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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Final volume in which we learn what really happened to the Hellions' parents, February 2, 2012
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This review is from: A Lady Never Surrenders (The Hellions of Halstead Hall) (Mass Market Paperback)
This entertaining georgian romantic farce is the fifth and last in a series of romances featuring the five brothers and sisters of the Sharpe family of Halstead Hall. The heroine of this one is Lady Celia Sharpe, the baby of the family, notorious for being a far better shot than most men. Celia is the brother of Oliver, niinth Marquis of Stoneville, who appeared in a number of previous books by the same author before this "Hellions of Halstead Hall" quintet.

I would strongly recommend that if you plan to read this series you do so in sequence, which is:

1) "The Truth About Lord Stoneville (Hellions of Halstead Hall)" (Oliver's story)

2) "A Hellion in Her Bed (Hellions of Halstead Hall)" (Jarret)

3) "How to Woo A Reluctant Lady (The Hellions of Halstead Hall)" (Minerva)

4) "To Wed a Wild Lord (The Hellions of Halstead Hall)" (Gabe)

5) This book, "A Lady Never Surrenders" (Celia)

Celia is a fiery, spirited girl with a willowy figure, who is fascinated by guns, and has a tendency to terrify men because she is forever challenging her friend's brothers and her brothers' friends to shooting matches, and wiping the floow with them. In this novel we discover a little more about how she came to be interested in guns.

The scene for this series was set nineteen years before the main action of the story, on the day in 1806 when the disastrous marriage, and the lives, of Celia's parents came to a tragic end. The prologue of each book of the series, including this one, is also set on that day, showing how it affected the central character of the book.

Celia's father, the eighth Marquis of Stoneville, had married Prudence Plumtree, daughter of a wealthy brewer, for her money. He hoped to use the dowry she brought from the Plumtree brewery to keep up his vast but expensive house and estate at Halstead Hall, while continuing to live like a dissolute noble rake.

Bad mistake. The Plumtree family may be in trade but judging by Hetty Plumtree, the grandmother of the five Sharpe siblings and a major character in the series, they are sharp as a whip, stubborn as a mule, and nearly as proud as the noble Sharpes. They really, really don't make good doormats.

Prudence did not have the complaisant attitude to her husband's infidelity which is found in some parts of the aristocracy: when he cheated on her, she went ballistic. The elder Sharpe siblings' memories of their parents, particularly those of Oliver the firstborn, were of a series of cataclysmic rows - the prologue of this book makes clear that even four-year old Celia was aware that things were not always right between her mother and father.

The prologue also describes how the infant Celia overhears a series of conversations on the day of her parents' deaths which may shed some light on how they really came to be shot - and may also put her life in danger if certain people become aware that she has remembered those conversations ...

At the start of the first book the reader was given the impression that there was a murder-suicide in which the Sharpe siblings' mother shot first her husband and then herself. Exactly what really happened is a major plot element in all the books, including this one, so I don't want to give anything further away beyond saying that the tragedy haunts all the characters throughout the series.

The main action of all the books in the series begins nineteen years later in 1825: the Sharpe siblings have grown up and each has become notorious in his or her own way. Oliver, the present Marquis of Stoneville, now 35, has become an infamous rake. Jarret, now aged 32, has become possibly the most notorious and skilled gambler in the country. Their sister Minerva, aged 28, writes gothic novels under her real name. Gabe the third brother, aged 26, is another rake and is nicknamed "The Angel of Death" for his skill at dangerous carriage races, and we have already explained that 23 year old Celia is notorious for her unladylike proficiency with guns.

The purse-strings of the family are still held by their maternal grandmother, and at the start of "The Truth about Lord Stoneville," Hetty Plumtree's patience with the five Hellions of Halstead Hall finally snapped when Gabe broke his arm during yet another dangerous race. So she gave all five of them an ultimatum: settle down and marry within a year, or she'll cut them off without a penny and leave the brewery to their cousin Desmond.

That's the background to all the books in the series, and each volume covers how one of the five brothers or sisters responds to Hetty's ultimatum.

By the start of this book in November 1825, ten months after that ultimatum, all of Celia's brothers and sisters have married, and the wives of the elder two have babies on the way. Celia doesn't want to marry a man she doesn't love, but neither does she want to be the cause of her brothers and sisters losing most of the money they would otherwise inherit.

So she asks the Bow Street Runner, Jackson Pinter, who has appeared in the previous books of this series and several others, to investigate the background of a number of possible suitors. Jackson, who is strongly attracted to Lady Celia but thinks she is out of his reach because he assumes that she would dismiss him as a fortune hunter, is furious as he doesn't consider any of them worthy of her. So furious that his customary discretion and iron self-control start to slip ...

But he is also getting close to finding evidence about whether the Sharpe siblings' parents were really murdered - and this could bring both Pinter and Lady Celia into great danger ...

This being the closing volume of the series several additional sub-plots and themes are resolved.

There isn't a huge amount of historical detail, most of what there is referring to the organisation of the Bow Street Runners who preceded the formation of Britain's first modern police force, the Metropolitan Police, which came into being four years after the main events of this book. That event is foreshadowed in this novel.

The series is entertaining nonsense, and I loved most of the characters, including Hetty, Celia, and Jackson Pinter. I've enjoyed each book more than the previous one. The five books form a progressive series, with each volume adding additional parts to the jigsaw as the brothers and sisters try to reconstruct the true story behind the deaths of their parents, and with character development in each of the first four books setting the scene for the following ones.

If you like historical romantic farces set during or slightly later than the Regency period, you will probably enjoy this series.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 15, 2014 12:18:35 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 15, 2014 12:20:13 AM PST
AJ says:
Thanks for your review. It covered everything I was wondering about.

Other than this series, what books did Oliver appear in?

Thank you, AJ

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2014 2:20:09 PM PDT
I cannot give you a fully comprehensive answer to that question as I have not read all of Sabrina Jeffries' books, but he is definately name checked in some of the "School for heiresses" series such as the last one "Wed Him before you bed him" which also expands on some of the backstory of the hero of the third "Hellions" book.
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