Today, I’m reviewing Sweet the Sin, by Claire Kent, as part of the Tasty Book Tour Virtual Tour. I was given a free copy of the book by NetGalley, in exchange for this honest review. I’m also welcoming Claire Kent to the blog, as she shares with us her top five favorite revenge stories. There’s also a giveaway, and the prizes are:
One Loveswept Mug
One Flirt Mug
Ebook copies of:
- CLAIMED by Stacey Kennedy
- MY OBSESSION by Cassie Ryan
- DEEP AUTUMN HEAT by Elisabeth Barrett
- TAKE THE FALL by Marquita Valentine
- YOUR TO KEEP by Serena Bell
- SWEET THE SIN by Claire Kent
In the first novel in USA Today bestselling author Claire Kent’s deeply sensual story of love, lust, and deception, a woman searching for the truth discovers that she’s sleeping with the enemy.
Portrait artist Kelly Watson keeps her relationships simple and steamy, with no strings attached. She’s had a hard time trusting other people since she was a child, when her father was murdered for trying to blow the whistle on corporate corruption. Nearly twenty years later, Kelly finds herself in the arms of a seductive stranger—the very same man who may have ordered her father’s death. And even as she plays him, using hot sex as a means to revenge, Kelly is tormented by one question: Is she committing the ultimate betrayal?
Caleb Marshall has spent decades forging a high-powered career, rejecting intimacy for the convenience of fast women and cheap thrills. But Kelly intrigues him, pushing commitment buttons he didn’t know he had. Still, something is wrong. Despite their physical and emotional chemistry, Caleb feels the fear inside of her. Now the only way to keep her safe is coming clean, before secrets and lies destroy their connection—no matter how deep, intense, and addictive it may be.
Getting out of the car, she glanced down at herself to make sure she looked presentable. She had on one of her work outfits, consisting of a long, flowing, casual skirt, a tank top, and a thin tunic sweater. She’d set up her business when she was twenty-one, so she’d been doing this for seven years. In that time, she’d learned that clients expected a certain look from pet artists, and the slightly bohemian style—as long as it wasn’t too over-the-top—satisfied their expectations nicely.
Pet portraits weren’t exactly a booming business, so she did anything she could to give herself an advantage. She’d done all right for herself, considering. The first few years had been slow, but she’d used her adoptive parents’ wealthy contacts in the area and had slowly built up a business. She’d made a living out of it for the last four years, but if her adoptive parents hadn’t left her a sizable inheritance, she never would have been able to afford her lifestyle.
She swung her leather satchel over her shoulder and headed toward the entrance of the park. She was supposed to meet her client at eleven, so she was exactly on time.
There was no sign of a man and a German shepherd hanging around the entrance, which was where she assumed they would meet up, so she waited for a few minutes, watching all the approaching cars.
It was the weekend and a warm, sunny day in April, so the park was crowded. She’d never been to this park before, since she lived on the opposite end of town. There was a wide stretch of grassy lawns and several different trails that led into a wooded area.
Her breath hitched at the sight of the woods. If this client wanted her to walk those trails with him, she would have to tell him no. She’d make up something about how she needed open areas like the lawns to get a good picture of the dog.
She hadn’t gone beyond the edges of any woods since her father had been murdered eighteen years ago.
When she felt a flash of overwhelming emotion at the memory, she pushed the thought away with a practiced mental strategy, breathing out, clearing her mind, and looking at the family of four approaching with their golden retriever.
The dog had a good build, so she studied it, mentally sketching out a portrait of it in her mind.
After a few minutes, the threat of the memory had cleared.
At fifteen after eleven, she started to wonder if her client was waiting elsewhere in the park, since there was still no sign of him at the entrance. She walked down the main path and searched the wide lawns for a man with a German shepherd.
She had to walk over the slight hill toward the trees before she saw him, throwing a Frisbee to the dog.
She sighed, thinking it would have been polite had the man waited near the entrance for her like a normal person, but the wealthy types she catered to often weren’t thinking about what was convenient for her. She swallowed her faint annoyance and walked over to him.
The dog was beautiful. Well-bred and healthy, with thick fur, good lines, and a powerful run. He would make a beautiful portrait, even if his owner was rather inconsiderate.
Kelly pulled out her camera and snapped a few pictures as she approached. She usually painted from photographs, since that was easier for everyone—aside from the occasional client who mistakenly thought the portrait was “purer” when painted from real life. She always got to know the animals before she painted them so she could invest the paintings with personality, as well as get the visuals right.
The man saw her approaching and taking pictures of the dog, so he stopped throwing the Frisbee and waited until she reached him.
“Good morning,” she said with her professional smile. “He’s beautiful. His name is Chester?”
The man frowned. She guessed him to be in his forties. He was very attractive, with a strong, lean body, dark hair, and the stance of a man who was used to being in authority. He didn’t look at all the way he’d sounded on the phone.
“No,” he said, his voice deep and cultured. “It’s not.”
Kelly gave a little start as she realized she might have made a mistake. “He’s not Chester? You’re not Mr. Verner?”
“I’m not.” He tossed the Frisbee again, causing the dog to run exuberantly over to catch it.
“Oh. Sorry.” She gave him a sheepish smile. “I’m supposed to meet someone with a German shepherd, and you’re the only one here who matches that description.”
He smiled then, evidently assured she wasn’t some crazed stranger who was stalking his dog with a camera. “If it’s some sort of online dating hookup, you should get a better description of him, rather than just going for the dog.”
There was amusement in his tone and a kind of teasing flirtation in his expression, making him even more attractive than before. She liked the little lines at the corners of his mouth and eyes, and she liked the warm chocolate brown of his eyes.
His body was nothing to sneer at either—his muscle development graceful and strong, rather than bulky.
As she’d been studying him, he’d been doing the same with her, his gaze crawling over her from her painted toenails in her sandals to her dark gold hair in a low ponytail. It was pretty obvious that he liked the looks of her, since his gaze heated up as he drawled, “He sure won’t be disappointed in you, though.”
“It’s not an online dating thing,” she said, feeling a familiar prickle of excitement and interest running down her spine. Who was this guy, anyway? “It’s a client I’m meeting.”
“I see.” He gave her a leisurely smile, his eyes lingering at the slight cleavage exposed at the neckline of her tank top. “Well, he still won’t be disappointed.” When his dog ran up to him, offering the Frisbee excitedly, the man grabbed it and tossed it again.
“You move pretty fast, don’t you?” She was used to men coming on to her, but usually in bars or clubs, where they were clearly both there for that purpose. It wasn’t all that common for a man to come on strong like this in normal daily interaction.
It was strangely exciting, though. Her heart was starting to beat faster as she waited for his response.
He laughed softly, his eyes still lingering on her face and body in a way that felt deeply entitled. “You’re the one who approached me with a ridiculous pretense of looking for a client.”
“Hey! That wasn’t a pretense. It was an honest mistake.” She pulled out her business card and offered it to him. “See.”
Claire’s Top 5 Revenge Stories
Top Five Revenge Stories
- Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. Hamlet is one of my favorite pieces of literature ever written, so it’s definitely my favorite revenge story. Hamlet goes into a downward spiral of deception, guilt, and anger when he finds out his father was murdered, and no one is better than Shakespeare in portraying what happens to human nature in such situations. The play actually becomes a recurring motif in Darker the Release, the second part of Kelly and Caleb’s story, and there are a lot of fun ways I play around with the similarities between Kelly’s pursuit of revenge in Sweet the Sin and Hamlet’s pursuit in Shakespeare’s play.
- Princess Bride. I’m thinking about the movie here, although the book is wonderful too. But no one can match Mandy Patinkin as Inigo Montoya, forever searching for the six-fingered man who killed his father. I usually prefer revenge stories that are more complex, genuinely exploring what happens when the human heart hardens toward revenge, but there is something so satisfying about the sword fight at the end of the movie, when Inigo finally confronts his father’s killer. Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die. (It’s the fact that he starts with “hello” that makes the line so perfect!)
- The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas. This is the classic revenge novel, and it has to be included on any list. Dantès long-ranging and ruthless revenge plot against those who wrongfully imprisoned him is still powerful and compelling today. I really like how Dumas shows how revenge—however grounded in the desire for justice—always ends up leading to more injustice, as the innocent suffer with the guilty. Those gray areas in revenge definitely show up in Kelly’s revenge in Sweet the Sin.
- Tigana, Guy Gavriel Kay. This novel isn’t really a revenge story, but it has one plot thread that’s one of my favorite in contemporary fiction. Dianora seeks a desperate sort of vengeance against Brandin for the total destruction of her country, her home, and her family—after he himself decimates Tigana (her homeland) out of vengeance for the death of his son. I love and feel for both Dianora and Brandin in the novel, no matter how weak or ruthless or heartless they are. Their story is beautiful and twisted and powerful, and it moves me no matter how many times I read the novel.
- Ocean’s Eleven. I love this movie about a paroled criminal (George Clooney) seeking revenge against the man who stole his wife. His elaborate plot to rob three casinos and the interactions between him and the rest of his crew are incredibly fun and clever. As a revenge story, it’s fairly light, and the morality is dubious, but it works itself out in a very smart and satisfying way. It’s a great alternate to the deep, dark complexity that we usually see in good revenge stories.
What are your favorite revenge stories?
On the surface, Sweet the Sin is a book about justice – or revenge, depending on your viewpoint. It’s about making peace with the past, while not letting someone get away with murder, literally. Kelly’s entire adult life has been about protecting herself from the kind of pain she felt when her father died, the kind of pain she’s come to believe is inevitable if she allows herself to have feelings for anyone else, ever. The book is also about her dealing with those feelings that she’s shoved away, bottled up, and ignored for so long.
What I found unique about the story was Kelly’s initial attitude toward sex. This isn’t the first book to have a female character who has a cavalier attitude toward sex and is content to have casual sex with no strings, no commitments, and no second chances. But it was the first book that I read where I honestly believe the character truly felt that way. Most of the other books I’ve read with a similar character, I find that it’s a superficial feeling for that character – once the feelings begin to develop, it usually becomes clear that the character really had a deep down desire for more. The way Kelly was written, it seemed very sincere that she was perfectly content with nothing more than pure physical sex with no emotional involvement at all.
Sweet the Sin is the first book in the saga, and it does end on something of a cliffhanger, requiring you to continue reading the series in order to get all the answers. The next book in the series is Darker the Release, which has an expected publication date in October 2015, according to Goodreads at the time this review was published.
Find Sweet the Sin and the entire Revenge Saga on Goodreads.
Claire Kent has been writing romance novels since she was twelve years old. She has a PhD in British literature and, when she’s not writing, teaches English at the university level. She also writes contemporary romance under the pen name Noelle Adams.
Enter the giveaway here!
You can follow the rest of the tour here, to read more reviews, guests posts and interviews with Claire Kent.