grandmother’s demands by courting her.
Virginia’s grandfather, General Isaac Waverly, has always blamed Gabriel for Roger’s death, but the more time she spends with Gabriel, the more she begins to wonder about the truth behind the race. As she develops feelings for him, Virginia decides she needs answers about that race, but will the answers threaten her newfound happiness with Gabriel?
One of the reasons I enjoyed this novel so much is that both Gabriel and Virginia are rational adults and act in reasonable ways. Yes, Virginia is spirited, but unlike many “spirited” heroines I’ve read elsewhere, she doesn’t act rashly. She challenges Gabriel to a race, but she’s an experienced handler of the reins and believes that she has a legitimate chance of winning. Gabriel is also an appealing hero, as he’s clearly an honorable man who deeply regrets foolish mistakes he made years ago. We learn that his racing is actually motivated by his interests in thoroughbred racing, which gives his character depth that wasn’t apparent in earlier novels.
I also enjoyed the secondary characters in the novel. It’s difficult to revisit couples from prior books in series without distracting the new reader from the current couple, but Ms. Jeffries manages just the right balance between time spent with Gabriel’s family and that with Virginia. It was also a pleasant surprise to see Lady Hetty and General Waverly spark a late-life romance, and the author gives us hints about Lady Celia Sharpe’s romance in the next book, which I’m certainly looking forward to reading.
My biggest concern has to do with the mystery surrounding Gabriel’s parents. This might be the one aspect of the novel that will confuse new readers, because they won’t have all the background concerning the investigation that we’ve learned in earlier books. We do learn about Gabriel’s parents' murders in the prologue, and several times throughout the novel the investigation continues. However, there doesn’t seem to be any resolution in sight, nor is the mystery as integral to the plot of this book as it was in several of the other novels in the series. I’m interested to see how this part of the overarching storyline plays out in the series finale, but it seemed almost more of a distraction in this book than in others.
That said, I highly recommend To Wed a Wild Lord. Ms. Jeffries is an artful storyteller, and the romance between Virginia and Gabriel is charming. This book, along with many of her others, will definitely be added to my keeper shelf.

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