The second in Enoch's series on the Griffin family tells the story of Zachary Griffin, the feckless youngest brother. Watching the aimless Zach find a purpose was every bit as enjoyable as watching him find love.
Zach's latest scheme is to join a regiment sure to see some action in the Peninsula as he is not suited by interest or temperament to take part in any of the family businesses. His elder brother, the Duke of Melbourne, believes this to be just another phase Zach is going through, just like his past attempts to join the church, or train racehorses or oversee land management – but this phase could get him killed, something the duke is not willing to risk and he has the power to keep Zach from being accepted in the army. Melbourne make him a deal: Zach will escort their Aunt Tremaine to Bath, and if he proves he can maintain some patience, restraint and responsibility, they will revisit the army idea. Then Melbourne flippantly suggests that Zach get a puppy and start small in the responsibility department. The puppy will provide many funny bits in the telling of Zach's story, as well as acting as a barometer for his progress in seeing something through to the end.
Seething and in high dudgeon, Zach and his aunt are on their way to Bath when she decides to stop along the way to visit her old school friend. The Witfields are a family of modest means with seven daughters. The eldest, Caroline, is an artist who, after many rejections, is finally accepted at an artist's studio in Vienna. She just has one more hurdle to navigate: she must submit a portrait of an aristocrat with a signed affidavit from the subject attesting to his satisfaction with the product. The Witfield family can no longer afford to pay for her art supplies or even her continued support, what with six other daughters to keep and dower. If Caroline is not accepted, she must marry or take the governess position recently offered to her.
For Caroline, the arrival of the handsome Lord Zachary Griffin is the answer to her prayers. He agrees to sit for her and so their romance begins. Caroline has a smart mouth and tends to snort when she laughs, both of which Zach finds charming. And the fact that she is the only Witfield daughter who is not relentlessly pursuing Zach, only adds to her attractions. She is quite taken with him as well, but is driven by her art. She has a purpose, a goal and a plan for her life that Zach completely lacks. He admires that about her and begins to admit to himself that joining the army was just one more desperate grasp at finding a life for himself.
As part of Zach's new goal of taking responsibility, he decides to whip the Witfield household into shape and teach the giggling mass of daughters how to attract a man – but not him! – and make themselves more marriageable. The Witfield girls were my least favorite part of this book. They annoyed the heck out of me and we spend way too much time with them, but they do serve to show Zach's basic good heart and generous nature.
Zach goes through a steep growth arc in An Invitation to Sin. He has to face some hard truths about his own uselessness, admit that he has been wandering through life and make some difficult decisions. The time in his life when he was happiest and looking forward to what the next day would bring was when he was on his Grand Tour. He reveled in art and unusual food and strange places and new experiences. Sharing this with Caroline strengthens their bond and makes him wonder if there some way he can put his natural curiosity to some practical use. Caroline changes less during the book – she is definitely the grown up of the relationship – though she does come to question her priorities and whether there is room for more in her life than art.
After having a major problem with Enoch's last book, I am pleased to report that I enjoyed this book very much. Enoch's humor and insight into human foibles is in fine form and readily in evidence in An Invitation to Sin.
Reviewed by Cheryl Sneed, November 28, 2005