Okay, so it’s not exactly run-of-the-mill to have a hero who’s a knowledgeable and enthusiastic collector of erotic engravings or a heroine who is herself a professional and highly skilled engraver. But, sadly, with those notable exceptions aside, virtually everything about Lord of Sin is undeniably familiar.
You’ve got the feisty heroine who keeps secrets (some of them completely inexplicably) from the hero for w-a-a-a-y too long; a “wicked” Bad Boy hero; a passel of dependent sisters, several of whom all but scream “future heroines”; the requisite worthless, betraying, e-e-e-v-i-l scoundrel; at least one hugely implausible coincidence; and the oh-so-familiar obligatory appearances from previous heroes. Considering the been-there-done-that nature of so very much found within Lord of Sin, my overall reaction, to use a word oft found in historical romances, is an overwhelming feeling of ennui.
Considering his position as the n’er-do-well nephew two steps away from being the heir, Ewan McLean never expected to inherit an earldom and even less to find himself making a deathbed promise to protect and see to the safety of the children of a man the dying earl says he ruined. Reluctantly traveling to Scotland, Ewan’s surprises continue when he discovers that his new charges are four sisters living virtually alone in the remote Highlands who – according to oldest sister Bride – are in absolutely no need of his assistance. Ewan doesn’t agree.
To allay Ewan’s concerns, Bride shows her new “guardian” her press and the master engravings produced by her father and, since his death, by her sisters and herself. Though Ewan is relieved to discover that the sisters have the means to provide themselves with a reasonable living, his concern about the remoteness of their home prompts his offer to set up the sisters up in a new home in Edinburgh. Bride, for reasons of her own, refuses.
Ewan is even more intrigued by Bride and her talents when he discovers that erotic engravings formerly owned by her father may be an extremely rare and valuable find. Bride, however, is anything but happy about either Ewan’s discovery of the rare “find” she had attempted to hide or his possession of the expertise that would lead him to recognize it. As the reader soon learns, both she and her sisters have important secrets to keep about their press and their work – secrets that just might put them on the wrong side of the law.
Unquestionably, the world of 19th century engraving is an usual one around which to build a story and ultimately it was the most satisfying aspect of the book to me since I learned quite a bit about a field of which I knew little. To be completely honest, though, I might have learned a bit too much since the book is laden with somewhat technical details about the process. Nevertheless, enthusiastic kudos to the author for her story’s unusual setting.
Unfortunately, however, since virtually all of them are tried and trued denizens of historical romance, the characters featured in Lord of Sin don’t fare as well. Even worse, despite the repeated mentions of what a major Bad Boy Ewan is, he seemed like a standard by-the-book rake to me and certainly no more “wicked” than your average historical hero. And then there’s Bride, the “feisty, smart” one of the sisters. She’s also the stubborn and far too secretive one, if you ask me. Just as problematic, despite Bride’s willingness to indulge her desires, the connection between Ewan and Bride felt lackluster and far short of the passionate, irresistible attraction I’d have to buy in order to make this story a believable one. Add in some highly questionable coincidences – especially after Bride and her sisters come to London for reasons I won’t reveal – and this book ultimately ends up squarely in the slightly above average range.
I also have to mention an admittedly small detail that was equally frustrating to me. The author seems so confident that her readers have either read the previous books in the series or simply won’t care what period in which her story takes place that she never supplies an actual date for the events in the book. My best guess? Lord of Sin is an historical romance set in the Regency-ish period, but since one of the books in the series that this is related to is set in 1831, I can’t be certain.
On the positive side, Lord of Sin offers the attractions of its unique setting and the author’s always readable prose. However, with few sparks of real life or passion within its pages – and this book includes at least one full out orgy – Lord of Sin is technically a “hot” romance that ultimately seemed pretty “warm” to me. I just didn’t feel it, fellow readers, and considering Ms. Hunter’s reputation and backlist (not to mention that I’ve enjoyed her writing in the past), this won’t be one I’ll long remember.
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