One Wicked Sin / Nicola Cornick. 2010
If you're in the mood for a Regency historical that is outside the norm, here are some of the reasons why you should go pick up this book:
- The hero, Ethan, is an officer in the French Army. He's not spying or pretending. He really believes in the French Revolution (so did Americans if you'll recall). He's the illegitimate son of an English Duke. The Duke is none too happy about his son's chosen profession. And when Ethan turns up as a prisoner of war, the Duke has something he can use to keep Ethan in line.
- The heroine, Lottie, is divorced. Her husband cast her off when she had one too many scandalous affairs. At the end of her rope, she decides to go to work in a brothel because she had always liked sex and thought she could be good at being a courtesan. Only it's not quite as easy as she had imagined.
- If you like the history part of your historicals, there's lots of interesting stuff here about how prisoners of war were treated. It highlights how class played a huge role. Gentlemen had a degree of freedom (parole) within a prescribed area. They could have a mistress. Everyone else was confined in the worst imaginable conditions.
- Sex (and lots of it) comes first, and then the relationship deepens.
- Ethan and Lottie do not trust one another and they're honest about it.
- Parts of the story are quite humorous. Other parts are quite emotional.
This book is the second in Cornick's Scandalous Women of the Ton series. Lottie was introduced in the first book and she wasn't exactly the most likable character in that book. Lottie keeps looking for love in all the wrong places and when OWS opens, Lottie is divorced, broke, without a friend to turn to, and forced to sell herself in a brothel. Because of her reputation, many of the men are eager to purchase her services. Enter Ethan, who needs a scandalous woman to serve as his mistress in order to cover up his clandestine activities as a French prisoner of war.
It is no secret that Ethan and Lottie are using one another. Ethan needs her to distract the authorities who are trying to watch his every move. Lottie needs a way out of the brothel. They also use one another for sex and begin to connect emotionally as well. I was impressed with Cornick's ability to take a character I hadn't liked much in the previous book and make me change my mind. Lottie is bold and able to stand up for herself. She marches into the little town where Ethan is a prisoner and plays her role to the hilt. Ethan can't help but admire and appreciate her. As the book progresses, Lottie has to make some difficult choices. She is not a fool and she knows that in the long run she has to be careful to take care of herself. Meanwhile, Ethan clearly has his own agenda, although he's not sharing it with Lottie. It takes a lot for them to become emotionally vulnerable to one another and because it comes slowly, it is very believable.
I really liked this unusual and compelling story. I love especially how it broke all of the normal "rules" for a Regency romance. And it stood quite nicely all on it's own. Alex and Joanna from the previous book (Whisper of Scandal) make a brief appearance toward the end, but you don't need to have read that book first.