A few months ago, I reread The Stranger I Married, one of my favorite romance novels. Due to the pandemic stress, I decided to give the other book I read by her in the past a reread. Seven Years to Sin is another lush historical romance novel with lots and lots of steamy scenes. Like The Stranger I Married, it’s about 50% sex scenes/sexual tension and 50% “actual book”, but the character development is still rich and amazing. And the sex scenes are to die for!
I do want to note that this book deals with some difficult themes: mentioned physical abuse of children, physical spousal abuse, inability to conceive, and mentions of slavery. I think the first four of those topics are covered very well while the last left something to be desired.
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The summary, from Amazon:
The New York Times and USA Today bestseller.
Seven years ago, on the eve of her wedding, Lady Jessica Sheffield witnessed a scene so scandalous she could not erase it from her memory. Shocked, yet strangely titillated, she nevertheless walked down the aisle into a life serene yet unremarkable. But what she kept hidden fueled wildly imaginative and very illicit dreams. . .
Alistair Caulfield ran far from the temptation of the prim debutante–all the way to the West Indies. As a successful merchant, he has little in common with the rakehell youth Jessica once knew. But when newly widowed Jessica steps aboard his ship for a transatlantic passage, seven years’ worth of denied pleasures are held in check by nothing more than a few layers of silk–and the certainty that surrender will consume them both. . .
Buy Seven Years to Sin here!
So let’s dive into the premise of the main romance of this novel, which starts off sexy as hell. We first meet Jess and Alistair the night before her wedding. She’s eighteen and he’s sixteen. He already has a crush on her, but finds her to be cold and unattainable. Jess is betrothed to Alistair’s best friend (Michael)’s brother (Benedict). Jess is out walking her dog at night when she comes across Alistair having sex with an older woman in a gazebo. The other woman is positioned so she can’t see Jess, but Alistair sees her and asks her with his eyes and gestures to stay and watch, which she does.
Jess is extremely affected (read: turned on) by this, and bumps into Benedict on the way back to the house after. She tells him everything, including how it made her feel. She wants to have sex right then, and it’s super empowering for a historical romance. Benedict doesn’t tell her she’s wrong for having these thoughts and when he suggests it would be more respectful to wait until tomorrow night, once they are wed, Jess says he could respect her still while having sex with her now – which he agrees with and does.
Six years later, Benedict dies. A year after that, Jess decides to travel to Jamaica to visit the plantation he left her. Alistair is the owner of the ship and is on board for the voyage. Jess had a wonderful marriage, despite her inability to conceive, which troubles her. She is a fully sexually empowered woman, and here is the man that awakened that sexuality within her. Likewise, Alistair has always had feelings for Jess. The two have an explosive, highly sexual romance, before deciding to marry.
I think it was excellent that no “and then she got pregnant” HEA happened here. That’s SO often the case in books that discuss difficulty conceiving (which this one does), but the truth is, sometimes it never happens for people, no matter how much they want to be parents. In the 1800s, before modern fertility medicine, this was even more common, I assume. I like that Sylvia Day portrayed this as a major loss for Jess, but not something that held her back from having two wonderfully loving marriages.
There is also a side story about Jess’s sister, Hester. Hester is married and hiding the physical abuse she receives from her spouse. Michael, Jess’s brother-in-law, is in love with Hester. It’s a sad but lovely story. We don’t get to see a HEA for Hester and Michael, and I’m torn as to whether that is good and shows how love isn’t some magic fix, or if it’s disappointing. It’s alluded to in the epilogue, and since all of Sylvia Day’s historical romances from this time period seem to take place in the same world, I hope to see Hester and Michael as a married couple in the background of one of her other novels.
The only thing I disliked about this book is the brief mention of slavery that is never touched on again. Jess’s late husband left her his plantation in Jamaica because he loved how much she enjoyed being there when they visited as newlyweds, and he wants her to have independent wealth. Jess learns that slaves work the plantation. Alistair tells her that Benedict didn’t buy the slaves himself, but the man he paid to run the plantation for him did. Jess doesn’t like slavery and asks Alistair how he runs land he owns there. He says he does so through indentured servitude (which is still pretty crappy, IMO, but we never find out the full details of it). Jess says she wants to make some changes so indentured servants or, better yet, fairly paid workers keep it running. This is all well and good, and I wanted to learn more. Did she hire on the former slaves at a fair wage? Did she fire the foreman/solicitor or give him express instructions to never buy or sell slaves while within her employ? We never get another mention of this.
Overall, despite its problems, this was a lovely 4 star read and I plan to dive into more by this author.
Find out more about how I rate books here.
Seven Years to Sin by Sylvia Day
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book isn’t unproblematic, but the romance and erotica is gorgeous and the character development is amazing. I’m so glad I’ve reread this and want to read more by this author.
Book Club Questions
- Examine the power dynamics between Alistair and Jess, and between Benedict and Jess.
- Do you think Michael and Hester ever find their happily ever after?
- What was realistic for the time period in this book? Did you find anything unrealistic?
- For Sylvia Day fans, how does this compare to her contemporary erotic romance novels?
Interested? Buy Seven Years to Sin.
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