One Little Sin
Before writing this review, I spent some time considering my view of wastrels as heroes. Is it necessary for one to be entirely redeemed and a pillar of society by the book’s end or can a hero remain largely unchanged if he becomes immensely lovable? Well, the hero of One Little Sin challenged my definition of a respectable hero, while altering my position somewhat on the required changes an unrepentant scoundrel must make.
After their mother’s death, Esmee Hamilton and her young sister Sorcha have just been thrown out of their Scottish home by Esmee’s stepfather. Raised as a lady, Esmee has no real skills to support the two and, fortunately, the kindly local doctor takes them in while assisting Esmee in finding a situation as a governess. The child’s care remains a primary problem and only one remedy comes to Esmee’s mind – Sorcha’s father. One night in anger, her mother had proclaimed that Sorcha was the product of an affair with Alasdair MacLean, a man with an incredibly bad reputation. Of course, he has no idea that he fathered a child in Scotland, but Esmee decides he is wealthy enough to provide decent care for his daughter if she can coerce him to live up to his obligations.
Little positive can be said of Sir Alasdair’s life other than that he is an extremely handsome man who, at the age of 36, is perfectly happy with his worthless lifestyle. Although there are hints that he is a mathematical whiz, he is, in his own words, a hardened gamester, a practiced wastrel, and a womanizer of the worst order.
Acknowledging to myself that I was going to have to accept this type of hero at some level to continue reading, I still found it difficult to envision any to-be-respected hero running, ducking, hiding, and dodging bullets with an enraged blacksmith in pursuit after catching said hero in a haystack with his wife. During this opening scene, he also gets smacked between the eyes with a wooden handle after stepping on a garden rake. Regrettably, this made my initial impression of Alasdair not only negative but ridiculous as well and it took at least half the book to build a positive image of him – especially given his attitude of “At least I didn’t get caught this time.”
Later that same night as he lays drunk in his sitting room, Alasdair awakens after hearing a knock on his door at an hour much too late for callers. Upon realizing that the caller is a woman, he can’t resist going to the door and is stunned to see a baby in the young woman’s arms – a baby she claims is his. Unsympathetic to any emotion Alasdair is feeling over her shocking news, Esmee announces that she is leaving his daughter in his care and continuing on to her new position as governess. Understandably unwilling to accept complete responsibility for an unknown daughter he has never seen, Alasdair panics when Esmee begins to leave and convinces her to stay on as Sorcha’s governess. Although the situation of employment in a bachelor’s residence, especially this particular bachelor, will surely ruin Esmee’s reputation, Alasdair can think only of himself and the particularly disturbing fact that the child’s eyes brand her as a MacLean.
The first signs of change in Alasdair’s life occur as he spends time with Sorcha each day, discovering that he is quite good at this sudden job of fathering. Watching him play with his daughter as they develop a loving relationship, Esmee starts to see Alasdair as something other than a shameless rogue. At the same time, Alasdair’s growing respect for Esmee makes him admit that he has taken advantage of a lady – one with strength of character who had few choices once forced from her home.
Both Alasdair and Esmee are reluctantly drawn to one another and occasional sparks do fly. However, these two have many obstacles on their road to romance and nothing comes easily for them. Although the most obvious hurdle is Sorcha’s parentage, the largest problem actually comes from Alasdair’s view of himself as the hopeless and unworthy scoundrel everyone believes him to be. A fourteen year age difference further convinces him that Esmee is meant for someone else. Unfortunately, I found the development of their relationship more irritating then rewarding.
One Little Sin is the first in the Sins, Lies, and Secrets trilogy. Two Little Lies is scheduled for release late this year and will feature Quin, Alasdair’s companion in debauchery. The third book, Three Little Secrets, features Alasdair’s brother, the conservative business-oriented Merrick, and Carlyle’s website states its release is April 2006. Both Quin and Merrick are significant secondary characters in One Little Sin and I found myself wanting to read Merrick’s story almost as soon as he was introduced.
True to the past Carlyle books I’ve read, this one clipped right along with hardly a boring moment and required no suspense plot in the background to keep it moving. Still, while I found myself enjoying many of its passages, I was ultimately disappointed in the romance. My attention was centered primarily on Alasdair and his gradual evolvement into a man worthy of love. His redemption is first triggered by his love for Sorcha and made greater by his success in that relationship and, though, it is an incomplete redemption, it’s a satisfying one nonetheless.