Review – The Greatest of Sins by Christine Merrill

Cover image, The Greatest of Sins by Christine Merrill

The blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:

Giving in to temptation would be the ruin of them all!  Having spent years believing a lie about his birth, Dr. Samuel Hastings has been condemned to a personal hell of his desire’s making—his sinful thoughts of the one woman he can never touch would damn his soul for eternity.

Lady Evelyn Thorne is engaged to the very suitable Duke of St. Aldric when a shocking truth is revealed—and now Sam will play every bit of the devil to seduce the woman he thought would always be denied him!

Ah, forbidden love… it’s such a romantic theme.  This book actually explores both forbidden and unrequited love themes – Sam feels that his love for Evie is forbidden; Evie feels that her love for Sam is unrequited – against an interesting backdrop of various social themes from the era (illegitimacy, class issues, women’s roles, the developing medical practice, etc.).  As many of you know, I have a soft spot for romance novels that explore such themes, so I enjoyed this book.

Sam spends most of the book’s first half smoldering in misinformed self-denial while Evie gets to cast aside the typical gender roles of the romance genre (and that era) and chase after what she wants.  And what she wants is Sam.  Actually, the first half of the book is a lot like this:

Guess which one of these two cuties is Evie and which is Sam.  As much as Sam tugged on my heart strings, it was Evie whom I really loved in this book, even when her waffling got annoying (she loves Sam, but she’s going to marry the duke, because… well, just because.).  Evie is fearless, morbid, smart, funny, manipulative (but in a fun way), confident, and self-aware.  She knows her own value, even in a society that marginalizes and devalues her sex.

I loved that Evie has an interest in medicine — which, though it springs from her love of Sam and inclination to be of use to him as his wife, is wholly her own interest — particularly women’s medicine, and practices midwifery and country medicine at her home.  In one memorable conversation with Sam, she isn’t afraid to argue her better knowledge of reproductive medicine, for want of a better term, to a licensed physician who, though male and officially trained, has less experience with women patients.  That scene was lovely, both because Evie embraces her own competence and because Sam treats her with respect.

I mentioned earlier that Evie’s waffling annoyed me… once Sam’s impediment to their relationship is removed, the only impediment is Evie.  She loves Sam, wants to marry him, realizes she’ll be unhappy and a bit stifled with the duke, yet she refuses to break her betrothal to the duke because she doesn’t want to be a promise breaker and because Sam missed the boat, so to speak, and that’s just his loss, isn’t it?  Those types of plot devices always annoy me — conflict by way of stubbornness and poor communication — and this one was certainly no exception.  Ultimately, I think this book is well worth the read, but I was pretty dang annoyed for about sixty pages….

The Greatest of Sins was released on April 23, 2013 as a mass market and e-book by Harlequin Historical.  If you’re interested in finding out more about the book, please click on the cover image above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads.  For more information about Christine Merrill, please visit her website.

*FTC Disclosure – I received and e-galley of this book from Harlequin Historical via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*