To Sin With a Scoundrel
(Read for the TBR Challenge prompt of “Kicking It Old School”, September 2019)
I have a lot of older romances in my stash, so normally the “read a book at least ten years old” prompt is easy-peasy. I must be feeling a little contrary this year because everything I’m REALLY wanting to read seems to be of the shiny and new variety. So, I’m fudging it a little bit. To Sin With a Scoundrel is actually a 2010 release (though it’s early 2010, so I’m technically reading a book that’s 9.5 years old here!!) I’ve been off historicals a bit this year, and this novel really was a breath of fresh air to me.
First of all, I loved that we got to see the lead characters both being exactly what we’re told they are. Lady Ciara Sheffield really is something of a recluse, and she’s the real deal when it comes to scientist heroines. She experiments in her home, and participates actively in a women’s intellectual society. Likewise, not only are we told that Lucas, Earl of Hadley is a rake – complete with a catchy nickname – but we see him in action. Given some of his opening scenes in the book, it’s fair to say that he is no fake rake.
For a fake engagement to work, there has to be a truly believable reason for it. Ciara has believability in spades. Not only was her late husband an abusive jerk, but he has grasping relatives who want to get control of her son so that they can then control his inheritance. Said relatives have embarked on a whisper campaign to convince both Society and the authorities that Ciara murdered her husband.This leaves Ciara in a vulnerable position.
And then there’s Lucas. He’s got a terrible reputation in the scandal sheets, and is also in a bit of a pickle. He may not take much in his life seriously, but he does dearly love the uncle who raised him. Said uncle has stumbled upon a mysterious manuscript which needs translating and Ciara may be just the person for the job. So the two strike a bargain. A false engagement will help defend Ciara from the whispering campaign as well as help Lucas appear at least a little less disreputable. Throw in some work on the manuscript and a spicy side-bet involving the study of ornithology and we’re off to the races.
Lucas and Ciara are quite fun. They clearly have different worldviews, and I loved how they engaged with each other. There’s banter, but real discussion, too. And the author does a wonderful job both of showing the man behind Lucas’ rakish attitude as well as showing his gradual evolution as he comes first to appreciate Ciara and then to really fall for her.
I’m normally not pro-kids in romances because they’re often props rather than characters. However, Ciara’s son Peregrine is a believable seven/eight-year-old boy. And his relationship with Lucas adds to the story as well as letting readers see sides of both leads that otherwise would not have been conveyed. The friendships shown in this book – Lucas with his uncle, Ciara with her scientific society – also give the story a richness that I appreciated. There’s a warmth to this book that made me feel welcomed into a circle of good company.
There are a few slow parts to the story, and the great dramatic climax with the villain at the end felt a little tacked on. However, I still greatly enjoyed myself while reading this book and I’ve already picked up the sequel.