by Kalen Hughes, historical (2007)
Zebra, $3.99, ISBN 978-0-8217-8149-4
Kalen Hughes' debut historical romance Lord Sin resides in that place somewhere between an erotic historical romance and a more family-friendly sort. Kalen Hughes writes in a manner comparable to Susan Johnson on a good day when Susan Johnson is sober, so to speak, when it comes to actually having a plot in her story. Yet at the same time the author also displays a keen sense of awareness where her characters are concerned, often portraying these characters' thoughts and emotions keenly so that I, as the reader, am privy to the most intimate moments. This makes the characters feel more real and their relationship more romantic and charged with eroticism than it otherwise would be.
Oh, and this is one of those stories with an experienced heroine. Georgianna "George" Exley is not a fake widow, nor is she some annoying widow convinced that it will take a pair of pliers to get her to let her hair hang down. She's been around after the death of her husband, although realistically she's not that promiscuous. George plays a balancing game of sorts when it comes to balancing respectability with impropriety. There are rumors surrounding her, my favorite being that she makes the man roll a die to determine how many nights he has to sleep with her.
Our hero Ivo Dauntry is not amused by these rumors. You see, six years ago when George was still Mrs Lionel Exley, Ivo was besotted with her enough to take part in a duel in order to defend George's honor when she was discovered in the midst of trying to fend off a molester in a party. The resulting death of the horny toad forced Ivo to flee to Paris. He only returns at the start of the story when he becomes the new Earl of Somercote and heir to the Marquis of Tregaron. When he discovers that Mrs Exley is now a widow and from all accounts available to anyone that catches her fancy, he is not amused. After all, he feels, somewhat irrationally but most understandably, that he had given up a big part of his life to defend her honor so he's not happy when he discovers that she hasn't played the role of the celibate virtuous woman he would like to imagine that he has martyred himself for. He wants six nights with George, one for each year that he feels that he has "lost" to George. George, however, doesn't want any emotional entanglements so she only allows her lovers one night in her bed.
There is also subplot involving some deranged fellow wanting some kind of revenge on George because in his mind she is the embodiment every faithless whore in this world, but this subplot feels more like a cartoon than anything else. I find the highly charged courtship ritual between the main characters more interesting, especially as George isn't an unconventional heroine as much as she is a rather realistic character with libido and feelings like a normal woman would.
The only downside I can think of, apart from the silly psychopath subplot, is Ivo. He's too much of a brooding emo boy to be interesting, especially when he's 35. Men who are 35 yet act like emo boys who listen too much to Maroon 5 are just not interesting to me. He's such a wet blanket in this story that I have no idea what George sees in him. In fact, there are times when I feel that George is using Ivo as a catalyst for some kind of self-discovery rather than for a boyfriend.
Still, Lord Sin is a pretty noteworthy debut. It can be quite rough around the edges where the story and the hero are concerned, but it also gives me a pretty good idea that I really like what the author has to offer and will offer in the future.
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