The Study of Seduction

The Study of Seduction

4.6 25
by Sabrina Jeffries
     
 

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A marriage of convenience ignites into a passionate love affair in the hotly anticipated second novel in New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries’s addictive Sinful Suitors series!

When Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to help his best friend’s impetuous ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, in her time of

Overview

A marriage of convenience ignites into a passionate love affair in the hotly anticipated second novel in New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries’s addictive Sinful Suitors series!

When Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to help his best friend’s impetuous ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, in her time of need, he knows he’s in for trouble. He’s been hunting for someone to wed, and she’ll just get in the way. Although captivated by the witty, free-spirited beauty, he fears she’d be all wrong as a wife...if she would even take such a gruff cynic for her husband. Yet he wants nothing more than to have her for his own.

Clarissa has no intention of marrying anyone—not Edwin, whom she’s sure would be an overbearing husband, and certainly not the powerful French diplomat stalking her. But when matters escalate with the diplomat, she chooses Edwin’s gallant offer of a marriage between friends in hopes that it will deter her stalker. She expects nothing more than an amiable union, but their increasingly tempestuous kisses prove more than she bargained for. When her stalker’s vow to expose the lovers’ deepest secrets threatens to destroy their blossoming attraction, will their tenuous bond withstand public ruin, or will Edwin lose all that’s important to him to protect his bride?

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 04/15/2016
When a rejected suitor won't leave her alone, sharp-tongued Lady Clarissa Lindsey agrees, albeit somewhat reluctantly, to let curmudgeonly Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, act as her escort during the upcoming London Season. She needs protection and Edwin needs help with his social skills if he's ever to find a wife. If they can manage to get along, the arrangement just might work. And as they soon become friends, it does—until a vicious threat that neither of them can ignore sends them straight to the altar and into a new relationship that ends up better than either had in mind. VERDICT Graced with pleasingly wrought characters who develop beautifully and a crafty villain you'll love to hate, along with clever dialog and rapier wit, this compelling, deliciously seductive story takes the classic marriage of convenience to a new level and sets the stage for the next in the series. A delectable and rewarding read. Jeffries (The Art of Sinning) lives in Cary, NC.
Kirkus Reviews
2015-12-23
Edwin Barlow, Earl of Blakeborough, agrees to keep an eye out for Lady Clarissa Lindsey while her cousin is out of town, though he's dubious the independent lady will cooperate and uncertain whether his own ambivalent feelings toward her can keep her safe. Edwin may be an earl, but he has few friends—due in part to his family's scandalous history and his own stiff demeanor in society—so when one of them asks him to squire his cousin around for the season, he can hardly say no, though he's surprised when Clarissa concedes to the plan. Clarissa is an enigma, a quick-witted beauty with an effervescent personality and the ability to "draw a man in and put him off at the same time"; Edwin has always felt there was more to her than she let on. He's quite drawn to the lady, in fact, which disturbs rather than inspires him, given his own parents' disastrous marriage. Spending time with Clarissa allows Edwin to see a deeper side of her and to understand that she's in serious danger from a would-be suitor who won't take no for an answer. Edwin concludes that the best way to keep her safe is to marry her and is shocked when she agrees to that, too, though it quickly becomes clear that her come-hither-but-no-further attitude is armor forged from a traumatic experience from the past, and her persistent suitor's intentions are far from benevolent. Keeping Clarissa safe becomes Edwin's main goal, and helping her heal may also bring some peace and understanding regarding his own family's complicated past. Jeffries tackles a number of modern notions in her newest historical title, including sexual trauma and stalking, with hints of possible light autism in Edwin's prickly personality, yet the touch is deft and compassionate, and the requisite romantic happy-ever-after is a gratifying combination of love, acceptance, healing, and redemption. Lovely, poignant, and powerful.
From the Publisher
"A delectable and rewarding read." —Library Journal Starred Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781476786070
Publisher:
Pocket Books
Publication date:
03/22/2016
Series:
Sinful Suitors Series , #2
Pages:
384
Sales rank:
54,055
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Study of Seduction

  • One

    London

    April 1830

    “You have lost your bloody mind.”

    When every member in the reading room of St. George’s Club turned to look at Edwin Barlow, Earl of Blakeborough, he realized how loudly he’d spoken.

    The place was more crowded than usual, now that everyone was back in London and night was falling. Gentlemen wanted a few drinks before they plunged into the maelstrom that was the Season.

    With a quelling glance that sent the curious onlookers scrambling to mind their own business, Edwin returned his attention to Warren Corry, the Marquess of Knightford. “This plan of yours can’t possibly work.”

    “Of course it can.”

    Warren was Edwin’s closest friend. Really, his only friend, aside from his sister’s new husband, Jeremy Keane. Edwin didn’t make friends easily, probably because he didn’t suffer fools easily. And society was full of fools.

    That was precisely why Edwin, Keane, and Warren had started this club—so they could separate the fools from the fine men. So they could protect the women in their lives from fortune hunters, gamblers, rakehells, and every other variety of scoundrel in London.

    In a matter of months, the club had swollen from three to thirty members, all good men eager to share information about which of their peers couldn’t be trusted with women. Until now, Edwin hadn’t realized that so many gentlemen’s female relations needed protecting from sly and not-so-sly attempts on their virtue . . . and fortunes.

    Warren was clearly taking that mission very seriously. Perhaps too seriously.

    “Clarissa will never agree,” Edwin said.

    “She has no choice.”

    Edwin narrowed his gaze on Warren. “You actually believe you can convince your sharp-tongued cousin to let me squire her about town during the Season?”

    “Only until I return. And why not?” Warren said, though he took a long swig of brandy as if to fortify himself for the fight. “It isn’t as if she hates you.”

    “No, indeed,” Edwin said sarcastically. “She only challenges my every remark, ignores my advice, and tweaks my nose incessantly. The last time I saw her, she called me the Blakeborough Bear and said I belonged in the Tower of London menagerie, where ordinary people could be spared my growls.”

    Warren burst into laughter. When Edwin lifted an eyebrow at him, Warren’s laugh petered out into a cough. “Sorry, old boy. But you have to admit that’s amusing.”

    “Not nearly as amusing as it will be to watch you try to talk her into this,” Edwin drawled as he settled back in his chair.

    Rather than giving Warren pause, that made the blasted idiot ask, “Does that mean you’ll do it?”

    “The point is moot. She’s not going to agree.”

    “Don’t be too sure. You mustn’t take her pokes at you as anything more than her usual mischief-making. You let her exaggerations get under your skin, which only tempts her to plague you more. You should just ignore her when she starts her nonsense.”

    Ignore Clarissa? Impossible. He’d spent the past few years trying unsuccessfully to unwrap the mystery that was Lady Clarissa Lindsey. Her barbed wit fired his temper, her provocative smile inflamed him, and her shadowed eyes haunted his sleep. He could no more ignore her than he could ignore a rainbowed sunset . . . or a savage storm.

    For three months now, she’d been isolated at Warren’s hunting lodge, Hatton Hall, and Edwin had felt every second of her absence. That was why the idea of spending time with her sent his blood pumping.

    Not with anticipation. Certainly not. Couldn’t be.

    “What do you say, old boy?” Warren held Edwin’s gaze. “I need you. She needs you.”

    Edwin ignored the leap in his pulse. Clarissa didn’t need anyone, least of all him. Thanks to the fortune left to her by her late father, the Earl of Margrave, she didn’t have to marry for love or anything else. Apparently, the woman had some fool notion she was better off without a husband, given that she’d reportedly refused dozens of marriage proposals since her debut years ago.

    But it wasn’t her fortune that had men falling all over themselves trying to catch her eye. It was her quick wit and effervescent personality, her ability to draw a man in and put him off at the same time. It was her astonishing beauty. She was the fair-haired, green-eyed, porcelain-skinned darling of society, and she almost certainly knew it.

    Which was why he rather enjoyed the prospect of watching Warren attempt to convince her she should go about town with a gruff curmudgeon like himself. “Assuming that she and I both agree to this insanity—how long would I have her on my hands?”

    “It shouldn’t be more than a month. However long it takes me to deal with her brother in Portugal. I can’t leave Niall stranded on the Continent with all the unrest there right now.”

    “I suppose she’s already heard why you’re going.”

    “Actually, no. She doesn’t even know about his letter yet, which was waiting for me when we arrived from Shropshire for the Season. I wanted to be sure you would agree to keep an eye on her before I told her. But once she learns that this involves Niall, she’ll want me to take this trip, and she’ll realize I won’t do that unless I’m sure she’s safe.”

    “From this Durand fellow.” After all, there was a reason for this charade Warren was proposing.

    Warren’s jaw hardened. “Count Geraud Durand, yes.”

    Settling back into his chair, Edwin drummed his fingers on his thigh. “If I’m to do this, you’d better tell me everything you know about this Frenchman.”

    “Haven’t you met him?”

    Edwin lifted an eyebrow.

    “Oh, right. Not your circle of influence. But surely you’ve heard of him.”

    “He’s the French ambassador’s lackey.”

    “If he were a lackey, he wouldn’t be a problem. He’s the man’s first secretary. And because the ambassador had to return to France right after Christmas, Durand is now running the embassy as the charge d’affaires. The position gives him a great deal of power.”

    “Then what the devil does he want with Clarissa?”

    “A wife. He asked her to marry him in Bath some months ago.”

    That stunned Edwin. Warren had initially described Durand as an admirer who’d been plaguing her.

    Not that Edwin was surprised at anyone’s desiring Clarissa to distraction. Most men did. But men in the field of diplomacy generally preferred wives who were . . . well . . . not inclined to speak their minds and flirt outrageously.

    “She turned him down,” Warren went on. “That’s why we had to return to London. Unfortunately, he followed us here. He seemed to have made it his mission to gain her, no matter what. He was at every public event we attended. Twice, he tried to accost her on the street.”

    “Accost her? Were those your words or Clarissa’s? Because even you said she’s prone to exaggeration.”

    “This was no exaggeration.” His lips thinned into a grim line. “The bastard frightened her enough that she started avoiding going out in public, and you know that’s not like her. So after we spent Christmas at your brother-in-law’s, I whisked her and her mother off to Shropshire where I knew he dared not follow, since by then he had to serve as charge d’affaires here. I’d hoped our absence would give his ardor time to cool.”

    “And has it?”

    “I don’t know. We’ve only just returned, so it’s not as if I’ve had time to assess the situation. But I’m not taking any chances. She has to be protected while I’m trying to sort out her brother’s troubles.”

    Edwin cast him a measuring glance. “You don’t mean to bring Niall back to England, do you? They’ll arrest him for murder as soon as he sets foot on En­glish soil.”

    “I know. Damned fool, fighting a duel over some woman. He ought to have known better.” Frustration furrowed Warren’s brow. “To be honest, I have no idea what to do with him. But I must work out something. He can’t continue abroad like this indefinitely. And I can’t continue to manage my properties and his, even with Clarissa’s help.”

    Edwin snorted. “Clarissa helps?”

    “There’s more to her than you realize.”

    Ah, but Edwin did realize it. Granted, he wouldn’t have expected her to have any skill at estate management, but despite her outrageous manner, he sometimes glimpsed a seriousness in her that reminded him of his own.

    Or perhaps she merely had periodic bouts of dyspepsia. Hard to know with Clarissa. She was entirely unpredictable. Which was why she always threw him out of sorts.

    Warren waved over a servant and ordered another brandy. “Honestly, accompanying her won’t be as trying as you think. Don’t you need to go out into society this Season anyway? Aren’t you bent on marrying?”

    “Yes.” He was bent on siring an heir, anyway, which required wedding someone. Though God only knew who that might be.

    “You see? It’s perfect. You have to go on the marriage mart. Clarissa wants to enjoy the Season, and I want her to find a husband. It’s an ideal situation.”

    “If you say so.” How he could successfully court anyone with Clarissa hanging about was anyone’s guess, but he supposed it might improve his stern reputation if he had a lighthearted woman on his arm at the usual balls. Assuming she would even agree to take his arm. That was by no means certain with Clarissa.

    “You were still recovering from the loss of Jane last Season, so this will be your first real attempt to secure a wife since Jane jilted you. Do you have any particular lady in mind?”

    “No. I know what I want. But God only knows if I can find a who to go with it. I haven’t made a serious search, because I had my hands full with Samuel and Yvette. And then there was the false start with Jane.” Edwin sighed. “But I suppose I must begin looking.”

    “And what are your requirements for a wife? Other than that she be of breeding age, I suppose.”

    Chafing at Knightford’s astute perception that this endeavor was about finding a woman to bear him an heir, Edwin glanced out the window that overlooked Pall Mall. “I would prefer a woman who’s responsible and uncomplicated.”

    “Like your mother, you mean.”

    He didn’t answer, preferring not to lie. His mother hadn’t been remotely uncomplicated, but no one knew that except Edwin and his brother Samuel. Not even their sister Yvette was aware of how complicated their mother had been . . . and what had made her so. Edwin had worked hard to spare Yvette that awful knowledge.

    “I want a woman who’s quiet and sensible,” Edwin went on.

    “In other words, someone you can keep under your thumb. The way your father kept your mother under his thumb.”

    A swell of painful memories made acid burn his throat. “Father didn’t keep her under his thumb; he ignored her.” For reasons that Edwin unfortunately knew and had difficulty accepting. “I will never do that to my wife.”

    “You will if she’s as dull as what you describe.” Warren leaned back in his chair. “When I get around to choosing a wife, I want a lively wench who will keep me well entertained.” He winked. “If you know what I mean.”

    Edwin rolled his eyes. “Remind me again why we asked you to join St. George’s? You’re as bad as the men we’re guarding our women against.”

    “Ah, but I don’t prey on innocents. Any woman who lands in my bed jumped there of her own accord. And I daresay that’s true of any number of fellows here.”

    It probably was. Even Edwin had taken a mistress in his twenties when the turmoil within his family had kept him too busy to look for a wife and his loneliness had grown too acute to endure. That hadn’t, however, been very satisfying. Knowing that a woman was with you only for your rank and money was somehow more lonely than not having a woman at all.

    Although with Yvette married and out of the house, he’d started to feel the disadvantages of a solitary life. So once more he’d be looking for a wife, always an awkward experience. Women expected a man to gush about being in love, and he simply couldn’t. Love was a fictional construct dreamed up by novelists. His parents’ marriage had proved that.

    But it wasn’t wise to tell a woman his philosophy. Unfortunately, neither could he lie about it. He wasn’t like his scoundrel brother, who was presently serving a sentence of transportation for kidnapping. Edwin couldn’t spin a clever yarn or hide an opinion beneath a facile compliment.

    Sadly, most women seemed to prefer facile compliments to blunt truths any day. For that matter, some men were like that.

    Hence, his dearth of friends and his difficulty finding a suitable wife. “When will you broach this with Clarissa?”

    Warren looked at his pocket watch. “At dinner, which should be in . . . oh . . . half an hour. I was hoping you’d come.”

    “Now?”

    “Why not? Might as well get it over with, eh? And I am leaving for Portugal in the morning.”

    Devil take it. Edwin would have liked more time to prepare. He wasn’t the spontaneous sort. “Planning to have us join forces against her, are you?”

    “That wasn’t my intention initially, no.” Warren gulped some brandy. “When we left Hatton Hall for London, I’d hoped that by now Yvette and Keane would have returned from America, and they could simply take her under their wing. Yvette can talk Clarissa into just about anything.”

    Edwin smiled. His sister could talk anyone into anything, even him.

    “But I gather they’re still abroad,” Warren said.

    “It may be a few more weeks before they return. Sorry.”

    “Well, it can’t be helped. At least my aunt will be there to help persuade her.”

    Edwin suppressed a snort. Lady Margrave, Clarissa’s mother, was a flighty female who rarely offered sound advice, so Clarissa rarely heeded her. He doubted that this time would be any different.

    Warren surveyed the reading room. “You know, this place turned out quite cozy. It’s not as sophisticated a setting as some clubs, but it’s comfortable. You and Keane ought to be pleased with yourselves. Between Keane’s artistic eye and your mechanical ingenuity, the place doesn’t even look like a tavern anymore.”

    “We had plenty of help with the practical aspects of décor from Yvette and her mother-in-law.”

    “That explains the female touches,” Warren said, “which are refreshing. I mean, the dark woods and leather give it a nice masculine feel, but there’s something to be said for decent draperies, too. The ones at White’s are funereal.”

    “I’m glad you approve.”

    Warren’s gaze snapped back to him. “I’m sorry I couldn’t be around to help. And that I have to run off again.” He rose. “So, are you coming or not?”

    The casual words were belied by Warren’s tight expression.

    They both knew that Edwin hadn’t yet agreed to the plan. And why hadn’t he? Because the thought of spending weeks in Clarissa’s company put him on edge as nothing else could.

    But it didn’t matter. Warren was his friend and wouldn’t hesitate to help if the shoe was on the other foot. So neither would Edwin.

    He stood. “I’m coming.”

    As soon as the door to Clarissa’s bedchamber closed behind the servant who’d left a message for her mother, the aging widow turned to her daughter in a panic. “I cannot believe your cousin did this!” She leaned heavily on her cane. “Warren knows better than to invite an eligible bachelor for dinner with no warning. What was he thinking?”

    Clarissa raised an eyebrow at her mother’s reflection in the looking glass. “He was thinking that it’s just Edwin, whom we’ve known for ages. And who has come to dine before.”

    “I don’t know if pigeon pie is quite suitable enough for guests,” Mama said, as if Clarissa hadn’t spoken. “Oh, dear, and we are fresh out of Madeira! Edwin loves his Madeira, you know.”

    “Mama—”

    “And the pickled onions were entirely too sour the last time we ate them. I was hoping to use them up tonight, but if Edwin is coming—”

    “Mama, calm down! It’s not as if we’re expecting the Tsar of Russia.” She smiled into the mirror. “Although Edwin would make a fine tsar. All he’d have to do is be his usual autocratic and dictatorial self.”

    Thankfully, that observation broke her mother out of her fretting. “And he would look quite the part, too, wouldn’t he? All that black hair and that chiseled jaw.”

    And broad shoulders and regal bearing and slate-gray eyes as coldly beautiful as a Russian night spangled with stars.

    Clarissa scowled at herself. She must be addled to be thinking of Edwin so poetically. Though he was sinfully handsome. In a sort of standoffish way. And she hadn’t seen him in ages. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and all that.

    “Why, I can almost imagine him in an ermine cape and one of those tall, furry hats,” Mama said.

    Clarissa laughed. “Edwin would only wear such a pretentious thing to a coronation, and then only because he had to.”

    His manner of dress was always correct, but terribly sober.

    Unlike hers. She examined her gown in the mirror and smiled. Edwin would probably look sternly upon this confection of lace and lavender bows. Secretly it wasn’t her favorite, either—a bit too fussy for her taste—but she’d expected to be dining only with Warren and Mama, and had just thrown on the first thing she’d found in her closet.

    Oh, well. No time to change, and besides, she would never change her gown for him. Let Edwin give her one of his ruthlessly critical glances; she would not be cowed.

    Indeed, it was merely force of habit that had her pinching her cheeks until they glowed nicely pink. It was not because she wanted to look pretty for Edwin. No, indeed.

    “You know, my girl,” Mama said, “if you were a bit nicer to that man, you could probably have him wrapped about your finger in a matter of weeks.”

    “Oh, I doubt that. Edwin is far too inflexible to be wrapped about anything. More’s the pity.” Cla­rissa would dearly love to see the woman who could manage that.

    But it wouldn’t be her. Edwin, of all people, would never accept her as she was, especially once he knew the full extent of her youthful mistakes. And her narrow escape from the obsessive attentions of Count Durand a few months ago had only made her more determined to avoid bending to any man’s demands of what a wife should be.

    You can never escape me, my dearest Clarissa.

    A shudder swept her as she thrust the count’s final words to the back of her mind. They were just the sort of dramatic nonsense men thought women wanted to hear. But to her knowledge, he hadn’t hunted for her. He hadn’t been loitering in the street outside Warren’s town house once they arrived. No doubt he’d moved on to another pretty woman.

    And if he hadn’t?

    Then she would be firmer in her refusal this time. Years ago she’d allowed a man to bully her, and it had shattered her life.

    Never again.

    Pasting a brilliant smile to her lips, she whirled to face her mother. “Shall we go down?”

    “Not yet, my angel. The servant said the gentlemen are already here, so we should keep them waiting. You must never let a man be too sure of you.”

    “It’s Edwin, Mama,” she said tightly. “He’s sure of everything and everyone, no matter what I do.” With her usual coaxing smile, she offered her arm to her mother. Mama had broken her hip in her early forties and it hadn’t knitted properly, so navigating stairs was difficult for her. “Come now, I know you’re dying for a glass of wine. I certainly am.”

    “Oh, all right.” Leaning on Clarissa’s arm, Mama let herself be led to the door. “But you must promise to give him a compliment first thing. Men like that.”

    “Right,” Clarissa said noncommittally.

    “And don’t contradict him all the time. Men despise fractious women.”

    “Uh-huh.”

    “And do not spout your witticisms incessantly. It’s very mannish. Not to mention . . .”

    As they made their slow way down the stairs, Clarissa let her mother drone on, only half listening to the usual recitation of little tricks designed to hook a man and reel him in. Those might have enabled her Cit of a mother to snag an earl, but they smacked of deception to Clarissa.

    If a man couldn’t like her as she was, what was the point? Clarissa could barely hide her true opinions from Mama. How was she to do it with a husband?

    Not that she ever intended to have a husband. Granted, she wouldn’t mind having children, but that required taking a man into her bed—and the very thought made her hands grow clammy and her throat close up.

    No. Marriage was not for her.

    “. . . and do be sure to save the biggest slice of cake for Edwin,” Mama said as they reached the bottom of the stairs.

    “Nonsense. I’m not saving anything for Edwin.”

    “That’s only fair,” drawled Edwin from somewhere in the shadows to the right of the staircase. “I’m not saving anything for you, either.”

    Striving to hide her surprise, she halted as he came into the light.

    “Edwin!” Mama cried. “My dear boy!” She held out her hand.

    Dutifully, he came forward to take it. “You’re looking well, Lady Margrave.” He bent to brush a kiss to Mama’s cheek.

    No kiss for Clarissa, of course. He was too much the gentleman for that.

    “You’re looking rather fine yourself,” Mama chirped as she drew back to survey him.

    And Lord, but he was, in his tailcoat of dark-blue wool and his waistcoat and trousers of plain white poplin. Even his cravat was simply tied, which only accentuated the masculine lines of his jaw and sharp planes of his features, so starkly handsome.

    How had he managed to grow even more attractive in a mere three months? And why on earth was she gawking at him? This was Edwin, for pity’s sake. It would swell his head even more if he knew what she was thinking.

    Instead, she teased him. “Don’t tell me—you were so impatient for us to come down that you’ve been pacing the foyer in anticipation.”

    The idea was ludicrous, of course. Impatient wasn’t even in Edwin’s vocabulary. If ever a man believed that slow and steady won the race, it was he.

    And he clearly recognized the irony, for he flashed her one of his rare smiles. “Actually, I was fetching this from the library. Warren told me he was done with it.” His eyes gleamed in the lamplight as he held out a book. “Of course, if you wish to read it yourself . . .”

    “Doubtful,” she said. “Any book you loaned him has to be deadly dull.”

    “You mean, because it lacks gallant highwaymen rescuing virtuous ladies.”

    “Or virtuous ladies rescuing gallant highwaymen. Either would be preferable to one of your dry tomes on . . . what? Chess? Engineering? Philosophy of the most boring sort?”

    “Clarissa,” Mama chided.

    But Edwin merely laughed, as she’d hoped he would. She took great pride in the fact that she could sometimes make him laugh. No other woman seemed able to. No other woman dared try.

    “Mechanical engineering,” he said. “However did you guess?”

    “Because I know you all too well, sir.”

    He sobered, his gaze turning oddly intense even for him. “Do you? I’m not so sure.”

    The words hung in the air a moment in frozen silence before that was shattered by her cousin’s approach.

    “I found another book you might enjoy, old boy,” Warren said as he bent to kiss first his aunt, then Clarissa. “It’s about automatons.”

    She rolled her eyes as Warren handed it to Edwin. Of course, keen interest leapt in Edwin’s face the moment he scanned the cover. The earl did love his automatons, to the point where he even made his own, though Clarissa had never been deemed worthy enough to actually see one.

    “Looks intriguing, thanks. I’ll get it back to you as soon as I’m done.”

    “No hurry.” Warren shot her a veiled glance. “As you well know, I won’t need it anytime soon.”

    Whatever was that about?

    Before she could ponder it, Warren offered Mama his arm. “Come, Aunt, let’s get you off your feet while we have our wine before dinner. Don’t want to tax your hip overmuch.”

    “Thank you, my lad,” she cooed, and let him lead her to the breakfast room. “That is ever so thoughtful of you! But then, you always were a dear. Why, I remember when . . .”

    As Mama prattled on, Edwin was left to come behind with Clarissa. “So,” he murmured, “exactly what were you refusing to save for me?”

    It took her a moment to remember that he’d overheard her earlier. “The biggest slice of cake.”

    “I don’t like cake.”

    “I know. That’s why I’m not wasting it on you. You won’t appreciate it, and you’d probably eat it just to be polite.”

    He slanted a serious glance at her. “Perhaps I’d give it to you, instead.”

    “I doubt that, but we’ll never know, shall we?” she said lightly. “I’m saving it for myself, regardless.”

    “So I heard.”

    “Because you were eavesdropping.” Mischief seized her. “How rude of you.”

    As they passed into the breakfast room, he shrugged. “If you don’t want people hearing your pronouncements, you shouldn’t talk at the volume of a dockworker.”

    Mama paused while settling onto the settee. “A dockworker! For shame, Edwin—what a thing to say to a lady! Have you no pretty compliments to offer?”

    When he stood blatantly unrepentant, Clarissa said, “If Edwin knew how to compliment ladies, Mama, he would be too popular in society to settle for having dinner with the mere likes of us.”

    “There’s no settling involved, I assure you,” he said irritably.

    She was congratulating herself on getting beneath his cool reserve again when Warren stepped in. “Play nice now, cousin. We need him.”

    “For what?” Clarissa asked.

    Instead of answering, Warren gestured to the settee. “You’d better sit down. I’ve got something to tell you and your mother.”

  • Meet the Author

    Sabrina Jeffries is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of several Regency-set historical romance series, including the Royal Brotherhood, the School for Heiresses, the Hellions of Halstead Hall, the Duke’s Men, and the Sinful Suitors. Whatever time is not spent writing in a coffee-fueled haze is spent traveling with her husband and adult autistic son or indulging in one of her passions: jigsaw puzzles, chocolate, music, and costume parties. With more than eight million books in print in twenty languages, the North Carolina author never regrets tossing a budding career in academics for the sheer joy of writing fun fiction and hopes that one day a book of hers will end up saving the world. She always dreams big.

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    The Study of Seduction 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Excellent story with characters that draw you in and make you love them. You get to see some of Yvette and Jeremy again which is nice to see them happy and thriving. Well worth th read cant wait to see what is next!
    MoniqueD More than 1 year ago
    Based on the first book in this series, I knew THE STUDY OF SEDUCTION would be good, but I was wrong; it is stupendous! The St. George Club was formed by four friends who met in Oxford; their aim is to protect women from rakes and fortune hunters. The Marquess of Knightsford is one of those men: he asks his friend Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, to escort his cousin Lady Clarissa Lindsey throughout the London Season. The unsavoury Count Durand, attached to the French Embassy, has been relentlessly harassing Clarissa, even after she bluntly refused his marriage proposal. Edwin has been a friend of Clarissa’s family for a long time; she’s as effervescent as he’s rigid, and she loves to taunt him to see if she can thaw his cool demeanour. However, secrets from both their pasts push them into a marriage of convenience, and I will say no more about this supremely intricate and wonderfully plotted story. THE STUDY OF SEDUCTION is storytelling at its very best, and Ms. Jeffries demonstrates how brilliant a wordsmith she is: the dialogues are brilliant, and the banter between Edwin and Clarissa is beyond compare. The author’s attention to detail is exemplary when it comes to her vivid descriptions of automatons and the theatre, among many other things. THE STUDY OF SEDUCTION is book 2 in the Sinful Suitors series, and one part of the story arc that started in the first book comes to an explosive conclusion with revelations that left me gasping, while others had me tearing up; and still, this book can be read as a standalone. Edwin and Clarissa are profoundly endearing, exceptionally drawn, their story so compelling that I never stopped reading. In some places, I laughed myself silly, while in others, I wanted to embrace the characters and ease their pain. Edwin is a gentleman, a gentle man, and Clarissa is strong and extremely appealing. I cannot wait for the next instalment of The Sinful Suitors! I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
    julieford 6 months ago
    Sabrina Jeffries continues to amaze with her talent in creating characters that keep you drawn into their story. This is Edwin and Clarissa's story. Edwin is looking for a calm, passive wife that won't create any drama or demand love. The plan goes awry when he is asked to protect his best friend's cousin from a diplomat who is stalking her. Clarissa is outspoken, charming and flirtatious but she always keeps men at arms length. She accepts Edwin's help in protecting her from a stalker but when they are forced to marry, her secrets and fears start to come out. Edwin must convince his wife that their is nothing to fear from him and convince her to trust him with her secrets. Their love grows as they battle outside forces and past secrets. Great story.
    kymroberts911 9 months ago
    If your a historical romance fan, you won't be disappointed with The Study of Seduction. Although it's a little dark, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. There's nothing light or whimsical about a stalker. If Ms. Jeffries had tried to write it that way, the story would have been insulting to victims, no matter what decade or century. Instead she delved into the subject matter and wrote a fascinating novel about an age-old crime and the impact it has on its victim. Thank you, Ms. Jeffries! Edwin and Clarissa are the perfect couple to challenge society's beliefs and make a stand for true love!
    zsoccerbrat More than 1 year ago
    "But Clarissa," Mama called from behind her, "what about dinner?" "Tonight we shall live on music!" Clarissa cried with a dramatic wave of her arm. "Music isn't very filling, my dear!" Mama cried. When I pick up a Sabrina Jeffries novel, I never have to worry about whether I will enjoy it. I always know I am in for lots of laughing, to which my friends eye-roll when they hear me and a great love story. This novel was no different insomuch as I laughed a lot and greatly enjoyed the love story between Clarissa and Edwin. While there was more prominent mature themes (and no, I am not referring to the sex scenes as those are obviously going to appear in a Romance novel), they did not detract from the plot, but enhanced it. I can hardly wait until the next novel and greatly recommend Sabrina Jeffries to anyone looking for a new author!
    PDX_reader_Jane More than 1 year ago
    How love overcomes A Lord, A Lady, and A Villain (Don’t miss the sensuous scenes and surprises!) This is the second book in the Sinful Suitors series. Sabrina Jeffries has a way that draws in her readers, keeps them entertained and guessing! Best friends Warren Corry and Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, are having a private meeting. Warren must leave for France and needs Edwin to protect his cousin Lady Clarissa Lindsey and squire her to social events. A French Diplomat is stalking her. Clarissa is well known to Edwin because she is his sister Yvette’s best friend. Edwin thinks Clarissa is sharp-tongued, mischievous and enjoys giving him a hard time. SHE thinks he is over bearing and a stuffed shirt! After much persuasion, Clarissa agrees to Edwin’s protection. She decides to help him find a wife. Although she is much admired for her beauty and wealth, she doesn’t plan to marry. Both Edwin and Clarissa have secrets that they are afraid to share. Will their secrets keep them apart?
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I like when characters have depth. This series is entertaining.
    def618 More than 1 year ago
    Sabrina Jeffries is one of my favorite authors and this is now one of my favorites of her books. Edwin has appeared in a couple of her other books and he was a very proper, stuffy lord. I wasn't sure about him as a hero before I started this but now I love him. There were things in his life that caused him to be cynical but when he falls in love with Clarissa there's nothing he won't do for her. Clarissa plans to never marry. There are things in her past that she keeps hidden. When she is threatened, she agrees to marry Edwin for protection. She has no idea how wonderful Edwin will be to/for her. That's all I'll say as this is a complicated plot and I won't ruin it. I highly recommend this book.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    BuckeyeAngel More than 1 year ago
    Edwin Barlow, Earl of Blakeborough, was just asked an impossible favor by his good friend. He was tasked with escorting his friend’s cousin, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, around London and protect her while he’s out of the country on an important task. The biggest problem with this favor is that Clarissa exhibits characteristics Edwin would never want in a wife, yet he’s wanted her for years. This book reminded me of why I love historical romance. It was fairly lighthearted, yet the author had some pretty heavy underlying plots, not to mention some hot scenes. It does bear mentioning that Edwin had me from the beginning, as he reminded me so much of Mr. Darcy. I love every book this author puts out. Her books keep getting better and better. I highly recommend. **I received an ARC of this story in exchange for an honest review
    janeeyre01 More than 1 year ago
    Another hit for this wonderful author. Love her characters and plots.
    sportochick More than 1 year ago
    I was excited to read my first book by Sabrina Jefferies and I am very happy to say this book was everything I hoped it would be and more. Reluctant Edwin Barlow, Earl of Blakeborough really steps up to the plate for his friend, Warren Corry, the Marquess of Knightford, Clarissa's cousin. I loved watching the progression of the very honorable Edwin thoughts and actions throughout the story. It was amazing watching his analytical mind trying to figure out Clarissa's personality and coming up with solutions to protect her. Clarissa on the other hand had some secret's she is keeping from everyone and this fiery heroine is only afraid of two things and one of them is Count Geraud Durand, part of the French Embassy. The other thing she is afraid of becomes a key point towards the end of the story and explains all of the areas in the first chapter that I had questions about. This also explains many things about her actions, reactions and opens up dialog regarding her brother. Right up front I didn't like the Count and he is the perfect bad guy for this story no matter how good looking he is. His character is written in a manner that keeps you guessing as to what is off about him and in the ending you will get that aha moment that will satisfy you. The interaction between Edwin and Clarissa after they are married is romantic, hopeful, tearful and loving. There are skillfully written love scenes involving thoughtfulness, creativeness and much patience on Edwin's part. I recommend this book to all you romantic's who love a little bit of mystery and excitement. I give it 4 STARS. An ARC copy was gifted in exchange for an honest opinion via Netgalley.
    DebDiem More than 1 year ago
    The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries is simply fantastic. Ms Jeffries has penned a well written book that will keep you entertained from cover to cover. I love the characters in The Study of Seduction, I mean who doesn't love a nerdy Earl? Clarissa and Edwin's story has plenty of drama, humor, action, sizzle and of course, the evil villain. The Study of Seduction is book 2 of the Sinful Suitors Series but can be read as a standalone. This is a complete book, not a cliff-hanger. I enjoyed The Study of Seduction enormously and look forward to reading more from Sabrina Jeffries in the future. I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.
    Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
    This is book 2 in the Sinful Suiters series. Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakebourough, agrees to watch of his best friend's cousin while he is away dealing with family business. He knows that he is in for trouble watching over Lady Clarissa Lindsey having known her most of his life. That is part of the problem...he's been captivated with her just as long. But he also knows that Clarissa isn't the type of woman that he wants for a wife...or is she? Clarissa is determined never to wed after an event in her past. But when she ends up with a stalker, she knows her best chance at protecting herself to to take Edwin up on his marriage proposal. Can this marriage of convience turn into one of love? I LOVED this story!! I couldn't put it down and was up half the night reading it! If you've read the other books in the series, you've met Edwin and Clarissa before. Edwin had always been the quiet one that only spoke up when necessary and ALWAYS told you like it was! You knew that he had to have hidden depths to him that only the right woman would bring out in him!! Oh boy, what a hero he turned out to be. I wanted him to magically appear so that he could be my IRL hero!! I really liked Clarissa too. She was always needling Edwin to get a rise of of him, unfortunately Edwin didn't often see that she was teasing him. I just really loved the interaction between Clarissa and Edwin. The next book in the series, The Danger of Desire, is Warren's book and comes out in November. I can't wait to read it!!! Thanks go out to Pocket Books via NetGalley for a copy of the book in exchange of an honest review.
    TheBunny1 More than 1 year ago
    ***ARC Provided by the Publisher and NetGalley*** This was fun, albeit a bit far-fetched in places, but fun. My main criticisms, and the reasons that I am rating this 3 and not more stars: 1. The story was supposed to be about a couple that marries at the beginning of the story, but this really wasn't the case. More toward the middle, and this is not the only romance out there in which the hero and heroine marry at about the mid-point in the tale. 2. Her "secret" was obvious from the beginning and I found myself more than a little annoyed about the people in her life who hadn't figured it out on their own. 3. There was a missed opportunity, in my opinion, to make more of a story about them, and about their characters, that was lost in the subplot with the over-interested suitor. I did not feel that a lot was brought to the story by this inclusion. Aside from those issues, I liked Clarissa and Edwin and found their story amusing to follow. It was well written, the dialog flowed smoothly and the characters did not have any moments in which I felt that their behavior did not meet with their personalities or previous actions. I do recommend this one, save for the above mentioned issues...but there was enough there to make this worth reading.
    TammyS32 More than 1 year ago
    Great historical read! Edwin is looking for a wife but never imagined it would be Clarissa, his best friend’s cousin/ward. Her stalker won’t leave her alone and decides to marry Edwin for protection. As they spend more time together, their attraction grows. Will they find love together or will Clarissa’s stalker cause yet even more trouble. Great characters I really liked Edwin and the story had me hooked from beginning to end. Loved it!
    debwill74 More than 1 year ago
    The Study of Seduction by Sabrina Jeffries is a clever historical romance. This is the second book in the Sinful Suitors series but can be read as a standalone book. I found myself caught up in the story and the characters. Edwin and Clarissa are very likable couple whom you find yourself pulling for. Who can resist a tale involving silly hats, a duel and automatons? I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
    JuliaAD More than 1 year ago
    We met Edwin in other books. It is good that he gets his HEA. It is not an easy road with Clarissa. Clarissa vows to never marry. She had a very bad experience and doesn't feel anyone would want her once they know of her situation. To top it off, she has a Frenchman obsessed with her and will not leave her alone. Edwin finally convinces Clarissa to marry him, but he doesn't believe in love and is sure that at least they will be friends and get along well together. Edwin discovers some deep secrets about his family and Clarissa has one of her own that she is very reluctant to share. The problem is that the Frenchman also knows their secrets
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    London - 1830 Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough, is appalled when his best friend, the Marquess of Knightford, requests that he escort his cousin and ward, Lady Clarissa Lindsey, during the season. Clarissa has always been quite prickly with Edwin which irritates him. A beautiful young woman with a large fortune, she has rebuffed numerous marriage proposals. Count Gerard Durand, secretary to the French Ambassador, has been pursuing Clarissa relentlessly and she is finding it more and more difficult to keep him away from her. It appears he is privy to a secret that Clarissa is hiding and is using it to try and have his way with her. As Edwin and Clarissa spend more time together attending soirees, she constantly critiques the way he interacts with other women. Although attracted to each other, Clarissa is hesitant to acknowledge his admiration as yet. When Durand makes an appearance here and there leering at Clarissa, Edwin becomes incensed. Will Clarissa be able to get Durand to leave her alone? Will Edwin and Clarissa marry and find their own HEA? I had a difficult time liking this book. When there is too much sniping and oneupmanship between characters, it becomes grating. However, I’m sure there are other readers who will enjoy the story. Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley
    dbrown34001 More than 1 year ago
    Those eagerly awaiting the second book in Jeffries’ Sinful Suitors series will not be disappointed with Edwin and Clarissa’s story. It’s a bumpy road to their happily-ever-after, with roadblocks real and imagined. Jeffries’ fans will love the witty repartee between the couple as they battle the evil count and their own shortcomings. Unusual details add other dimensions to the story. I highly recommend this captivating book to lovers of spicy historical romance. Edwin Barlow, the Earl of Blakeborough and Lady Clarissa Lindsey come to a mutual agreement. She’s being pursued relentlessly by the French Count Geraud Durand. Edwin’s best friend Warren Corry, the Marquess of Knightford, and member of the Sinful Suitor’s club, must go to the Continent and rescue Clarrisa’s brother after he was framed by the count. He wants Edwin to guard her in his absence against Durand’s advances. When Durand makes a further attempt to seduce Clarissa, she and Edwin declare they are affianced. Durand doesn’t believe them, but appears to leave her alone after that. Edwin squires her around town and she, not so subtly, points him in the direction of suitable young ladies. None appeal to him so much as Clarissa. Gaining a special license, they marry, hoping to stay one step ahead of Durand. Clarissa insists it remain a marriage of convenience until she can reconcile an incident that took place in her past. Edwin has secrets of his own that Durand threatens to reveal. Edwin will go to great lengths to protect Clarissa from events that happened years before.
    stanhope3234 More than 1 year ago
    3.75* I love Sabrina Jeffries! Her books just suck you in and it's as if you are right there inside the lives of the characters. Edwin and Clarissa both had tragic events in their lives that formed them and they had to fight for a normal life. They had secrets that keep them from living the life they long for. Together they can face anything if only they can learn to trust each other. This book is loaded with emotion, suspense, sexual tension and a lot of witty banter. I love the sarcasm between all the characters.
    Sandy-thereadingcafe More than 1 year ago
    3.5 stars--THE STUDY OF SEDUCTION is the second full length installment in Sabrina Jeffries SINFUL SUITORS historical romance series-a spin off from ‘The Duke’s Men’ series. This is the Earl of Blakeborough, Edwin Barlow, and Lady Clarissa Lindsey’s story line. THE STUDY OF SEDUCTION can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Any important information from the previous story line is revealed where necessary. Told from dual third person perspectives (Clarissa and Edwin) THE STUDY OF SEDUCTION follows the ‘fake fiance’ trope when Clarissa and Edwin must appear as betrothed to ward off a stalker intent on making Clarissa his own. Intent on claiming Clarissa as his wife, Count Durant-a French diplomat-insists that Clarissa is making a mistake when her betrothal quickly morphs into a wedding of convenience when information is presented that could harm both Clarissa and Edwin’s reputations both socially and within the family. What ensues is the building relationship between Clarissa and Edwin, and the Count’s continued pursuit of Clarissa Lindsey. Edwin and Clarissa both believe that marriage is not in their futures. Clarissa has a secret that, if revealed, could destroy any hopes of a man falling in love with our story line heroine. Edwin is a man who has coveted Clarissa from afar. The romance is a slow build as our heroine continues to keep Edwin at a distance including adding a clause to her marriage contract. The $ex scenes are few and intimate but mostly implied. I did not feel the sexual attractions between our couple-sometimes keeping one another at arm’s length destroys the integrity of the romance plot line. THE STUDY OF SEDUCTION is a friends to lovers/fake fiancé story line that looks at secrets and betrayals; friendship and family; romance and love. The premise is interesting and not without a twist or two; the characters are charming; the romance is sweet but the attraction and electricity was lacking due to the nature of the heroine’s fears and past.
    Lashea677 More than 1 year ago
    Sabrina Jeffries has something to be proud of. Her stories are well thought out and spicy. I also love that she writes noteworthy female characters that don't fit the mold of the standard damsel in distress. For instance, The Study of Seduction gives a wonderful example in Lady Clarissa. She's more than just a pretty face. Opinionated, smart and full of attitude, she wants to live on her own terms. Although her outlook was somewhat naive, she made it work for her. Of course this is a romance and there does have to be conflict and that came in the form of Edwin, Earl of Blakeborough. His favor for a friend spins out of control stunning both he and Clarissa. Sabrina Jeffries makes historical romance come alive in this irresistible novel.
    tsmb02 More than 1 year ago
    This is the second book in the Sinful Suitors series. This book is Edwin Barlow's story. Edwin is Lady Yvette's brother, whom we met in book #1. Edwin is very smart and tends to always do the right thing. He reminds me of a modern day engineer. Edwin is asked by his friend, Warren Corry to look after his ward Lady Clarissa because he needs to travel out of the country. Warren is concerned because of a French diplomat, Durand, that has been stalking her. Edwin has always found Clarissa to be intriguing and agrees to help out his friend. As Edwin and Clarissa spend time together, they both realize they have feelings for each other but because of things in both of their pasts, they both feel that they cannot act on these feelings. Both of them start to realize that what they thought they knew about each other, isn't exactly true. As Durant continues to pursue Clarissa, Edwin starts to realize he wants Clarissa in his life and comes up with a plan that Clarissa should marry him for her safety. I loved this story. These two people, both of whom had bad things happen in their past, have been brought together to heal each other, and they were perfect for each other. Edwin needed a woman who was smart and strong and Clarissa needed a man who embraced her strengths. I loved the way their love story developed and their happy ending was perfect. Sabrina Jeffries really knows how to write wonderful stories with such fun and fantastic characters. There is such depth to Edwin and Clarissa that you can't help but be drawn to them. Thanks for another great read!
    Griperang72a More than 1 year ago
    I absolutely loved this book. In fact I think I may have even liked it better than the first. This was the story of Lady Clarissa and Edwin. In this story we learn of a tragic event that happened in Clarissa's passed and how it has affected her entire life and her relationships. Edwin steps in to protect her when her cousin has to leave the country which is a fun part of the story. Reading how these two banter back and forth was cute. Edwin has his own issues with falling in love and does not believe he will ever be in love due to things he saw in his childhood between his own parents.Clarissa's mom was a fun character, I just loved her and the things she says. She kind of reminded me of the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey. We get just a glimpse of Yvette and her husband which was nice as I liked them as well. There are plenty of steamy scenes in this book but there is also some nail biting scences. I could not put this book down. I am looking forward to the next book in this series so we can see who it is about. We shall she what the author gives us.