Sabrina Jeffries' Hellions of Halstead Hall series, the mystery plot that wound throughout the books never really grabbed my interest. The investigation into the shooting deaths of the Sharps' parents was dragged out so long that I found it a nuisance of a subplot and I generally skimmed the detection scenes as I read the series. Oddly enough, I found I enjoyed the subplot in the final book, A Lady Never Surrenders, and felt it complemented the developing romance between Celia Sharp and Jackson Pinter well.
Summary: With two months left to find a husband and fulfill her grandmother’s ultimatum, Celia sets her sights on three eligible bachelors. Becoming betrothed to one of these wealthy, high-ranking men will surely prove her capable of getting married, so hopefully the wedding itself won’t be necessary for Celia to receive her inheritance. Step Two of her audacious plan is hiring the dark and dangerously compelling Bow Street runner Jackson Pinter to investigate the three men she’s chosen.
With Lady Celia bedeviling Jackson’s days and nights, the last thing he wants is to help her find a husband. And when she recalls shadowed memories that lead his investigation into her parents’ mysterious deaths in a new direction, putting her in danger, Jackson realizes the only man he wants Celia to marry is himself! - Audible
My thoughts: Though I read the other books in print, I chose to listen to A Lady Never Surrenders and I'm glad I did as Justine Eyre is an excellent narrator for historical romance. The relationship between Celia and Jackson has been fraught with class division and misunderstanding from the beginning, but Sabrina Jeffries ties it up well in this book. Celia has grown on me since the first books, where I found her to be a typical whiny youngest sister. In this book, however, Celia is mature and resolute and the exploration of her passion for shooting helps define her. There's a fair amount of information about Jackson's past and his resentment of the upper classes is more understandable here.
This was the first time I've listened to Justine Eyre narrate a book and she has a lovely voice, particularly when she is reading as Lady Celia or one of the female characters. Her range is rather limited when it comes to male characters, however, and Jackson's voice was a bit plummy for my taste. I should also note that I listened to the audio at 1.25x speed as the narration was very slow, and this was the first time I'd ever done so with a book. Despite this, I'd happily listen to Eyre narrate other books or series.
A Lady Never Surrenders could stand alone well, but do yourself a favor and try the Hellions series from the beginning. The books are individually good and taken as a whole, this is one of the better historical romance series to come out in the past few years from an established author. As for print or audio, you choose. In an unusual twist, each book in the series has a different narrator and the books for the Sharp brothers have male performers.
Audio publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: January 24, 2012
Length: 11 hours, 1 minute