Friday, February 12, 2021

Bliss Bennet - A Man Without a Mistress

For seven long years, Sir Peregrine Sayre has tried to assuage his guilt over the horrifying events of his twenty-first birthday by immersing himself in political work--and by avoiding all entanglements with ladies of the ton. But when his mentor sends him on a quest to track down purportedly penitent prostitutes, the events of his less-than-innocent past threaten not only his own political career...
Raised to be a political wife, but denied the opportunity by her father's untimely death, Sibilla Pennington has little desire to wed. To delay her brothers' plans to marry her off as soon as her period of mourning is over, Sibilla vows only to accept a man as politically astute as was her father--and, in retaliation for her brothers' amorous peccadillos, only one who has never kept a mistress. Surely there can be no such man in all of London.
When Sibilla's attempt to free a reformed maidservant from the clutches of a former procurer throw her into the midst of Per's penitent search, she is inextricably drawn to the cool, reserved baronet. But as the search grows ever more dangerous, Sibilla's penchant for taking risks cannot help but remind Per of the shames he's spent years trying to outrun. Can Per continue to hide from the guilt and ghosts of his past without endangering his chance at a passionate future with Sibilla?

Comment: This is the second installment in the Pennington series by author Bliss Bennet. I've read the first book last year but it wasn't as great as I imagined. However, since I was still curious about book #4, I decided on carrying on with the series.

In this second story we follow the story os Sibilla, the only girl among the Pennington siblings. She is an intelligent young woman who only wants to carry on the work she has helped her father with, in terms of being a political hostess and influence. However, since her father's death her older brother doesn't seem to have the same interests and Sibilla feels disappointed. Her brothers convince her she needs to marry but she refuses any man who hasn't got some political ambition or who has a mistress, conditions she believes could never be met. That is how she comes to be interested in Peregrine Sayre, someone who obtained a patronage so he could advance in politics and the two of them join forces to solve a situation which could benefit both of them. But if one is wanting to be redeemed and another to be proven right, can common ground be enough to unite them in more than just politics?

I liked this book more than the previous one. I think this one was easier to engage with and the characters definitely captivated me more. The plot helped too. Still, it has become now obvious to me this author writes in a very serious tone, as if everything could turn into disaster. I have said many times with other books how silly they felt and that a bit more seriousness could have helped me like them more. Well, with this author I suppose I can say the seriousness was just a little too much, it does feel things are severely bleak and the lack of joy or more comfortable moments makes everything harsher than what it had to be.

The element that probably made me think this the most was how the characters interacted, especially the siblings...things weren't fluid nor easy between them and I can understand the family reasons and the fact each one has a different personality, so the reactions to the same things have to be different too. I suppose I'd have preferred to see the siblings closer, more confident in one another.

Then we also have their attitude towards certain issues. I think the way this was written, I didn't end up with a very positive opinion of Theo, not as much because he doesn't "breathe" politics but because the context of the whole mistress situation made me see him through a lens I found lacking appeal. I hope I can like him more in his own book. The hero from the previous book barely shows up and Benedict is only active in a few scenes. 

As for the main couple, Sibilla is one of those people who is certainly ambitious and eager to accomplish what she has set herself to do and I do commend her eagerness to continue what she has shared with her father. I suppose there was a bit of compensation here, since he died, and she fears the others didn't give the importance they should have to their father's work in politics. It was what brought her closer to their father and I can understand her unwillingness to let go of that.

Peregrine Sayreis one of those heroes doomed to be penitent for something they consider was their fault. It does make one think about boundaries and when it is time to let go of things one cannot change and just live. Still, I liked the fact he was quiet, more reserved but he still allowed himself to be part of one of the funniest scenes in the book. His character and values made me like a lot.

These two make a good couple, the reader certainly ends up convinced they share more than physical attraction. I liked the moments they had together and the fact they slowly trusted one another with the things they felt deeper and when it was time to have (mostly moral) support from the other at a time of need, it was rewarding to see each one did their role well. I did like their relationship and how little things apparently unimportant made them look like a good match.

So, why not a better grade? Well, the tone of the book can be quite heavy, bleak. As of these characters are doomed to only feel negative things unless it's romance related, and even so, it depends on the actions of secondary people. It got a bit tiring after a while to only anticipate how they would react to negative, difficult issues in their lives. The plot was also slightly convoluted, disperse, many things to keep track of and not always as exciting to care about as I could have wanted.

In the end, I was happy Sibilla and Peregrine found each other and I can imagine how a real couple like them would manage to find stability in a HEA. Now let's hope the next book is a winner...

Grade: 7/10

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