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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 February 2011
This entertaining georgian romantic farce is the third in a series of five romances featuring the five brothers and sisters of the Sharpe family of Halstead Hall. The heroine of this one is Lady Minerva Sharpe, sister of Oliver, Marquis of Stoneville.

I would strongly recommend that if you are going 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) This book, "How to woo a reluctant Lady" (Minerva)
4) "To Wed a Wild Lord (The Hellions of Halstead Hall)" (Gabe)
5) "A Lady Never Surrenders (The Hellions of Halstead Hall)" (Celia, due early 2012.)

Lady Minerva is a typical heroine for romances set at the time of, or slightly later than, the regency period, in that she is feisty, fearless, intelligent and determined at a time when women were not encouraged to show themselves to be any of those things. What is not typical is that she writes gothic novels under her real name. This would just about have been possible for a noblewoman in 1825 but would indeed, as it does in the novels, have set tongues wagging. Minerva also frequently re-uses her favourite characters, sometimes bringing back the villain of one group of novels as the hero of another - now who else can we think of who does this?

The scene for this series was set twenty years before the main action of the story, when the disastrous marriage, and the lives, of Minerva's parents came to a tragic end. Minerva's father, the previous 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 the life of 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.

Finally in 1806 when Minerva was nine, her parents' final row culminated in their tragic deaths. At the start of the first book the reader was given the impression that there was a murder-suicide in which their 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 will haunt all the characters throughout the series.

Prudence also had a more middle class than aristocratic attitude to child-rearing as well as infidelity. The eldest two boys, Oliver, and Jarret, had been well aware of the problems with their parent's marriage, and had very complex reactions to the tragedy. But the first prologue of this book, set on the day of the funeral, has Minerva as a devastated little girl who has lost, not some distant authority figure to whom she was briefly and formally presented once a day, but a loving mummy who used to cuddle her. Her brothers' friend Giles Masters gives her courage with a few kind words, which she was never to forget ...

Giles Masters is the younger brother of David, Viscount Kirkwood, whose story in relation to Charlotte, founder of "The School for Heiresses" is told in the final book of that series, "Wed Him Before You Bed Him (The School for Heiresses)." Giles, David, and members of the Sharpe family are not the only characters from that series who turn up in this one: so does the detective and Bow Street Runner, Jackson Pinter.

We previously met Giles in this series as an elder boy at Eton who on more than one occasion rescued Minerva's brother Jarret from being bullied by other older boys. He has remained a good friend to the Sharpe brothers and has become a successful lawyer, but appears at first sight to be a womaniser and gambler who has joined in their less than reputable exploits.

When the Sharpe brothers needed a lawyer to help investigate the deaths of their parents, Giles was the first person that they turned to. But as one of the most worrying things that can happen to a rake is when he thinks his sister or daughter may be falling for a man like himself, Jarret was horrified when he thought Giles might be interested in Minerva.

In fact, Giles is a much more upright man than any of the Sharpe siblings realise. Unknown to them, his gambling and wenching is actually a cover for his secret work for the government. (BTW, this is stated on the back cover of the book, so I'm not giving anything away here.) But on her nineteenth birthday, Minerva catches Giles in what appears to be a scandalous action - and she cannot either forget their passionate kiss or forgive what she thinks is his utter lack of morals.

The main action of all three books begins in 1825: the Sharpe siblings have grown up and each has become notorious in his or her own way. Oliver, 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. As we have seen, their sister Minerva, aged 28, writes gothic novels under her real name.

The third brother Gabriel, (Gabe) aged 26, is another rake and is nicknamed "The Angel of Death" for his skill at dangerous carriage races, including one in which an accident killed his opponent, while the youngest sibling, Celia, is fascinated by guns and has become a crack shot - and she in turn is notorious for challenging her friends' brothers to shooting competitions and wiping the floor with them. The family as a group are known by the same name as this series of books: the Hellions of Halstead Hall.

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. 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.

Oliver had tried to persuade his grandmother to back down by bringing home a prospective bride from a brothel, though things did not work out quite how he planned. Hard though you might think it to top that, Minerva comes up with an even more scandalous idea ...

This series is nonsense, but it is entertaining nonsense, and I loved most of the characters, including Hetty, Jarret, Giles, and Minerva. I've enjoyed each book more than the previous one and wasn't all that far off giving this one the fifth star.

The five books are a genuine series, with each book 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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on 2 February 2011
I really wanted to like this book, as I have been a Sabrina Jeffries reader for years. But for some reason there was something lacking in this book and the series in general. It started out great with "The Truth about Lord Stoneville", then waned a bit with "A Hellion in Her Bed" and now this... I really struggled reading it all the way through. There didn't seem to be enough material for an entire book/series and it felt as if Jeffries had been reaching a little bit for a decent storyline, which is a shame as the character Giles had appeared in her previous series and was already developed a little.
The story in general lacked tension and the roller coaster ride of emotions that I, as a romance reader, expect an author to deliver. It just seemed flat from beginning to end. Hopefully the next book will be better but I shall not pre-order it like I did with this one.
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on 28 February 2012
This is Minivera's book, the third book of The Hellions of Halstead Hall series. After seeing her elder brotheres give in to her Grandmothers ultimatum, Minivera feels she has to do something big to get out of getting married. A husband would only control her and stop her from writing her gothic novels she so loves. Masters sees that she needs a husband and seizes the opportunity to try and gain a wife he really wants. The only problem? Minivera loved Masters ever since he held her hand at her parents funeral, only to have her heart broken by him years later. Masters secret double life means that he cannot explain his actions and that he has to live with the rest of society thinking the worst of him.

This book took an often used subject of betrayed youthful love and still managed to make it intresting and fresh. With the added mystery of the death of their parents the Stoneville family are strong characters that you cant help but enjoy reading about.
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VINE VOICEon 30 January 2011
Lady Minerva Sharpe needs to come up with the perfect plan to thwart her grandmother's plans to cut off her grandchildren unless they marry. And getting herself engaged to a rogue sounds like the perfect plan.

Giles Masters is an extraordinary barrister and a delicious scoundrel - the perfect man to make Gran rescind her plans. But Giles has other reasons for saying yes to Minerva's proposal. He wants her to stop using him as inspiration for her gothic novels, and, he wants to find a way to finally get into her heart.

This is the third book in Jeffries' Hellions of Halstead Hall series coming after The Truth About Lord Stoneville and A Hellion in Her Bed. I suppose that you could read the books independently of each other or out of order but they do have a common storyline of the mystery of the Sharpe parents deaths and I feel these books would be better being read in sequence.

This was Minerva's story and as set up in the last two books, her hero is the delightful rake, Giles Masters. Both characters were well rounded and had great depth - Minerva as the strong woman and Giles as the seducer and rogue. They worked together well and I liked the chemistry between the couple.

The mystery of the death of Minerva's parents is still to be solved and I assume that it will get a step closer in the next book which will be Gabe's story (the beginning of which was started in this book).

I enjoyed the story in this book although I would have liked to see a little bit more interaction between Oliver and Maria and Jarret and Annabel from the previous books. It wasn't the best or most engaging book I've ever read but I enjoyed it and it really captured by attention. If you're looking for a fun Regency romance or are reading the Hellions series then I would recommend this book to you. 4 stars.
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on 9 April 2013
I love Sabrina Jeffries. For some she is the typical historical romance writer but I could (and have) spend hours reading her work. Loved all the hellions books, couldn't get enough of them and felt a bit bereft when I got to the end of the series. Would recommend to anyone who likes these sort of books, 5* novels.
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on 27 March 2016
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on 17 February 2015
Excellent series
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on 6 February 2011
I can't praise this book enough. It was sooooo good. I read it in one sitting and think this is by far the best book so far in the Hellion series. 5 stars without a doubt!!
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