One Night of Sin
The latest entry in Gaelen Foley’s Knight Miscellany series features the Bad Boy of the family: Lord Alec Knight. Taking a man who has a serious gambling problem, who behaved very badly and broke the heart of the heroine in Foley’s last book (Devil Takes a Bride), who stayed financially solvent by becoming a gigolo, and turning him into hero material is no easy task. But Foley manages to do it.
Becky Ward has run away from her home after witnessing a murder. The man responsible is her cousin, the half-English, half-Russian Prince Mikhail, recently come to England to claim the earldom of his English grandfather. He has brought with him his own private army of Cossacks who terrorize the local village. Becky does what she can, but is no match for the ruthless Mikhail, who has promised to bring the outspoken Becky to heel through ravishment. Becky has been four days on the run and on the road from her Yorkshire home to London to find the Duke of Westland, her county’s magistrate, knowing that no one of lesser stature could bring Mikhail to justice.
In London, she takes refuge from the rain on a mansion’s portico, falling asleep only to be found by Lord Alec Knight and his cohorts. They take her for a prostitute, and though she holds her own and escapes them, Alec is intrigued enough to follow her.
Alec has recently been reexamining his life. A gambler whose funds were cut off by his frustrated family, he turned to moneylenders with predictable results. In order to escape, he became a kept man, allowing Lady Campion to pay his debts in exchange for sex. His actions lost him the love of the only woman he could picture himself marrying and since her marriage to another he has been restless, edgy, bored with life and disgusted with himself.
Talking with Becky, a woman who exudes an air of courage and vulnerability, does not bore him. Believing her to be a fledgling soiled dove, he offers to take her home with him. Becky, tired, hungry, Cossacks on her heels, knowing that she will likely be caught and returned to a brutal rape at the hands of Mikhail, decides to spend the night in safety with Alec and lose her virginity to a man of her choosing.
They spend a passionate night together and share more than just sex. Alec is touched by her in a way he thought himself incapable of and she falls a bit in love with him and the kindness and tenderness he shows her. In the morning, she leaves without a word, but Alec is able to follow her to the Duke of Westland’s home where he saves her from Mikhail who arrived before she did, killing two of his Cossacks in the process. Alec was ready to marry her as soon as he realized she was a virgin and insists on helping her, but she, of course, refuses, knowing that Mikhail will not hesitate to kill Alec.
Alec’s transformation from cynical hedonist to honorable man is both too quick and too slow. His decision to marry Becky, to see her safe seems to be quickly made without much soul-searching or conscious decision making. But then he spends the rest of the book regretting his past, knowing he is tainted, and trying to keep the knowledge of it from Becky while suffering enormous guilt over it. But Foley did convince me that, at heart, Alec is a good man.
I liked Becky more than Alec, which surprised me, for I’m usually a sucker for a tortured hero, and feisty heroines will usually make me wary, lest they become too feisty and stray into TSTL-land. But, while Becky was definitely feisty, she was more; she was practical and sure of herself and realistic in her expectations, especially where Alec was concerned. She didn’t jump to conclusions, she faced things head on, and didn’t let herself – or Alec – take the easy way out.
As one has come to expect from Gaelen Foley, One Night of Sin comes by its “Hot” rating honestly. After their initial night of passion, Alec refuses to have sex with Becky again until she agrees to marry him – though Alec’s definition of “having sex” is the same as Bill Clinton’s: no penetration. Most of us, however, will acknowledge that there is plenty of sex going on, only of the multiple, reciprocal, and simultaneous oral variety. And, as one has come to expect from Gaelen Foley, it skirts the Purple Prose line without quite falling over it.
My biggest problem with the novel is its length. Foley’s novels regularly come in at the low-400s page level. This one topped out at 471 pages, which means that, for me, it took a bit too long to wrap up, there was a bit too much guilt wallowing, a bit too much Mikhail and Lady Campion nastiness, just a bit too much.
But this doesn’t lessen my enjoyment of a novel filled with complex characters, a compelling romance and plenty of fiery love scenes. Every romance should have the same.