The Silver Sty by Sara Seale
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I don’t understand why this book is titled The Silver Sty. Where/what is the sty? According to the dictionary, a “sty” is a pen or enclosure for swine, or a messy, dirty or debauched place. Unless I skimmed over some reference, I don’t get the relevance here.

Anyway, onto our protagonists. Sarah Silver is seventeen and beautiful (or becoming so) and rather idle and spoilt, getting into parties and clothes, yet she bizarrely has no friends her own age.

James Fane is in his mid-thirties, worldly and very attractive and intelligent. He’s smart enough to know that he can’t just lay down the law in assuming guardianship of his “wayward ward” (is there any other kind of ward in romance fiction?!) so decides to let her make a few mistakes and learn from them.

Just to highlight the usual Sara Seale somewhat borderline age-gap theme:

In the brief white bathing suit, her slender body still had the immature angles of extreme youth. She looked about fifteen.

What’s really superb about this book – and unusual for Seale – is that they kiss in the first chapter! Yes – there’s sexual attraction there from the start. Sarah, not realising James is her long-absent guardian, invites him outside in the moonlight to a swing seat. She lies and tells him she’s “nearly twenty-two” (he’s well aware of who she is).

In the soft, light her rather high cheek-bones stood out in delicate relief. She blinked nervously once or twice, but her invitation was quite clear. He kissed her gently once, felt her stiffen, then yield with soft, inexperienced lips, and smiled as she moved hurriedly back to her own corner.

Hooray! What a pity we have to wait – through a convoluted plot of teenage rebellion, gambling and even older men – until the last two pages to get a repeat performance:

He looked at her long and steadily, then stooped to kiss her.

We do get a good dose of dominance as well:

“Remember, Sarah, I told you once if you married me, you stayed married. I meant it, and although I’m not going to make the mistake again of waiting to give you time to grow up, there won’t be any second chances once we’re married. It will be for keeps.”

I enjoyed this one. Even though I find gambling plots a chore because they’re so predictable, and would have preferred a more realistic cast of London characters with a few more people Sarah’s age.

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