Slightly Sinful, by Mary Balogh (Bedwyns #5)

>> Monday, May 23, 2005

Slightly Sinful is the next to last book in Mary Balogh's Bedwyn series, or, as I thought of it more than once, only one book until I can read Slightly Dangerous!

When the four lady residents of a brothel in Brussels lose their life savings to a confidence man, their friend Rachel York, who introduced him to them, feels responsible even though all her money has been stolen too. She vows to help them recover their savings, but in order to do that she needs to get her hands on the jewels she will inherit at the age of twenty-five. And in order to do that, she needs to acquire a husband--fast.

Enter Lord Alleyne Bedwyn, who is recuperating at the brothel from wounds sustained at the Battle of Waterloo. Alleyne may have lost his memory, but he has not lost any of the dash and devilry that had always characterized him as the youngest Bedwyn brother. Although he needs to go off in search of his identity, he cannot resist embroiling himself in intrigue with Rachel first--especially when doing so seems ever so slightly sinful...
My experience with this book is one I've seldom had before. I should have enjoyed Slightly Sinful much more than I did. In fact, I would have, if a little something that happened right at the beginning hadn't spoiled it all. I regret to say I can only bring myself to give this a C+.

That little incident that bothered me the rest of the book was Alleyne's decision to join Rachel and her friends in their charade instead of trying to find out who he was. I can understand his fears about entering the world without knowing who he was, his fear that even if he did find out his identity, he wouldn't remember and even his shame about not remembering, but I still can't understand why anyone would do what he did.

Even if he couldn't remember, it's so obvious that most people have someone who at the very least cares for them, probably even someone (or several someones) who loves them, someone they themselves care about. How could he decide to just go off on a lark, leaving these people (who he should have known existed, even if he didn't remember them) to believe him dead and to suffer through this?

I lost a lot of respect for him for not even considering this. Maybe it's because I've just finished reading Slightly Tempted so I'm very aware of the suffering caused by Alleyne's supposed death. Realizing that much of this suffering was his fault, at least partly, didn't endear the man to me.

I mean, he even thought at one point that if he contacted the Embassy, they'd probably be able to help him get identified, so it wasn't as if he wasn't able to do anything, or didn't know how to go about it!

I thought I'd be able to work past this issue and enjoy the rest of the story, and objectively, it would have been a great story, apart from this issue. The sections which take place in England, at Rachel's uncle's estates should have been a lot of fun. It was by far the most lighthearted entry so far in the series (of the ones I've read, at least, and from what I've heard of the first two books, I'd guess it's more lighthearted than those, too). It's strange, because I never would have thought a story that starts with such horror as this one did could become such a farce.

And I really liked the secondary characters, most especially Rachel's four prostitute friends and the one-eyed Sergeant Strickland. They are just so... optimistic and positive, even when dealing with the very hard hands that have been dealt them. Of course this aspect is very sanitized and romanticized, but it worked well here.

However, I was unfortunately not able to work past Alleyne's original choices and relax into the rest of the story. Always at the back of my mind was a little voice grousing about how horrible it was that he was off having fun while any reasonable person would know his loved ones would be mourning him. Too bad, really.


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