Title: A Sinner Without a Saint
Series: The Penningtons: Book Four
Author: Bliss Bennet
Length: 298 Pages
Category: Historical Romance
At a Glance: Bliss Bennet’s prose is engaging and indicative of the time, and while the story gets off to a bit of a slow start, in the end I enjoyed the romantic ups and downs the characters faced to reach their happily-ever-after.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: A gentleman with a passion for art
Idealistic Benedict Pennington once abandoned family and country to pursue his dreams of becoming a renowned painter. Now that he’s returned home, he has a new, but equally idealistic ambition: to help found the country’s first national art museum, one open not only to England’s wealthy few, but to rich and poor alike. After a long campaign, he’s finally persuaded a patron to donate his collection of Old Master paintings to the project. He’s certainly not going to anyone to steal them away by courting the donor’s granddaughter—especially not dissolute Lord Dulcie, once the object of Benedict’s own illicit adolescent desire.
A viscount with a passion for the gentleman
Sinclair Milne, Viscount Dulcie, evades every attempt of his family to marry him off, preferring to collect innovative art and dally with handsome men than to burden himself with a wife. But when rivals imply Dulcie is refusing to pursue wealthy Miss Adler and her dowry of paintings because of lingering feelings for Benedict Pennington, Dulcie vows to prove them wrong by wooing her away from Benedict—inadvertently disrupting Benedict’s museum plans in the process.
When Benedict is dragooned into painting his portrait, Dulcie finds himself once again inexplicably drawn to the sensitive, intense artist. Can the sinful viscount entice the wary painter into a casual liaison, one that will put neither their reputations, nor their feelings, at risk? Or will the not-so-saintly artist demand something far more vulnerable—his heart?
Review: A Sinner Without a Saint is a novel I took a chance on, as one does, because it piqued my curiosity and I was in the mood for another Historical Romance. While this book is labeled as the fourth in the Penningtons series, it can be read as a standalone as it appears to be the only M/M romance within the series; though it’s not outside the realm of possibility that another Gay/Bi Romance as well as a Lesbian Romance could spring from this novel. I’d be perfectly happy to read them, if that were the case.
While many Historical Romances I feel are capable of a cross-over appeal to a Contemporary Romance audience, I am of the opinion that A Sinner Without a Saint is a Historical Romance lover’s romance, particularly those who love the Regency/Georgian era setting. The story got off to a bit of a slow start for me, but once its characters took on dimension and the crux of the story began to take shape, I was charmed by, as well as a bit miffed at, Pen and Dulcie. I groused at Dulcie through my kindle on multiple occasions…which is entirely normal…not only for being a pretentious twat, not to mention obtuse, but because that pretention and obtuseness hurt Pen on multiple occasions. Of course, there’s also a rather significant misunderstanding between them over something that’d happened in school fifteen years prior, which influenced this enemies-to-lovers romance and justifies its slow-burn.
Bliss Bennet’s prose is engaging and indicative of the time—the polite drawing room banter; the slights from a sharp yet civilized tongue; the decorous and oh-so-dignified protocol which dictated the public behavior of members of the ton; that being ‘cut’ in public was the ultimate humiliation; and the expectation that a male heir would marry and produce more male heirs, heedless of what women wanted and, in some cases, men as well. Marriages of convenience provided a necessary cover, and the ‘confirmed bachelors’ of the time were well aware of the Sodomy laws, understanding that their affairs needed to be conducted discretely and in deference to those laws. This is what throttles Pennington and Dulcie’s relationship, this and the fact that the two men share a tormentor whose commonality and the depth of his torment they’re each unaware of until much later in the story. This was the driving force behind Pen’s hurt and Dulcie’s inability to get in touch with his feelings, and it informs the story’s arc.
I enjoyed that A Sinner Without a Saint took place against the backdrop of art, the art world, the controversial but rightful belief that art is for the masses rather than just the privileged, and that women deserved to have their work displayed and celebrated in a male-dominated world. Of course, there’s a ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ thread that weaves through the story too, which serves to bring Pen and Dulcie together as well as throws a wedge between them on more than one occasion. Although I’m admittedly not a connoisseur of classical art, I appreciated Bennet’s attention to certain details that I found interesting additions to the storyline.
A Sinner Without a Saint is a character driven novel, start to finish, and I was drawn not only to the protagonists but some of the secondary characters as well. Polly, Benedict’s friend and Sinclair’s would-be fiancée, is a character I warmed up to almost immediately, while many of the other characters introduced have appeared in their own novels in the series. Of course, there were characters that I disliked also, one I outright loathed, if I’m being honest, and he serves his role as antagonist most admirably.
While my overall opinion is that this novel doesn’t break new ground in either the Historical Romance category nor in its themes and tropes, by the time I reached the end, I found I’d enjoyed the journey. I was rooting for Dulcie to wake up to his feelings while at the same time wondering if Pennington might not have been better off without him. And I think that’s the mark of a satisfying read, the ability to slough off the frustration of the characters’ actions along the way and believe in their redeeming qualities and their relationship in the end.
You can buy A Sinner Without a Saint here:
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