The Sins of Lord Easterbrook by Madeline Hunter
The Sins of Lord Easterbrook is the story of Christian, Marquess of Easterbrook, and Leona Montgomery who has spent most of her life in China helping first her father, and now her brother, run the family trading business there. The two met seven years before our story opens, and we're giving an adequate amount of flashback material without it being overly heavy, when Easterbrook had misled Leona as to his identity and then disappeared on the night her father's trading ship was burned. He took with him her father's diary which detailed his ideas on the vast conspiracy among English traders in China who smuggled opium. Leona comes to London to find backing for her brother's failing trading business and discover who exactly the opium smugglers, whom she holds responsible for her father's death, are.
Leona is accompanied by her maid, Isabella, who is the bastard daughter of an Englishman official and his Chinese concubine, and Tong Wei a meditation zen artist with amazing martial arts skills who is filled with Eastern wisdom. She is surprised to discover the her former love Edmund is in fact Lord Easterbrook and of course the obstacles in between are insurmountable. She needs to go back to China to help out her brother while he is hiding a dark secret which is revealed early on and is laughably awful. He can "feel" or "read" people's emotions beyond what the normal human can. This of course is his curse, or the "sin" of the title. (I am not kidding) Of course the opium trade is a big deal so the higher-ups in London society do not want her poking her nose around in it. Chaos ensues, attempts on her life are made, and the day is eventually saved (to an extent).
Confused? So was I. No- so AM I. I do not know how they figured out which person to target, I do not know how this person figured out they were going to target them. I do not really know Easterbrook's connection to the opium trade. I do not really know a lot of the elements involved in the opium plot and by the end I was too bored with it to really care. At least this plot was an integral part of the story, not what I call a side-plot to flesh out the book for it's required 370 pages, but perhaps it should not have been quite so much of the story. Leona and Easterbrook were rarely ever together in a context outside talking about what was going on in China and with opium to the point where I was thinking they'd make better partners (journalists, police, business) then spouses. The best part about the opium trade plot was the two page author's note in the back of the book that gave a brief, but interesting and well-informed, summary of the opium trade/ smuggling between China and England.
Easterbrook's weird talent for emotion reading was crazily overblown. I know that it was a problem for him knowing how his parents really felt about each other, but for this to be the cause of seriously- EVERYTHING that's wrong with his life? His (former) opium addiction? His fear of procreating (i.e. getting married) for fear of passing on this debilitating disease to his offspring? Get over yourself! And all the bizarre meditation, Eastern wisdom stuff, got annoying REALLY quickly. What did this book have going for it? I would have said incredibly hot sex, because it did, and it certainly had a lot of it, but then I realized two things. One was that he was always in control- literally. Every scene contained the words vulnerable and/or submissive and I just found it odd. The second was that both of them openly acknowledged that sex was used to make them forget all the problems in their relationship.
I'm giving it two hearts because it was chock full of information but all the nonsense just got in the way instead of making the book stronger.