Scandalously Yours / Sinfully Yours / Passionately Yours

Written by Cara Elliott
Review by Ray Thompson

The Hellions of High Street Regency series follows the adventures of the three Sloane sisters, who find true love despite serious disadvantages: not only have they no dowry, but they are bluestockings, though to avoid public disapproval they try (with mixed success) to conceal their intellectual pursuits.

In Scandalously Yours Olivia, the eldest, writes trenchant political commentary under a male pseudonym, but she does little to curb her sharp tongue in social situations. She has given up all plans to marry, preferring to read books rather than dance, but when she meets the Earl of Wrexham, she finds herself physically attracted to the recently returned soldier and widower; and as they are thrown into each other’s path more and more, both learn that their individual strengths complement one another, despite their differences. As they pursue his son’s abductors through the countryside, the plot veers perilously close to melodrama, but it is saved by the practical perspective of Olivia, whose keen intelligence, common sense, and resourcefulness make her a wonderful heroine.

The pattern is repeated with variations in the next two novels. In Sinfully Yours Anna, who writes highly successful and racy romance novels under another male pseudonym (Sir Sharpe Quill), learns that the Marquess of Davenport is not the wastrel she assumes, and together they foil a plot by French agents to assassinate a visiting foreign prince. In Passionately Yours Caro, the youngest, is a talented poet whose attraction to the bluff Lord Strathcona lands her in the middle of a conflict between factions plotting for Scottish independence, and culminates in her abduction.

The melodrama grows more pronounced in the two sequels, reflecting the romantic sensibilities of the heroines. Elliott has a nice feel for the frustrations of women constrained by social convention and for the supportive sisterhood of her female characters. She has less success with the men: the villains are cardboard, the heroes stalwartly conventional (with muscular bodies, of course). Even Davenport is typical of the rogues so popular in current Regencies, his dissipation a mask for nobler qualities waiting to be recognized by the right woman. And while the sisters’ unconventional upbringing is offered as an explanation for their adventurousness, both physical and intellectual, and for their lack of sexual restraint, the repeated and protracted amorous encounters do little to advance plot or develop character.

Scandalously Yours is recommended, but read the others only if you are curious to learn how the younger sisters fare and do not mind melodrama.