Review: The Seduction of Sarah Marks by Kathleen Bittner Roth

seduction of sarah marksReviewed by Jen & Janell

Jen: I can’t remember the last time I had to struggle so much to make it to the end of a book.  I was intrigued by the blurb about a woman who wakes up next to a stranger without her memory.  As she tries to remember her life, she travels home with the handsome lord, who has his own stake in her recovery.  In theory, it sounds interesting. In execution, for me, it just didn’t work.

Janell: Sarah Marks wakes up in a strange bed, next to a strange man, with no memory. Historical amnesia plot? I’m all in.

Sarah knows her name, but that’s it. Luckily the strange man, Lord Eastleigh, has experienced the very same thing! After the war, which gives so many Regency heroes PTSD, he suffered amnesia. His trusty doctor back home insisted that he rediscover his memories on his own, rather than let other people tell him his own history. The reasoning was something like, “If someone else unlocks your memories too soon, your head will explode.”

So Eastleigh won’t tell Sarah what, if anything, he knows about her. They were traveling together in a carriage when they were robbed, and so she has no belongings and no friends. Eastleigh takes her back to his estate to meet with his doctor while they try to discover her identity.

Jen: Everything felt so contrived, from Sarah’s memory loss, to Eastleigh’s instant and somewhat blasé recognition of her disorder.

Then, once we learn he, too, had suffered from amnesia, I found my ability to suspend disbelief completely destroyed.  His reaction was essentially, “Oh, you’ve got amnesia. I had that too. Come stay at my house until you get better.”  It only gets worse the more we get to know Sarah, who was somewhere on the scale between unlikeable and uninteresting.  She’s standoffish and rude to Eastleigh, who is clearly trying to help her.  But they both are overwhelmingly attracted to each other… something we are told many times… yet I never actually felt once.

Janell: I was not a fan of Eastleigh in the beginning. He’s with a strange, sick woman, and he keeps thinking about his uncomfortably tight crotch. The doctor tells him to keep his hands to himself lest he trigger something and cause Sarah’s brain to explode, and yet he follows her too closely and tells her that she wants to kiss him. His actions felt aggressive and selfish and predatory to me.

Jen: I think one of my biggest problems is that I never really felt anything from either character. I can’t explain the mechanics of how some authors can make me feel what their characters feel and believe in their emotions. I can only say that this author did not do it. I have no idea how Eastleigh could develop any feelings for Sarah. She had all the personality of a house plant. Yet, want her he does. He pushes her and coaxes her into his bed, only to promptly toss her out in a move completely out of character. It was stupid and again felt contrived.

Janell: Around the 40% mark, All is Revealed. And boy did that shake things up! I won’t give anything away, but the plot took a nice turn and suddenly I was more open to the Eastleigh/Sarah relationship and a tad more understanding of his actions.

Jen: The big reveal did not feel like a reveal to me at all.  I saw it coming a mile away.

Janell: At that point, though, the extended cast of characters stepped in. Eastleigh’s family is very charming and delightful, especially his grandmother who fancies herself the former Queen of England. He also has a sister who dresses like a man and rides horses indoors, a flirtatious brother with good intentions, and a sexy cousin who created and installed sculptures of horses’ asses on his property.

These other characters interfered with good intent, I just have a quibble against third-party characters throwing down a lot of advice and backstory to draw the main characters back together. I’m sure the introduction to the cast is good sequel bait.

Eastleigh and Sarah ran hot and cold for the back part of the novel, mostly because Eastleigh suffers from migraines (although this is old England and they’re called megrims) which cause him to be really cranky and out of commission for days. They argue, then reconcile, then argue again. Then an external plot device forces them back together, and I’m not a fan of those, either.

Jen: When Sarah’s backstory was shown, it was so heavy handed, I felt like I was being hit in the head with a brick. Her life was bad. B-A-D.  But it was trite.  And I had a hard time finding much sympathy, because I just didn’t care about Sarah.  Also, I didn’t get all the animosity from Eastleigh’s sister Will. It felt plucked out of thin air.  And the family feud he had with his cousin felt inconsequential.

By the time the book was over, I didn’t like Sarah or Eastleigh.  Or Will or Sarah’s parents.  The doctor was stupid.  The only character I liked at all was Eastleigh’s crazy grandmother. And she just wasn’t enough to sustain the story.   This was just all over the place and it did nothing for me.  In fact, I actively disliked it.

Janell: The timeline of this novel is short, maybe two weeks? And during several of those days either Eastleigh or Sarah is passed out on laudanum. So, while I bought into their devotion to each other during the final crisis (which was surprisingly dramatic), I didn’t feel that they had established much of a relationship beforehand. With all the amnesia and anger and headache powders, they really only had about a day of happy togetherness before they split up again. Eastleigh mainly seemed to desire Sarah for her blue eyes and trim ankles, while Sarah admired his literal battle scars and his vivacious family. I didn’t get enough alone time with their relationship to see them really fall for each other.

This book is the first in a series, and depending on the next plot device, I’m willing to give this author another try.

Janell’s Rating: B-
Jen’s Rating: D+

*ARC Provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon

The Seduction of Sarah Marks
by Kathleen Bittner Roth
Release Date: June 9, 2014
Publisher: Entangled

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