Format read: mass market paperback
Series: Hellions of Hallstead Hall #1
Release Date: 19 January 2010
Publisher: Pocket Books
Length: 392 pages
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Author’s Site
They’re the scandalous Sharpes, five hell-raising siblings tainted by a shocking family legacy. Now each faces a daunting ultimatum: marry by year’s end—or kiss their inheritance good-bye.
In the two decades since a tragic “accident” took the lives of his parents, Oliver Sharpe, the Marquess of Stoneville, has survived the scandal surrounding that fateful night by living as an unrepentant rakehell. And with his grandmother vowing to disinherit him if he doesn’t settle down and wed, he plans to fulfill the bargain in true Sharpe style—by bringing home a fake fiancée from a brothel! But his scheme is derailed when he rescues an American beauty in a dire predicament instead.
Maria Butterfield came to London to track down her groom-to-be, who’s gone missing, but her engagement won’t stop Oliver from getting what he wants: her, in his bed. His rebellious masquerade may call his grandmother’s bluff, but it’s soon made all too real—by a love that tempts him to be a hellion no more.
Ah, so *that’s* why so many people love Sabrina Jeffries! Crazily enough, until now I happened to be one of the few historical romance fans that had not read anything from Jeffries, a well-known powerhouse in the genre. This series is apparently crafted around a minor character from her School for Heiresses series and a certain details about a true-life family from the English Georgian period. Amazing how seeds bloom, because The Truth About Lord Stoneville is a wonderfully fleshed out tale.
It might still help to think of this book as Act I in a five act play, ultimately. From the very prologue, the story addresses the fatal situation with the Sharpe parents that had a profound effect on all five of their children. Each of the surviving Sharpes deal (often poorly!) with their shared tragedy in different ways, so much so that the family matriarch deems it necessary to take steps that will force them all to confront their self-destructive behavior and hopefully heal from old wounds. (And maybe pop out a baby or two as a result. ^_^) Thus forms the five books in the Hallstead Hall series, with The Truth About Lord Stoneville being the anchor that sets it all up (and really should be read before any other).
That said, the truth about Lord Stoneville really does focus its narrative, plot, and tone on the titular character: this is definitely Lord Stoneville’s–Oliver Sharpe’s–bag, here. He’s the one with the deep seated issues preventing intimacy and commitment (whereas his love interest’s issues are more a prohibitive technicality than anything else). He believes he is like his cur of a father, perhaps even that he is destined for his father’s tragic fate were he to marry.
This was how it began. First he’d handle a few matters, then he’d take on more and more, until one day the house and all it stoof for would have him in its grip, and he would become like Father, willing to do anything, marry anyone, to keep the blasted estate going.
This inner turmoil, this fear, is what makes Oliver a rake you can root for; there’s a depth to his character that gives variety to the typical “unrepentant rake meets genteel lady” trope. Though love interest Maria Butterfield is not quite as tortured or complicated a character, so too does the character have more variety than would a run of the mill genteel lady. She has a strong backbone and wild streak that runs through her general adherence to propriety. And the two characters together do provide for a delightful battle of wits!
For those who love wild HR characters that break rules, this book is full of them, in the Sharpe siblings. There’s a camaraderie amongst the lot that is undeniably charming and sweet, but it’s certainly more fun to see them drive each other to seeming madness with their hijinks. There’s plenty of action and adventure in this tale, with swords and betrayals and mysterious investigations. Never once did I feel like the story was dragging–it seemed to balance the emotional character development well with the high energy action and mystery.
Since the initial premise of this book is meant to tie into the subsequent installments of the series, you’ll likely finish The Truth About Lord Stoneville wondering how the Sharpe family will ever resolve their long-standing problems. But if the first book is any indication, it’ll be a wild ride with multi-dimensional, engaging characters–the best of all possible worlds.
. . .
Verdict: With one very simple premise, a new series was born. This is a very cute tale, with steady pacing and very strong characters, main and supporting alike. The tone is balanced with equal parts angst and amusement. It’s got standalone power, but so much in the book sets up potential future storylines; prepare to feel instantly invested in this kooky family!
I give The Truth About Lord Stoneville 4 stars!
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