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    Anna Campbell’s Review of THE SINS OF LORD EASTERBROOK by Madeline Hunter
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  • Published: Feb 13th, 2009

anna_head.jpgI think quite a few of you know I’m a long-time fan of Madeline Hunter. Isolde Martyn from my Sydney critique group came back from her first American conference with an ARC of Madeline’s debut medieval, By Arrangement. When I read this, I knew I’d found another keeper author. Someone smart who wrote deep emotion and sizzling passion and great heroes.

Make a note of this – she really writes great heroes!

In recent years, Madeline has moved to writing Regency romance and her latest series centers on the mysterious and sexy Rothwell brothers and their circle. Lessons of Desire, which featured an unusual plot about a Regency feminist in the Mary Wollstonecraft mold and the very appealing Lord Elliot Rothwell, won the RITA Award this year for best long historical romance. Well deserved!

The book I’ve been hanging out for was the one featuring the head of the family, the very mysterious and  sexy (yes, I’m using those words again but they’re the right words!) Christian Rothwell, the Marquess of Easterbrook.

hunter_lordeasterbrook.jpgI’m delighted to say The Sins of Lord Easterbrook didn’t disappoint.

One of the things I love about Madeline Hunter’s heroes (I DID say she writes great heroes, didn’t I?) is that usually they’re offbeat. You don’t get your standard Regency rake in a MH book. In fact, Christian Rothwell veers towards being her most unusual hero yet!

Christian is a recluse who, because of his power, his wealth, his handsomeness and his elusiveness, is something of a legend in Regency society. His ways are eccentric – he wears his dressing gown most of the time and never puts on a cravat. He’s definitely something of a wild man. Of course, he has his own tormenting reasons for avoiding other people and those slowly become clear as the book progresses.

As we’ve received intriguing glimpses of Christian through the series, I wondered how Madeline would come up with a heroine to match him. I mean, he’s scarily smart, he’s isolated, he’s got an acid wit, he’s tortured, he’s definitely not the boy next door.

But of course Ms. Hunter met this challenge without ruffling a hair (although plenty of hairs get ruffled on our hero and heroine!).

Leona Montgomery is passionate, independent, stubborn, determined. Oh, and smart! She arrives in London from Macao where she runs a trading company, determined to continue her father’s crusade against illegal trade in opium. It’s the time when English-supplied opium was causing death and devastation in China (and elsewhere). Naturally her efforts bring her into conflict with powerful interests who decide their best strategy is to keep her quiet permanently.

For help, she is forced to turn to the man who broke her heart seven years ago, Christian Rothwell, although when she fell in love with him at the age of nineteen, he was a guest in her father’s house who masqueraded under the name Edmund. The attraction is immediate, mutual and fiery, and it’s clear that what the passion they felt so long ago is still alive and more than ready for consummation. Leona’s longing is complicated by her fairly well-grounded suspicions that this intriguing, compelling is involved in the opium trade she despises.

So you can see what great ingredients Madeline has thrown into this wonderful, delicious casserole of a book. Danger, simmering passions, the reunion of two star-crossed lovers who have never forgotten one another, a courageous heroine, a gorgeous hunk of a hero forced out of his self-imposed isolation to confront the world to save the woman he loves, a touch of exotic eastern mystery.

Needless to say, I devoured this luscious dish. And now I’m looking for dessert!

23 Responses to “Anna Campbell’s Review of THE SINS OF LORD EASTERBROOK by Madeline Hunter”

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  1. Christine Wells
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 2:16 am

    Great review, Anna! A new Madeline Hunter is quite enough to get me to the bookstore pronto, for all the reasons you’ve given. I love this series and especially look forward to Rothwell’s story. Thanks for the review!


  2. heidenkind
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 2:50 am

    I always eat dessert first. That’s the only way to live. 😀

    I’ve never read Madeline Hunter, probably because she started out writing medievals. I had no idea she was writing Regencies now. Darn it, another book to buy! 😉


  3. pjpuppymom
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 7:30 am

    Wonderful review, Anna! I’ve been saving the books in this series until I had them all. Now I can begin. What fun! (rubbing my hands together in glee) 🙂


  4. Andrea
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 8:16 am

    Another great review, Anna! 🙂


  5. Marisa
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 8:50 am

    Anna, I haven’t read a Madeline Hunter book in a long while, and now you give me pause… perhaps I should re-introduce myself to this author. Of course your likening her heroine to Mary Wollstonecraft – one of my all time favorite feminists of that time – has me so very intrigued. Only you, Anna, would describe a regency heroine as having similar qualities to Ms. Wollstonecraft, brava.


  6. Gannon
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 8:54 am

    Great review, Anna! I been looking forward to this book! May I suggest Tim Tams for dessert? 😀


  7. Kati
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 11:07 am

    Hi Anna – Terrific review. I’m sorry to say that Madeline Hunter is an author who doesn’t work for me for some reason. But I know that those who adore her work, do so with raptures.

    I can’t really put my finger exactly on why her characters don’t work for me, but in particular, it’s her heroines who usually end up disappointing me. I think because the “idea” of them is always so wonderful, but for whatever reason the execution doesn’t work. I’m not sure why. But I keep picking up her books because she has so many fans who just adore her work. And I always end up reading the books and kind of shrugging, like, “didn’t really work for me.”

    I’m quite sure it’s me though, and not her, because honestly, I could probably name 20 readers who adore her right off the top of my head. I’m weird like that. 😉


  8. Anna Campbell
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 11:53 am

    Hey, Christine, I know you’re a fellow fan and that you’ve been hanging out for this book. He’s a fascinating character, isn’t he? I love the touch of eastern mysticism that MH gives him – certainly outside the normal realm of Regency heroes!

    Heidenkind, LOL to the dessert! Give Madeline Hunter a go. They’re different to a lot of other stuff out there – so it’s like a sorbet to clean your palate 😉


  9. Anna Campbell
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 11:59 am

    PJ, there was a strong hint in this that there might be another one! Although don’t let that turn you off trying these books. I love the way Madeline Hunter uses some of the less cosy aspects of Regency life as the basis for her story. It gives them a grounding in real life that is very powerful. The position of women comes up over and over again (um, not THOSE sorts of positions!) and how an intelligent woman deals with a society that basically gives her no legal rights. It’s not jammed down your throat but man, it makes for some powerful conflict.

    Hey, Andrea, glad you enjoyed the review!


  10. Keira Soleore
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 1:06 pm

    Fo, I didn’t read your review since I’m currently reading this book. With some authors, I don’t even read the back cover copy, just open the book, and dive right in. I’ll be back for sure to read your review and to compare your experience with mine. Because you know, I read everything you write, even those e-mails where you’re calling me names. What a hopeless soft-shell (by Sebastian from Little Mermaid) I am.


  11. Anna Campbell
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 1:09 pm

    Hey, Marisa, glad you liked the Mary Wollstonecraft connection, although that’s probably stronger in Phaedra the heroine of Lessons of Desire than this one. Although Leona is no pushover! She’s probably more entrepreneurial than standing up for the legal rights of women – although of course that’s an aspect of her business life.

    Gannon, what a woman of exquisite taste you are! Tim Tams for dessert always sound great. In fact, Tim Tams for breakfast, lunch and… Hmm, no wonder I’m battling a sagging middle! LOL!


  12. Anna Campbell
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 1:16 pm

    Kati, I have a couple of authors like that (who shall be nameless!). It’s interesting – I had exactly this discussion with Marisa when I sent in the review. I’ve loved MH right from the first book of hers I read and I think I’ve read every single book she’s ever written. I know a lot of people dropped away from her when she moved from medievals to Regencies but I think she took her voice with her so I continued to love those books. With the authors I’m thinking of, I can SEE why people love them, I read them again and again to try and get the magic (just like you do) but I never seem to make the leap to loving the stories. I often admire them but somehow they don’t get any deeper than that. I think it’s one of those horses for courses things. Be terrible if we all only loved one thing, wouldn’t it?

    Keira, I’m not ‘crabby’ about you not reading my review. LOL! Hey, EVERYTHING I write, huh? Even the soft prawn? And I know you love a man with mussels. Oh, dear, I must stop these jokes, I’m being shellfish… I hope you’re enjoying TSOLE. I must say I found the reunion part of the story particularly touching.


  13. Laura
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 2:35 pm

    Hi Anna,
    That was one of the best reviews I have read in a while. You have pricked my curiosity, and I now have to add M. Hunter to my list of must reads. I am always looking for something just a bit different, but not too different.


  14. Anna Campbell
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 3:21 pm

    Laura, thanks for saying that! I’m so glad you enjoyed the review. Definitely give MH a go. I’d recommend starting with The Rules of Seduction, the first Rothwell book. Although I’m sure you could read them on their own, it’s nice to see how the characters change and develop through the series. And Christian is such a brooding, enigmatic, fascinating presence in the earlier stories, it’s nice to build up to his happy ending. One of the many things I like about MH is that she combines really unusual elements with the tried and true staples of Regency romance like rakes and marriages of convenience and high society.

    Hey, I just found a cool book video for Easterbrook: http://www.amazon.com/gp/blog/post/PLNK31RUD3YO7AEIH Sort of says exactly what I did, except in pictures 😉


  15. LisaK
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 3:43 pm

    Hm, I have to admit that I’m a little bit like Kati here. It’s not that MH’s books don’t work for me, it’s just that I don’t get hooked on them very much. You know, I cannot really “feel” the story. Plus the heroines of the first two Rothwell books were getting on my nerves somehow and I just wanted to throw something at them. Strangely, I rather liked them in the books afterwards. I don’t want to say that they are badly written or that the stories aren’t good or creative, the contrary, they’re actually very unusual, but I just don’t seem to get a connection to them.
    However, “The Sins of Lord Easterbrook” was a very nice piece and even though I don’t particularly like “Lovers reunited” stories, this one was a very good read. I think it was because of the hero. Christian’s just … hmmm!


  16. Anna Campbell
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 3:50 pm

    Lisa, interesting. As I said, I know a few people who don’t absolutely adore her (just as I know people who do!). I said to Marisa that perhaps MH appeals to the geek in me – I love the use she makes of the actual history like the rise of the middle classes. Did you read the one where the heroine married the self-made man after a rotten aristocrat ruined her publicly? I loved that hero and it was nice to read about a man from a humble background who had risen due to his own efforts. And I liked the way she tapped into the Regency fascination with Italy in Lessons of Desire. Don’t get me wrong – I love Almack’s and the ton and rakes and all the rest. But sometimes it’s nice to take a detour into a different part of the Regency world.

    And isn’t Christian just scrumalicious? I like em dark and mysterious and brooding, as you know! I always get a giggle out of his interactions with the interfering Hester too. I think that’s one of his most attractive characteristics, his sardonic humor.


  17. LisaK
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 4:25 pm

    That’s “Secrets of Surrender” you’re talking about, isn’t it (just looked the title up, I can never remember such things!). This was one heroine I liked (although at the beginning I thought she was so naive it was almost stupid) and Kyle (was that his name?) was absolutely adorable. I like the historic accuracy, too, and the Italy thing. You see, I like almost everything about her books, so I really, really cannot explain why they don’t grab me like many others do. Just some weird thing in my brain, I think. 😉


  18. pambook
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 4:42 pm

    I just finished it last night Anna, and she didn’t let us down with Christian’s story after the buildup in the previous books, loved it. I am a Hunter fan, especially her medievals. I liked some of the first Regency series, but not as much as the medievals and this current series about the Rothwells. I liked the different setting in Italy for Lessons of Desire. It does seem peope either love her writing or don’t so much. I think she’s often very subtle in developing those relationships in her stories, builds it slowly along, perhaps that doesn’t appeal to all. For someone new, I’d probably suggest the medievals if they are your thing, or start with Rules of Seduction. I do agree about reading this series in order to better appreciate Christian when you get to his story, and I did like Hayden and Alexa in Rules of Seduction (the first) a lot. I’m not sure if she plans to do a fifth book in this series, Anna, I know who you mean, though I wasn’t left with a definite impression that she would, could have just been part of the wrap-up in the epilog.


  19. Anna Campbell
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 4:44 pm

    Yes, that was Secrets of Surrender! Wasn’t it nice to see a guy who worked for a living? 😉 I thought Kyle was absolutely lovely. And Lisa, honestly, I believe some things will speak to your heart and some things don’t. As I said, there’s a couple of universally lauded authors who just don’t grab me. I quite enjoy their books, they’re certainly well written, I can kinda see what gets people excited about them – but somehow they just don’t excite me. We all have our different quirks! And that’s a GOOD thing. Moving away from books, I’ve spent a fortune going to Woody Allen movies. Never liked them, even in his heyday of the 70s and 80s. But ALL my friends said he was a genius. All my friends said with every single WA movie that ever came out that it wasn’t “like a WA movie and I’d love it.” I never did. Just something in the tone or the style of storytelling didn’t work for me. Still doesn’t except that around the stage of Bullets over Broadway I decided I’d spent enough money seeing WA films that supposedly weren’t like WA films and yet they always were.


  20. Anna Campbell
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 4:51 pm

    Pam, I too was worried that after all the buildup of Christian, it might be a letdown. But I didn’t find it that way at all. I’m glad you agree with me! I must say the Rothwell series are my faves of her more modern books too although I did like the Romantic and all the others based around the fencing club. We’re being very mysterious about the next one, aren’t we? We’re almost as fascinating and enigmatic as Christian! LOL. I saw on Amazon when I found the book trailer that TSOLE was listed as the last Rothwell story so maybe it is. But I’ve been caught with her before when I think she’s finished a series and someone pops up. Do you remember Ian from the medievals who was a toyboy lover of a minor character? He ended up getting a marvelous story in Lord of a Thousand Nights yet it wasn’t REALLY connected with the original series.


  21. Keira Soleore
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 5:09 pm

    I had to come here to rave. I’m not done yet. But WOW! Easterbrooke is compelling as all heck. Even without his ability, having him in a scene makes it vibrate with life. And it’s so great to see that Leona is a formidable partner/foe in this this, because otherwise he could never respect her.


  22. Anna Campbell
    on Feb 13th, 2009
    @ 7:20 pm

    I agree, Keira. I sometimes find with these incredibly charismatic heroes, that it’s difficult for the writer to produce a heroine to match him and put him in his place (let’s face it, they all need putting in their place somewhere along the line). Leona did that in spades. So glad you’re enjoying it! And it’s pretty sexy too, isn’t it? I really enjoyed the bits and pieces about the East India Company and China and Macao. Loved the Chinese butler!


  23. pambook
    on Feb 14th, 2009
    @ 7:33 pm

    The Romantic was my favorite of that series, Anna, and she never had planned on Julian’s story but got so much mail asking about him, she finally decided to write it, and I was glad she did. Ian, if I recall did appear briefly in at least one previous book and I had wondered about him, and did anticipate seeing his. I’m on her group, and haven’t seen her hint at any further Rothwells, but you never know.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

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