None of the Sharpe siblings are happy about their grandmothers ultimatum that they must marry within a year or she will cut them out of her will, but with one down and 4 more to go she is not relenting. Jarrett Sharpe is a successful gambler and is happy with his carefree existence with no plans to marry. When his grandmother becomes ill he takes over running of the family brewery, Plumtree Brewery, for a year in exchange for getting out of marriage clause. Annabel Lake's family also owns a brewery and things have been very difficult ever since the Russians raised the tariff on imported beer and her brother started drinking heavily. She wants to partner with the Plumtree Brewery to sell October Ale in India in collusion with the East India Company who has a spot to fill in their need for alcoholic beverages. She hopes to work with another woman, but is instead confronted with Jarrett.
Jarrett is at first reluctant to help her so they make a wager with her a night in his bed against him helping her. She wins so he decides that he will at least check out the Lake Ale operations and see how things are there- and it's an added benefit if he gets to spend time with delectable Annabel. He tries to keep his passions under control as he does not want to ruin her but when he finds out that her brother is a drunkard she risks everything again and admits that she is not a virgin. He is shocked and still angry with her for lying to him and manipulating him but he quickly realizes that one night with her will not be enough. But Annabel has one more secret that keeps her from completely separating herself rom her family in Burton and moving on with her life with Jarrett. They both try to make the best of things on their own but neither can deny that they need the other in their life to be happy.
This is the second in the Hellions of Halstead Hall series by Jeffries and featured the second eldest of the Sharpe siblings. I did not enjoy this book anywhere near as much as the first book but I still thought it was acceptable if not particularly exciting. I liked that Annabel wasn't a virgin and was comfortable really with her sexuality and that Jarrett, while surprised, was completely accepting of what she had gone through and her secrets. Jarrett was good as the wastrel who was turning his life around and I enjoyed that Annabel was a part of that but not the complete impetuous for him becoming a better person. The interactions between them were fun and they had real conversations going even if the card game that brought them together was a tad on the ridiculous side. Their was a decent amount of sex, nothing particularly hot but pretty decent really.
The brewery angle to the story was new and interesting enough and I liked that there was something that Annabel and Jarrett had in common- something that could really bond them. It also added a nice bit of tension to the story as to whether he would help her and whether it would turn out okay for both of them (even though it being a romance novel we all knew that of course he'd help and yes it would end up okay for both of them). Because this book is a part of a series there were quite a few appearances by the other Sharpe siblings who will be featured in upcoming novels and I realized that I actually enjoy these little sneak peeks into the future even while I was annoyed by the appearance of Oliver and Maria because I already knew that they were happy together.
Rating: Although the book was good I had immense trouble getting into it and finishing it and I hope for better in the rest of the series.