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22750006 I received this ebook from NetGalley and Zebra in exchange for an honest review. 

Synopsis: After the death of his sweetheart when he was at university, Daniel Herbert buried his grief in medical studies and his passion for healing. Viewed as a saint by those who know him, in his own mind he never quite manages to live up to his own high standards.

Most men would be thrilled to learn they’ve inherited a title and estate from a distant relative, but Daniel is appalled because the burden of wealth will interfere with his medical calling. Warily he accepts that he must enter society and seek a wife–a sensible woman who can oversee his properties, leaving him free to continue his work. He does not expect to become intoxicated by a woman called the Black Widow, who is as mysterious as she is shockingly beautiful…

Jessie Kelham’s looks have always been a curse. Now alone with a young daughter and a perilous secret, she is in need of protection. But dangerously attractive Daniel Herbert is not the kind of husband she has in mind. If he recognizes her, the demons of her past will surely erupt. Yet they cannot keep apart–and soon they are drawn into a union that may bring joy–or shattering danger…

Mary Jo Putney has always been one of my “go to” authors when I find myself craving some historical romance. When I read the synopsis, I thought Not Always A Saint looked like just my cup of tea. Unfortunately it turned out to be a tepid one at best, with stereotypical characters, and overwrought dramatization.

Daniel, is indeed a saint. He’s not only a doctor, but also an ordained minister in the Church of England. His first reaction to his unexpected inheritance is dismay because he feels as though his new responsibilities will take away from his healing ministering. He should have been a likeable character but I found him a little too perfect and one dimensional.

As far as Jessie is concerned, despite a traumatic past, I was never able to warm up to her. A lot is made of her looks. I only need to be told once how beautiful someone is, not repeatedly throughout the book. I understand that the author did this in part to show the negative outcomes judging someone by their physical appearance can have, but it just wound up annoying me. She’s also supposed to be incredibly smart, yet she makes some spectacular mistakes which push her right in to the villains’ trap.

And then there’s the dreaded insta-love, or in this case insta-lust. There was no credible reason for the instant attraction to spark up between Jessie and Daniel and because of this, the rest of the story lost me.

The villains are so over-the-top that they’re almost laughable. And as if one wasn’t bad enough, there are two. I could actually picture them twirling their moustaches as they let out their dastardly chuckles. To make things worse, one of them suddenly reforms in just a few pages, so the reader is supposed to believe he’s suddenly a good guy. I don’t think so.

Despite the promising premise centered around domestic abuse, the book devolved into a really bad soap opera. Putney writes in so many twists and turns I felt as though I was buried in layer upon layer of petticoats, desperately trying to free myself. In keeping with trying to find at least one positive aspect in every book I read, I will say the pacing was quick and I read it in two sittings. There’s also the welcome addition of Jessie’s little girl. She was adorable and provided some welcome relief from the other flaws of the story. While I can’t recommend this book, if you’re interested in trying some of Mary Jo Putney’s books, I’d suggest some of her early ones like The Rake and Wild Child.