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Review: SEX, LIES AND SENSIBILITY by Nikki Payne


Two sisters roll up their sleeves to run a dilapidated inn but must learn to work with the locals in this deliciously spicy novel inspired by Sense and Sensibility.

There’s never a good time to learn you are your father’s secret child—especially not at the reading of his will. With their father’s affairs laid bare and Nora’s sensible reputation in tatters due to a viral video scandal, she and her free-spirited sister have nothing left but a rustic inn in the middle of nowhere and each other. What’s more, they need to revamp the inn before Labor Day or they lose it all. Nora hasn’t even knocked the traveling dust off last season’s designer boots when she’s confronted with three problems: 

1. She really should have watched more HGTV.

2. She hasn’t seen another Black person for miles.

3. A tall, dark stranger has already staked a claim on their property.

Native Abenaki eco-tour guide Ennis “Bear” Freeman has seen hapless tourists come and go. When he spots two pampered city girls at his unofficial headquarters, he expects them to catch a flight out of the inhospitable coastal Maine backwoods within a week’s time. But Nora, turns out, is made of sterner stuff. And as she rolls up her sleeves to breathe new life into the inn, she unwittingly reignites a flood of emotions inside of Bear that he had very intentionally suppressed.

Their connection is electric, their desire palpable. But Bear’s silence about his mysterious past might turn out to be the one thing that sends Nora packing.

Illustrated book cover with yellows and orange. Falling leaves around  Man with long hair and woman with shoulder length hair.
Sex. Lies and Sensibility by Nikki Payne. Published February 13, 2024.

REVIEW by Christina Boyd

I love Jane Austen and contemporary romance novels, and when the two collide, I'm all in, especially when the work is in the hands of a gifted storyteller like emerging author Nikki Payne. Her debut, Pride and Protest, was a favorite of mine; I related to it on many levels (my review) and have been all anticipation for this new release. Given that my dear MrB is from Maine, I couldn't wait to read this contemporary Sense & Sensibility-reimagining set in his motherland.


Payne did not disappoint.

From the opening pages, I was invested in the characters' snappy dialog and vivid, voicey personalities. At the fever-pitch reading of the will, secrets are revealed, and demands are made. When our heroine Nora Dash relinquishes an expensive designer dress right then—like off her back—and sits through the rest of the reading in bra and underwear, I knew I was in for a ride:


Yanne raised her glass of water, practically vibrating with open admiration. She blew an exaggerated kiss, Nora's old move after she'd won a race. "To unpatched waters, undreamed shores," she toasted when Felicia sputtered derisively. Yanne clapped Felicia on the back. "That means we're taking our asses to Barton Cove." —p.16.


Sex Lies and Sensibility with Sense and Sensibility, shells, and lavender on a colorful quilt
My own copy of Sex, Lies and Sensibility

I loved, loved, loved how the story was familiar, yet Payne deftly translated Austen's masterpiece into her own smart, topical, and complex love story while being respectful of the source material, contemporary mores, Black communities, and First Nation people. And that's what this modernized story is. A love story. It's not just romance or steam, though there is plenty of heat…


His gaze slid from her eyes and moved down her frame slowly, stopping at the peek of brown skin at her ribs. His gaze slipped down her body like a heavy hand. He had few expressions and even fewer words. If he'd ever liked anything she'd worn before, she'd never known. But right now, his appreciation was unmistakable. —p. 153.


…it's about love and the many kinds of love, what it is to love and be loved, and what we sacrifice for love. Be ready with a box of Kleenex. You'll weep. Then weep for joy.


You need not have read Sense & Sensibility (or watched the adaptations) to enjoy Sex, Lies and Sensibility. Still, if you have, your experience reading this latest variation can only be enhanced.

Publisher: ‎Berkley (February 13, 2024)

Publication date: ‎February 13, 2024

Print length: ‎428 pages


Nikki Payne is an anthropologist who can. not. turn. it. off. 

I love to force my characters into new environments new cultures and in finding love, they change the way they see the world. Church, cemeteries and romance novels are still the most segregated places in America. My romances, inspired by the classics turn expectations on their head. It's cultural commentary, for the hopeless romantic. Connect with Nikki via her website.


Sounds fantastic. Congrats to Nikki Payne, and thanks for this review, Christina!


You will LOVE it! I know what a Sense and Sensibility fan you are, having written THE YEAR IN BETWEEN, A Sense & Sensibility Variation. Add it to your must reads.

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