TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains references to rape, sex between adolescents, and pedophilia. They are not the focus of the book, nor engaged in between the two main characters, but they are referenced as part of the character's pasts.
A Sinner Without a Saint was my first book by Bliss Bennet and unsurprisingly I’ve hopped right into a pre-existing series without so much as a glance at the previous books (it's the legacy I'll leave behind as a reviewer). I didn’t even realize that this was a series until I went to write this review, so that should tell you how little it mattered in the grand scheme of things.
Blurb: Idealistic Benedict Pennington once abandoned family and country to pursue his dreams of becoming a renowned painter. Now that he's returned home, he has a new, but equally idealistic ambition: to help found the country's first national art museum, one open not only to England’s wealthy few, but to rich and poor alike. After a long campaign, he’s finally persuaded a patron to donate his collection of Old Master paintings to the project. He’s certainly not going to anyone to steal them away by courting the donor’s granddaughter—especially not dissolute Lord Dulcie, once the object of Benedict’s own illicit adolescent desire.
Sinclair Milne, Viscount Dulcie, evades every attempt of his family to marry him off, preferring to collect innovative art and dally with handsome men than to burden himself with a wife. But when rivals imply Dulcie is refusing to pursue wealthy Miss Adler and her dowry of paintings because of lingering feelings for Benedict Pennington, Dulcie vows to prove them wrong by wooing her away from Benedict—inadvertently disrupting Benedict’s museum plans in the process.
When Benedict is dragooned into painting his portrait, Dulcie finds himself once again inexplicably drawn to the sensitive, intense artist. Can the sinful viscount entice the wary painter into a casual liaison, one that will put neither their reputations, nor their feelings, at risk? Or will the not-so-saintly artist demand something far more vulnerable—his heart?
Review: I love M/M Romances and I love them even more when set in the historical time periods. Bliss Bennet has a unique way of telling her stories that is unlike any other historical romances I’ve read. I can’t really pinpoint exactly what it is that makes it so different. Perhaps it’s the flow of the dialogue, or just the right amount of description, or the depth in which she explores her topic of choice (in this case the world of art in 1800s England).
I didn’t know a lick about art, modern or historical, before reading A Sinner Without a Saint. I’m not certain how much I learned from the book but I definitely feel smarter, so that’s a plus. All the characters are passionate about art in ways that I cannot even begin to fathom, but it was a refreshing change of pace from other historical romances where the upper class is mostly interested in parties and gambling. I gained new insight into the lives of the wealthy in London during the 1800s through this novel.
I loved the back and forth banter and heat between Benedict and Dulcie. Both men were comfortable in their sexuality, which was nice, because it took that element of tension away from the story and allowed other aspects of the plot and relationships to shine through. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a really nasty love-hate relationship and that’s what you get here.
Due to a misunderstanding Benedict is understandably wary of the charming Dulcie. And you want to dislike the annoyingly witty, always one step ahead Viscount, but it’s so freaking hard. It was incredibly enjoyable to watch the two men fight their attraction for one another, but even more thrilling to watch them given in to that attraction and stop fighting their desires.
In my experience authors tend to write either male/female romances or LGBTQ+ romances, but Bliss Bennet seems to play both fields here, so to speak. The other books in this series are male/female romances and I’ve not yet had the pleasure of reading them, but as a lover of historical romances I’m sure I’ll love them.
Those who love their historical romances in depth and with a personality all their own should pick up a Bliss Bennet novel and dive in. You can check out more reviews and scoop up a your e-book here.