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Summary

A man determined to atone for the past...

For seven long years, Sir Peregrine Sayre has tried to assuage his guilt over the horrifying events of his 21st 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 just his own political career....

A woman who will risk anything for the future... 

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?

©2015 Jackie C. Horne (P)2020 Jackie C. Horne

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Another great narration in a refreshing HR series

This was a reread (or rather ‘listen’, because Alex Wyndham’s narration finally came out!) but it simply confirmed to me, again, that Bliss Bennet is a desperately needed Bright Star in the historical romance genre.

I have read the criticisms of this book (and Bennet as a whole), and have to say I strongly disagree. I don't quuiiitteee see how one can pick apart this and not also see the rampant flaws in many of the bestsellers dominating the sub-genre…ahem works by Julia Quinn, Sarah MacLean, Kerrigan Byrne etc. Annnnd just to reiterate, I read these writers and quite like them!) Also! This isn't to denigrate other reader's opinions but I wonder if, when certain author's don't meet market expectations, we reject them because we are used to a particular execution of Regency romances and what with humans generally not enjoying the unexpected… well… you get it. Suffice to say I advocate for the quality and relevancy of this novel and all of Bennet's works.

ANYWAYS!

Sure, Peregrine and Sibilla could be perceived as inconsistent but I think they are consistent in their moments of inconsistency. I don't know if this makes sense or is possible… but that's my personal view on it. My boy Per is wicked smart and Sib even more so. She can be harsh, sensitive, spiteful, compassionate, and selfish all at once--a multi-dimensional heroine that I adored. Some might not be tickled by Sibilla's behaviour at times but I loved it. All of it.

The moment I think people could hate is actually the ultimate reason I love this book though:

Right near the end where Per finally admits to his rather reprehensible feelings about the whole Mary Catherine debacle. Sib consequently admits to feeling hatred for her father even while loving and grieving him. The shared shame in their admittedly objectionable feelings was incredibly, incredibly human; the gentle admittance of not being immune to human failings. And this unpleasant truth is perhaps what feels unfamiliar in historical romance and warrants a rejection of Bennet. Writers tend to use brokenness, damage, trauma etc. in characters as plot devices so they have arcs. This wasn’t really a part of the arc, and so it might come off as not serving a purpose… but it’s these sort of moments in real life that actually bind us to people: shared grief, shared shame, liking because and loving despite. I get we want to suspend disbelief and bask in the fantasy of perfect people… but this moment while unpleasant and bitter, was soooooo refreshing to read (or in this case, listen to) in a genre largely touted as being nothing more than vapid, sex-filled gambols. Sibilla and Peregrine have a really great dynamic and arc so I’m pro-Per and Sib.

In this re-read/listen, I genuinely looked for problems. I even listened to it with my husband (who is a curmudgeon who hates everything and picks apart everything with NO REMORSE), asking if he found issues in the story development, the characters, the content and we were of the same mind: no, this is well characterized and delivered and culminates into something lovely and entertaining. Despite the context of navigating prostitution in the 1820s, the moments of lightness and humor meant A Man Without A Mistress wasn't mired by the seriousness of the first or last books in the series, for instance (and just to reiterate, I love this entire series and can't actually choose a favourite). The MCs were refreshing and the repartee between the MCs and ancillary characters, like the wonderfully irreverent Lord Dulcie (who get's his HEA with the second eldest Pennington in XX), make this sharp and intelligent. Combine this with the prose, steam, the break from prescribed historical romance formulas, and I think this is an elevated take on various romance tropes as well as the Regency period in general.

Alex Wyndham’s narration is obviously perfect. There were notes of Gabriel Brandon and Duke of Rockliffe (characters from work by Stella Riley, voice by Wyndham) in the voice given to Peregrine and it was great. Sibilla's dulcet tones went nicely with what she, and everyone else, calls "the sharp edge of her tongue." Sinclair Dulcie is flamboyant and irreverant in voice, just as he is on the page. In summary, the audiobook is a wonder, this story remains delightful. I highly recommend Bennet's work but advise setting aside any sort of HR canon induced expectations; just go with the flow and soak up all the Penningtons have to offer.

I eagerly await the next installment to be released in audio format from Wyndham, and more from Bennet in the future.

5 Stars.

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  • PennyLou
  • 06-02-21

Even Alex Wyndham couldn't save

The story was good...I think....but the book just didn't flow. The characters were pretty good, but the dialogue was uninteresting. Alex Wyndham gave the characters as much life and interest as he could.....but even he couldn't fix bad.
I skipped several chapters...to the last chapter. The last scene was awful. Total nonsense.