A Sinner without a Saint

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

Something keep ringing wrong about this book, but I couldn't figure it out until I realized it was the fourth in a series about brothers -- three of them straight, one gay. The gay male characters just didn't act in a believable fashion -- much more like straight women would behave, with a lot of coyness and a long time before getting to the sex. Not that sex is the most important thing in a book -- but men simply don't have the same emotional responses as women. There was also way too much time spent on questions about art when romance took a back seat.
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The first thing I always want to know when I'm reading a series out of order is will I be totally lost.  Rest assured, this fourth story in The Penningtons series stands alone and causes no confusion.  I love historical romance and enjoy a M/M one when written well.  I'm not much interested in art and art history, but the story description sounded interesting nonetheless and I wanted  to read it.

The book started out a bit slow for me.  The art references didn't capture my attention.  As for the main characters, Clair seemed like an uncaring fribble and Benedict just came across as moody.  But as the book moved along, I began to like the two of them.  They were so much deeper than they appeared at first.  By the end of the story, I absolutely loved them both!  It was a truly lovely (and steamy) romance full of longing.

As for the art aspect of the story, it still didn't capture my attention....until I got to the part about The Raft of the Medusa and Clair's feelings about the painting.  I looked it up and was fascinated by both the artwork and the story behind it.  The artist himself was also quite interesting.  You can't look at that painting and not feel some deep emotion.  I saw a photo online of it hanging in the Louvre.  I've been there!   It was all so overwhelming that it's hard to remember all the artwork I saw there, plus I know there was so much there that I didn't get the opportunity to view.  I need to look at the pictures I took there to see if I took one of that painting.

I am so glad I stuck with the story!  It truly ended up fascinating me.  I want to go back and read the rest of the series.  Kudos to Bliss Bennet for pulling me into the art world.

I received an ARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley.  All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.
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This was my first book by this author. This book was hard to get into for me because I had not read the previous in the series. There were great moments and a great plot. The estrangement between the two characters made for a great hope that they would find happiness together in the end.  This book included a lot of information about art and will appeal to those interested in the art world.
I received this book from Net Galley for an honest review.
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This is the first book I have read by this author and I had not read the other books in the series. Benedict Pennington abandoned everything to pursue his dream and had become a renowned painter.  As he finally returns home, he has high ambitions to open the first National Museum.  I found this so interesting because it entails so much history and information about art that I did not know.  Benedict finds a patron who might donate some old masterpieces and gets caught in being pushed to woo the gentleman's granddaughter!
He runs into old schoolmate Viscount Dulcie who also wants the paintings, and the two end up in a competition to marry the wealthy granddaughter to obtain the art!  But as the two are thrown together, who will come out the victor? Will they win each other?
The author brought the art world alive and the two characters were very distinctive in their different  personalities. An enjoyable read and can be read as a standalone.
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I received a copy of this book via NetGalley and the author for an honest review.
 I felt sure I had read some of this series and after checking my kindle and other e-books I was very surprised that yes I have two of the four in this series. I will be getting the ones I have missed as soon a possible. This book was a wonderful book that had all the right themes that I love. Art, and romance and secrets. The two Heros are a delight and feel that more books like this should be written for all to enjoy. Benedict Pennington is a man who loves his art and painting is his passion. Sinclair Milne, Viscount Dulcie, is a gentleman who is hiding his secrets and is being forced into regarding a marriage for an art collection. Will both heroes think of their reputations or take a chance on a forever relationship together? I recommend this book and author.
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A Sinner Without a Saint is the fourth book in Bliss Bennet’s The Penningtons series of Regency-era historical romance novels. I was not familiar with Bennet before this, but as soon as I saw that this entry featured a m/m pairing, I was intrigued. 

Benedict Pennington might be the younger son of a peer, but he is an artist who harbors strong opinions about art. He believes that art museums should be accessible to everyone, and not even the wealthy people who can afford private collections.    

Viscount Dulcie is the heir to his father’s earldom, and he has spent most of his life courting scandal. Dulcie and Benedict were at school today, and the latter had a bit of a crush on the former. They have not encountered each other since then, but when they are forced into close proximity, they realize that their feelings have not dissipated over the years.  

I liked this book quite a bit. It’s an interesting combination of estrangement/reunion as well as a slow burn. It’s clear that Benedict and Dulcie share a mutual attraction, but Benedict has stated that he avoids meaningless encounters; there has to be an emotional attachment to accompany any physical relationship. This is in direct contrast to Dulcie, who does not allow feelings of any sort to enter into his meaningless encounters. Throw in a fake engagement, a political campaign, minor betrayal, one very scandalous portrait, and you have the makings of a delightful novel. 

I would recommend A Sinner Without a Saint. I always like discovering new authors. Many of the other characters from previous Pennington books make an appearance, and so my interest has definitely been piqued; I definitely plan to add their stories to my reading queue. I’m looking forward to reading more from Bennet in the future.
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I received a copy of this from netgalley in exchange for a review.

I really enjoyed this! I wasn't expecting to, I picked it up from Netgalley largely on a whim and approached it with some wariness, but it really surprised me with how good it was.

This was just a lovely story. The period setting was nicely done, I absolutely ADORED all the characters (Milne, in particular, was a delight) and I loved the inclusion of the art world in it. I was very much gripped by this book. I enjoyed pretty much every moment I spent reading it, and found myself unexpectedly charmed by the world it portrayed.

I've deducted a star because the writing was a bit wobbly at points, this is apparently the fourth in the series and the links to the other books feel a bit stuffed in at points, and also the two main characters first meet/feel attraction (although they don't act on that attraction) when one of them is twelve. 

...But overall I really enjoyed it, really liked the characters and would definitely like to read more Bliss Bennet in the future. Unexpectedly great, and I'm really glad I picked it up.
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This review is very hard to write because I never got caught up in the story to the point that I couldn’t wait to see what happened next.  Dulcie loves Benedict but seems incapable of committing to the relationship, even though he is constantly close by.  In the time of this book sodomy it is a hanging offense if caught.  Dulcie takes verbal hurtful jabs at Benedict but then later claims he didn’t mean what he said.  For a romance, they tend to spend the biggest part of the book hurting each other.  I tried rereading small sections but it was no better than the first time, the words did not flow easily.  To me, it was not an easy read and until the very last part was not interesting.
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Although I am rating this four stars for solid writing, excellent research, and the writer's attention to detail, I have to admit that I did not enjoy Sinner Without a Saint.   And although I haven't read the other Pennington books (nor did I know it was a part of a series), it FELT like the fourth in a series.  It's that point where the writer has written his/her familiar characters and then, to create differentiation and distinction, writes less interesting characters. What it means for me is that I didn't like either lead character and therefore never became invested in their relationship.

Story:  Aristocrats Dulcie and Benedict met at school and had a fling.  But Dulcie's father quickly put an end to the affair and Dulcie cut off Benedict cruelly.  Years later, a shared love of art and especially old masters has the two in a competition: to marry a wealthy heiress whose grandfather's art collection is immense.  Can these two rivals ever come to terms with the past and their conflicting artistic ideals in the present?

Benedict is resentful, rude, inflexible, and unpleasant.  Dulcie is spoiled, malleable, and easily convinced to do terrible things - a dilettante.  One spends his day lecturing people and the other being tooled by his friends.  I had a hard time really liking either; Bennet's excellent historical research ended up being far more interesting and thoroughly upstaged the leads.

That said, the historical research about the era is superb.  This isn't a light and fluffy 'historical romance for idiots' series.  The writing is carefully crafted, the subject matter intelligent and well presented, and best of all, it's for M/M romance.  It's so rare to find this level of writing for male romances.  

So although the historical/art aspect was clearly the best part, I was interested in reading characters who appeal and for whom I want to root.  That didn't happen here and I began to skip the insipid and understated scenes of the two men bickering because it was so boring.  Moreover, I found both to be thoroughly unlikable, each doing/saying things that made them look either shallow or uptight.  It was like a 14 year old was courting a 60 year old spinster.  Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.
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I’ve been looking forward to reading A Sinner Without a Saint, the fourth book in Bliss Bennet’s series about the Pennington family.  It features the remaining unwed sibling, Benedict, and Viscount Dulcie, a long-standing family friend and former schoolmate of Benedict’s, with whom he appears to have a bit of a love/hate relationship.  The snippets of them together we’ve seen in previous books have mostly consisted of Dulcie exercising his sharp wit and knowing manner in order to needle Benedict into reacting to him; it’s clear there’s a mutual attraction there and equally clear that Benedict isn’t particularly happy about it. This is a frenemies-to-lovers story with depth and originality; in each of the books in the series, Ms. Bennet has chosen interesting backdrops that are more than just window-dressing, and she ties her characters and storylines very closely to them.

The timeline of this book runs concurrently with those of The Penningtons books two and three and some events from those stories are referenced here, but I don’t think it’s completely necessary to have read those, as sufficient explanation is given to enable A Sinner Without a Saint to work as a standalone.

When he was just twelve years old, Benedict Pennington developed a severe case of calf love for the gorgeous Sinclair Milne, Viscount Dulcie, only son and heir to the Earl Milne.  Dulcie is five years Benedict’s senior and for a time at school, Benedict was his fag (fagging was a traditional practice at British boys’ boarding schools wherein younger pupils acted as servants to the most senior boys). When Dulcie failed to return to school after the Easter holidays one year without explanation, Benedict was devastated and felt Dulcie had abandoned him.  Years later, Benedict – a hugely talented artist - went to live on the continent, where he honed his craft and acquired a reputation not only as a fine portraitist, but as a connoisseur, and as such, his opinions are sought regularly by collectors.  He continues to accept commissions, but his passion is the creation of a national collection of art which may be seen by all, and not just those who can afford the entrance fee to exclusive exhibitions.  The prevailing belief among the artistic establishment is that the masses could have no appreciation for the fine arts but Benedict believes that art should be accessible to all and he has managed to persuade Julius Adler, a wealthy businessman and owner of the finest collection of Old Masters in England to donate some of his paintings to the project.

Adler is also hoping to attract an aristocratic husband for his granddaughter, and has added three of those paintings to her dowry in order to sweeten the pot.  When one of Dulcie’s set suggests that Benedict Pennington is courting Polly Adler in order to obtain the paintings and that Dulcie should woo the lady in order to obtain them for himself, Dulcie shrugs off the idea.  But then, an old school-mate insinuates that Dulcie’s reluctance is because of some long-held infatuation for Benedict, and then wagers five hundred pounds that those feelings will stop him from cutting the latter out with Miss Adler, and Dulcie realises he’s trapped; his reputation for taking on pretty much any wager, no matter how outrageous, means turning down this one will make him a laughing stock and will seem to confirm he has some sort of tendre for Pennington.  He accepts the wager (not intending to win it), and proceeds to exercise his charm upon Miss Adler, much to the delight of her grandfather, and not at all to Benedict’s who, while not actually interested in the lady himself, does not wish her to be hurt.

If Benedict is not pleased at the sudden and frequent intrusions into his orbit of the beautiful, golden-haired, silver-tongued viscount, he is even less so when he is inveigled into painting his portrait. He has never forgiven Dulcie for what he still views as his rejection years earlier, but infuriatingly, Benedict’s artistic muse – which seems to have deserted him of late – is fired up at the prospect of painting Dulcie’s likeness, and the time the two spend together in private gives them the chance to clear up some of the misunderstandings that lay between them.

The two men find common ground in their love of art and their genuine commitment to persuading the artistic establishment to become more progressive, even though in other ways they’re like chalk and cheese.  Dulcie is flamboyant and outgoing; he’s almost always one step ahead of everyone else in the room, but hides his fierce intelligence behind a mask of ennui and sarcasm, where Benedict is quiet, intense and open about his beliefs and desires.  He finds it difficult to reconcile the superficial individual Dulcie has become with the kind, funny young man who’d taken a homesick boy under his wing at school, although he soon comes to realise that the Dulcie he’d known is still there, but is buried beneath the persona of biting wit and self-absorption he now presents to the world - and he longs to crack that veneer and reach the man inside.

But Dulcie learned the hard way that constructing a thick outer shell was the best way to protect himself from hurt and disapproval.  Following a youthful indiscretion which ended in blackmail, he now wants nothing to do with the deeper emotions and has walled himself off, preferring to keep his affections and his heart firmly locked away and only to engage in casual liaisons that last for a few weeks at most.  Both men are comfortable with their sexuality (although of course, well aware of the inherent dangers should their preferences become known) and Benedict is very clear as to his desires when it comes to his sexual partners.  He wants mutual affection and respect, and to be with someone who will be open with him about his emotions and needs – and that’s something Dulcie isn’t prepared to offer. Not any more.

Dulcie’s complicated relationship with his father, his good-natured scheming on behalf of his friends, and the detail about the nineteenth century art world all coalesce to create a rich and fascinating background to the love story, although I couldn’t help feeling that perhaps there was just a bit too much going on at times and that the romance was in danger of being somewhat overwhelmed.  I didn’t mind too much – I’m particularly interested in the art of the period – and the romance is very well done; the author really shows the depth of emotion that exists between the protagonists through moments of affinity and tenderness, such as the one in which Dulcie takes Benedict to an evening at an artist’s society simply because he knows how much he will enjoy and appreciate it.

A Sinner Without a Saint is a richly layered, sophisticated and satisfying read and is a novel I’d definitely recommend to lovers of historical romance who are looking for something a little different to the usual round of balls, musicales and soirées.

Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Kobo
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