Lady of Sin, by Madeline Hunter

>> Friday, April 07, 2006

I made the mistake, after reading Madeline Hunter's Lord of Sin, of reading the excerpt of the following book, Lady of Sin (excerpt). Well, any ideas I had of waiting a while before I started a new Hunter immediately disappeared, and I wanted to grab this book now, now, NOW! Fortunately I had waited a long time before I picked up Lord of Sin, so there was no need to wait for Lady of Sin to come out -it already was.

Award-winning author Madeline Hunter transports readers back to the scandal and intrigue of nineteenth-century England in the enthralling tale of a magnetically sensual man, a virtuous woman, and a love story that will take your breath away. . . .

She arrives at his home without warning or invitation, determined to win him to her campaign to reform women’s rights. Instead, Charlotte, the widowed Baroness Mardenford, ends up being nearly seduced by Nathaniel Knightridge. No woman is safe from the mesmerizing sensual power of the famed courtroom advocate, and Charlotte discovers she is no exception. But does he recognize her as the masked woman who recklessly joined him in forbidden passion a month ago? And how to avoid becoming his Lady of Sin when he decides to pursue her again?
While not one of my favourite Hunters (I really need to go back and reread her first three medievals *sigh*), Lady of Sin was very enjoyable, with an original, interesting plot and two protagonists who behave like grown-ups. A B.

Lady of Sin is the story of widow Charlotte, Lady Mardenford and defense lawyer Nathaniel Knightridge. If you haven't read Hunter's previous books recently you probably won't recognize their names (other than from their appearance in Lord of Sin), because though we've actually already met both of them, neither was particularly memorable then, at least for me. Charlotte, for instance, is sister to Vergil, Dante and Penelope, all of whom have starred in their own books already. And Nathaniel, if I'm not mistaken, showed up in The Romantic, doing his lawyer thing for Julian.

Anyway, these two have known each other for years, and they've always had a somewhat adversarial relationship. But Charlotte has a secret now: she and Nathaniel had sex once, at the orgy at Ewan's house that was shown in Lord of Sin. Charlotte was masked, so Nathaniel doesn't know who this fantasy woman of his was, but Charlotte knows, and the attraction she experienced that night hasn't disappeared.

When in the course of his work, helping in the prosecution against a man accused of trying to blackmail Charlotte's brother-in-law, Nathaniel comes across a young boy he begins to suspect is somehow related to the Mardenfords, he soon goes to Charlotte with his suspicions, and they reluctantly join forces to investigate. And given the powerful attraction between them, it's not long before they do much more than investigate.

What I most liked about the romance here was that Charlotte and Nathaniel are adults and behave accordingly. Surprisingly, for a romance that starts with the premise that the hero and heroine have disliked each other for years, there's no stupid bickering or irritating, forced hostility. These two talk to each other and communicate, and even when each thinks that what the other is doing is wrong, they still get along.

I especially appreciated that the whole secret about Charlotte being Nathaniel's mysterious masked woman goes on just long enough not to become irritating. And again, when the truth comes out, they deal with it maturely.

The mystery about who exactly the boy is is quite interesting, and I liked the way the investigation puts Charlotte and Nathaniel into close proximity, as the book becomes a lovely road romance for a long while. It wasn't particularly hard to guess what had happened, but it was still interesting to see them trying to find out the truth, bit by bit.

I kept thinking all through the book (and this was something that bothered me), that they, and especially Charlotte, were losing sight of the fact that this was a situation that was pretty black and white in terms of what should happen. I mean, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that the right conclusion to all this affair, once we found out what was what, was that the child should take his rightful position - no ifs or buts, no matter what the consequences were for Charlotte. And when Charlotte initially and then Nathaniel increasingly, as well, would waver, I'd get irritated.

But as it turned out, it wasn't so easy. I mean, the right thing was still the right thing to do, but I wasn't considering the difficulties in implementing it. As it was, I absolutely loved the resolution, the way Nathaniel managed to make an impossible situation into one that, while not perfect, was obviously the best to be had. I also liked the more low-key than usual (i.e. the heroine is NOT kidnapped by the villain) way it took.

Something else I liked was the glimpses at the characters from former books, which is something that usually irritates me, but which was well done here. The most interesting was what we saw of what was going on with Penelope and Julian, from The Romantic. I appreciated how Hunter, coherently with what she did in their book, didn't sweeten everything up, but made it very clear that though they were not sorry they chose a hard way, that way was hard. This adds some interesting dimensions to Charlotte's struggle for new divorce laws, a fight in which her entire family is involved.

Negatives? Well, there are some stretches there where the story does lose a bit of momentum. It doesn't become boring, but it's not particularly exciting either.

Still, that's a pretty minor criticism, and the book as a whole is solidly good.


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