This is a book that’s been TBR for almost two years. Kalen Hughes is a smart, talented author with mad historical research skills; you can tell that she knows and loves this period (late 1780s, as Georgian is becoming Regency). Her short story, “Something Wicked,” is a favorite re-read of mine. Serendipitously, the suggested TBR Challenge category this month was romantic suspense. I thought I was ignoring that, only to find a serial killer in the pages of this historical romance.
The title of the book confused me, because to me Lord Sin suggests that the book’s hero has a reputation of vice and naughty behavior, and certainly Ivo Dauntry is no golden boy. But it’s the heroine, Georgie Exley, who has the reputation. People think she has had a string of lovers since becoming a widow, and she rides, shoots, drinks and hunts with men in a way that causes quite a bit of talk. Not what I was expecting, but I love a merry widow, and George is a fabulous character.
Years ago, Ivo came upon Georgie being manhandled, and he killed the offender, creating a scandal. His family, in particular, was mortified, and he and Georgie haven’t met since. He’s been abroad, she’s been in England, and he doesn’ even know she’s a widow until he encounters her at a boxing match in chapter one. I thought that was an interesting premise, but I admit I didn’t care for the next step — both characters realize their mutual sexual attraction, so they agree to six nights of sex because she “owes” him for rescuing her all those years ago and causing himself trouble by doing so. That bothered me, even though Georgie doesn’t feel so much obligated as lustful, and they both are in the “get it out of my system” trap.
Of course, “it’s just lust” eventually becomes more, although so slowly that I wanted to slap them both for their failure to distinguish between physical attraction and emotional engagement. Ivo resists, at least in part, because of how angry his family will be over his attachment to the woman he’s already been a fool over. Georgie’s resistance was harder for me to believe, because she’s so brave and unconventional in other ways, but it does make sense that she’s reluctant to give up her independence (a wealthy widow has more social freedom than almost any other woman) and give a man control over her again.
Eventually the threat to Georgie’s life, at the hands of the killer, becomes both another obstacle to their relationship and the means through which Georgie realizes both that she loves Ivo more than she fears marrying again and that he isn’t going to expect her to become subservient — he loves her as she is. That’s really what made this book work for me; Ivo wants Georgie just the way she is, “fierce, defiant and oddly masculine.” How could I not love a heroine of that description, or the man who finds her irresistible?
This author now writes for a different publisher, as Isobel Carr. You can be sure I’ll be reading both Lord Scandal, this book’s sequel, and the books written under the new pen name.