Today it is my pleasure to spotlight the release of THE ART OF SINNING by Sabrina Jeffries
The first novel in the Sinful Suitors series by New York Times bestselling author Sabrina Jeffries!
At St. George’s Club, guardians conspire to keep their unattached sisters and wards out of the clutches of sinful suitors. Which works fine…except when the sinful suitors are members!
American artist Jeremy Keane refuses to return home and take over his father’s business. He’d much rather sample bevvies of beauties abroad, in search of a model for the provocative masterpiece he’s driven to paint. When he meets Lady Yvette Barlow at a London wedding, he realizes she’s perfect for his work—and determines to capture the young heiress’s defiant spirit and breathtaking sensuality on canvas.
No stranger to scandal, Yvette agrees to be Keane’s subject—in exchange for his help gaining entry to the city’s brothels he knows intimately, so she can track a missing woman and solve a family mystery. But when their practical partnership leads to lessons in the art of sinning, can they find a bold and lasting love?
Here’s an exclusive excerpt from The Art of Sinning:
Yvette sat across from Edwin in the drawing room, trying not to look at Mr. Keane. It was impossible. Tonight he wore a brilliant blue tailcoat that made his eyes shine so luminously, she could stare at him for hours.
Not that he gave her the chance. As she and Edwin played chess, he sat beside the fireplace and sketched.
She couldn’t believe she’d agreed to meet with him alone at night. Was she out of her wits?
No. She was a grown woman in full control of her senses. She was older now, and far wiser. Surely she could handle the likes of Mr. Keane.
If you’re naïve enough to think that threatening to call a servant would save you from seduction, then you don’t know any man’s tricks.
Still, he did want his painting. He would behave.
Look at him now, so intent on drawing her that he couldn’t even make polite conversation. It was somewhat lowering that he saw her only as some object to sketch. If this was how he always worked, though, she would have nothing to worry about.
“Are you sure you don’t want to take my place here?” She was determined to get some reaction from the man. “I’m no match for Edwin at chess.”
He didn’t answer. Edwin exchanged a glance with her.
“Mr. Keane?” she said sharply. “Would you like to play the next game with my brother?”
“Hmm?” The same vague expression he’d worn this afternoon crossed his face before it cleared. “Oh, sorry, no.” He tore off a sheet, balled it up, and made as if to throw it into the fire.
“Don’t!” She leapt up to take the paper from him. “Let me see.”
“It’s horrible,” he said, though he let her have it.
She smoothed out the sketch, then gasped. With a minimal number of strokes he’d perfectly rendered her face in profile. “It’s not horrible in the least. You made me pretty.”
“You are pretty,” Edwin interjected.
Mr. Keane ignored him. “I made you like every other chit in England.” With a frown, he went to work again on his sketch pad. “You’re better than that.”
She didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted. “I would settle for pretty,” she told him as she reverently slid the crumpled sketch into her nearby writing desk.
“Never settle for less than you deserve,” he said. “It’s always a bad idea.”
The knife’s edge of pain in his voice caught her attention as she came back to where he sat slashing and shading with the pencil. “You sound as if you speak from experience.”
Mr. Keane glanced up and blinked. Then his gaze shuttered before he pointed to her chair. “Go back there and stop moving about. I want to do more sketches. I have to figure out exactly how to pose you tomorrow, and for that I need studies.”
She thrust out her chin. “Don’t I get a say in the pose for my own portrait?”
“I should be the one with a say.” Edwin hunched over the chessboard. “I’m the one paying for it.”
This time they both ignored him. Mr. Keane set- tled back in his chair, his eyes roving her as if memo- rizing curves and lines. “Would you like a say? You didn’t seem that enthusiastic about the portrait yes- terday.”
That was before she’d realized he could make her look pretty but still herself. “I’m not averse to it. And yes, I prefer to choose the pose.”
He smiled faintly. “You don’t choose the pose, my lady. It chooses you.”
“Must you always speak in enigmas?”
“At least I don’t speak in street cant.” Crossing his arms over his chest, he broadened his smile. “Why do you, anyway?”
“I don’t speak in it. I collect it for my dictionary.” “But why would a lady of the realm with any
number of more appropriate pastimes open to her choose to ‘collect’ street cant?”
“Think of it as a scholarly pursuit.”
He raked his gaze down her in a thorough assess- ment that made her cheeks burn and her stomach flip over. “You don’t strike me as the scholarly type,” he said huskily.
She glanced over to Edwin, then released a breath to see her brother still concentrating on deciding his next chess move. “You hardly know me well enough to determine that.”
“True. So why don’t you remedy that situation? Tell me why you collect vulgar slang instead of, say, butterflies.”
“Samuel got her into it, the scoundrel,” Edwin snapped.
Her heart faltered. She mustn’t let Mr. Keane guess that her proposed bawdy house visit was con- nected to Samuel. She wasn’t sure if she could trust the artist, and if he got even an inkling that Samuel was involved he might go to Edwin, who would quash everything. “But a long time ago, before Papa banished him from the family.”
Mr. Keane glanced from her to Edwin in confu- sion. “Then why are you still gathering cant for your dictionary?”
“Because it no longer has anything to do with Samuel.” Or his friend, with whom I was infatuated. Until I realized that his interest in me was purely mer- cenary. “Samuel was an aficionado of prizefighting and was always throwing terms around that I didn’t comprehend. Wanting to understand him better, I started asking questions and taking notes. After a while, it became a bit of a hobby.”
“An obsession, more like,” Edwin said.
“But a purely academic one?” Mr. Keane searched her face. “I assume you’ve never actually been in those parts of London where it’s spoken.”
“I don’t need to go into such parts to learn about it,” she said defensively. “I’ve read all the dictionar- ies and Pierce Egan’s books. Also, I work with several charities involving women of a lower station, and I hear their use of such slang.”
“Besides,” Edwin said, “it’s not as if I would ever allow her to wander into Spitalfields or Wapping, even with an escort. It’s not safe for her or her repu- tation.”
Mr. Keane shot her a glance full of meaning. “Edwin is always concerned about my safety,” she
said hastily, “even here at the estate. It’s one of the disadvantages of having a much older brother.”
Edwin settled back in his chair. “You could change me out for a husband. Then you could do as you please.”
She snorted. “Do such indulgent men actually exist in society?”
“You’ll never find out if you keep running them off,” her brother said sourly.
Jane had accused her of much the same thing, and Yvette was sick of it. “I can’t help it if all the men I meet are as stodgy as you.”
“You mean, because they’re shocked when you quiz them about vulgar terms?” Edwin glanced at Mr. Keane. “Every time she meets a sporting gentle- man, she asks him about any slang he might know. It’s one reason she can’t acquire any respectable suit- ors: They decide she’s either a bluestocking or rather lower than they thought.”
She sniffed. “Gentlemen make no allowances for a woman having unusual hobbies.”
“You could stop having them,” Edwin pointed out.
“You could stop tinkering with little mechanical people and start tinkering with actual living ones,” she snapped. “But I don’t criticize you.”
“I think you just did,” Mr. Keane said gamely. “Stay out of this!” She faced her brother. “Do you
really want me to give up all my interests just to gain a husband? When you’re not willing to give up yours to gain a wife?”
Mr. Keane laughed. “She’s got you there, Blake- borough. What’s sauce for the goose ought to be sauce for the gander.”
“Ought to be, I agree.” Edwin steepled his hands. “Sadly, in the rarefied atmosphere of our class, it is not. A man may be as eccentric as he pleases and still find a wife, especially if he has an estate and a title. But a woman, even an heiress, must be more careful if she doesn’t want a man marrying her for her money alone.”
His words fired her temper. “Yes, a woman must always be more careful. And more circumspect. And more bland.” She glared at her brother, hands on her hips. “She must always sit just so and act just so, and never indicate one iota of what she really thinks or feels, because—”
“Stop right there!”
Mr. Keane’s cry so startled her that she froze.
He leapt up to circle to the front of her. “Don’t move. That’s it. That’s the pose.” Dropping into the chair across from Edwin, he began sketching furi- ously. “Perfect. Absolutely perfect.”
“Because she’s being annoying as hell?” Edwin drawled.
“Because she’s fierce.” Mr. Keane’s gaze met hers. “Gloriously, intoxicatingly fierce.”
So was he, his eyes alight, his face wearing an artistic intensity as his pencil flew across the page.
Her pulse began to pound. “Oh, yes, paint me fierce. I like fierce.”
“Then stop smiling,” Mr. Keane chided. “Go back to how you looked before.”
As she tried to do so, Edwin let out an oath. “This isn’t the sort of image I had in mind for my sister.”
Mr. Keane didn’t even pause in his work. “I warned you there’s a reason I don’t do portraits. The sitters—or their families—never like how I portray them.”
“But it’s a fishwife’s pose,” Edwin complained, “with her hands on her hips like that. It’s not the least bit feminine.”
“It’s the most feminine pose in the world. How often do you see a man stand like that?” Mr. Keane said. “It conveys strength of purpose.”
“Yes, if the woman is an Amazon,” Edwin snapped. “I’m perfectly happy to be painted as an Ama- zon,” Yvette got out through clenched teeth as she tried to maintain her pose. Amazons didn’t let men
make fools of them.
Mr. Keane smiled darkly at her. “Not an Amazon, my lady. Juno herself. You’re a goddess of the first order. Amazons are soldiers in skirts, but goddesses can be both soft and fierce. That’s what makes them goddesses.”
Something shifted inside her chest. No man had ever called her a goddess. Certainly no man had ever captured the strange dichotomy of her character that so put off respectable gentlemen.
And though she tried to tell herself it was just Mr. Keane’s roguery at work, she couldn’t deny the heat in his eyes as he spoke. It sent an answering shiver of need down her spine.
Thank heaven Edwin couldn’t see how Mr. Keane was looking at her. Though unfortunately her brother could probably see her reaction to it.
She tried to figure out what he was thinking, but Edwin was a master at hiding his feelings. Much bet- ter at it than she. He merely glanced from her to Mr. Keane with an unreadable gaze.
“You see?” Mr. Keane showed Edwin the sketch. “What do you think?”
Edwin’s face softened slightly. “You’re right,” he said, a hint of awe in his voice. “She’s magnificent.”
“Much better than merely pretty,” Mr. Keane said as he returned to sketching. “You’re clearly a man of taste after all, Blakeborough.”
A knot formed in her stomach. She wasn’t quite ready to give up looking pretty. “Let me see.”
“In a moment.” Mr. Keane made a few more marks on his sketch pad, then rose to approach her. He paused just short of where she stood. “Can you look at this without changing your expression?” She lifted an eyebrow, and he chuckled. “Of course you can’t. I know that just from spending half a day with you.”
“Try me,” she muttered.
“It doesn’t matter. The light isn’t that good any-way, and I’ve got enough of a drawing to work with. So memorize your position, and tomorrow we’ll set you in the music room as we discussed. Then I’ll start blocking out the portrait. Assuming you still approve of your pose in the sketch. Do you?”
The fact that he remembered her demand to choose the pose warmed her. “It depends. Let me see how it looks.”
He turned the sketchbook toward her. It gave only the merest impression of her shape, with more detail about the face. But in a few strokes he’d man- aged to capture her fierce mood while somehow conveying the vulnerability beneath it.
And he hadn’t made her pretty. He’d made her beautiful.
“All right?” he murmured, a gentleness in his tone. “Yes.” She was still trying to take in how he’d done it when he lifted the edge of the paper to
reveal words written on the sheet beneath.
Will you meet me in the schoolroom at midnight to begin the other? If so, point to something on the sketch.
With her heart pounding, she touched her finger to the image of her dinner gown. “Shall I wear this tomorrow, too?” She hoped her voice didn’t shake as badly as her finger.
“Whatever you wish to wear is fine.”
The rasped words made her skin tingle. He stared at her with a look so pregnant with carnal possibili- ties that it sent her blood rushing feverishly through her veins. Take care. You went down this road before, and it only led to heartache. He’s a rogue. He’s a rogue. He’s a rogue.
A pity that her body was deaf to her warning. Her body yearned to find out exactly how much of a rogue he was. What he might say to her in private, if he might kiss her . . . how he might touch her.
She scowled. Her body had best learn to listen. Because she didn’t intend to make a fool of herself ever again.
And she certainly refused to end up used and dis- carded like one of Samuel’s women.
Excerpt. ©Sabrina Jeffries. Posted by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.
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Meet the Author:
Sabrina Jeffries is the NYT bestselling author of 36 novels and 9 works of short fiction (some written under the pseudonyms Deborah Martin and Deborah Nicholas). Whatever time not spent writing in a coffee-fueled haze of dreams and madness is spent traveling with her husband and adult autistic son or indulging in one of her passions–jigsaw puzzles, chocolate, and music. With over 7 million books in print in 18 different languages, the North Carolina author never regrets tossing aside 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.