Sin Incarnate is an historical romance set in the Georgian period, firmly in the era of powdered wigs. It’s a story of intense sexual chemistry, love found anew, and family ties, but while it is certainly a gripping read, it does seem a little underwritten and is confusing in places.
Mrs. Georgianna Exley- George to her friends- is what one might call a fairly merry widow. Not yet thirty, she is respectable, but takes her share of lovers. Still, to keep her life simple, she keeps her trysts to only one night. This doesn’t keep the rumor mill from spinning, but George is received by everyone and has good connections, so her position in society is secure. She enjoys a good relationship with her in-laws and close friends, and keeps up a fast-paced social life. Her home even acts as a sort of gentlemen’s club, and George has a stable of loyal friends to squire her about town. This ordered life is suddenly disrupted by the return of an acquaintance, a man with whom she’d shared a strong attraction.
Six years earlier, Ivo Dauntry had almost destroyed both of their reputations by killing someone in a duel over George’s honor. For this, Ivo left England in disgrace, and returns only because he has unexpectedly become heir to the Marquess of Tregaron. The last time they saw each other, George was a young wife, and their mutual lust couldn’t be satisfied. Now, she is available, and Ivo demands they resolve what is between them. Unfortunately, neither of them will be satisfied by George’s normal one-night-only rule, and they’re going to have to figure out how much they can really offer each other. Alongside this conflict, there is an enemy from the past who wishes George dead, and Ivo has to figure out how to protect her from this mysterious assailant.
Probably the most interesting part of this book is George, a fully actualized woman who takes advantage of her freedom as a widow to live as she pleases. She has fulfilling familial relationships, close friends, and a support system that protects her while not suppressing her. There is a point towards the end of the book at which it did feel as though her family was stifling her, but it was fairly justifiable and made sense within the context of the story. She’s also sexually liberated, and unfazed by the disapproval of others. When someone who dislikes her is rude, she rises above it. George is not petty, she’s just a charming character and fun to read about. Most of the story makes really good sense, as the conflict between George and Ivo comes from his underestimation of her, and occasionally from contrived misunderstandings.
There are some inconsistencies in the story that made me feel as though I was reading a sequel and had missed an earlier book. The reader is dumped into George’s world without much exposition; it’s never explained how her husband died, only that she loved him and he was in the military. Their marriage is never really mentioned, except by secondary characters in passing, and though she has a close relationship with her in-laws, her own family is mentioned only once, and never in detail. As George isn’t even thirty, it would be surprising if she had no living relatives to speak of, but the only ones the reader sees are her relations by marriage. It is also mentioned that George was a great heiress, but she wasn’t titled before her marriage and her family is never explained, so the source of that fortune isn’t clear. It is obvious from the way George conducts her life that she is seeking to fill an emotional void, but her internal life isn’t explored as deeply as it could have been. Some details from the duel six years earlier are given, but it’s sparing and never fully digestible by the reader. While Ivo is deemed a nice fellow, he doesn’t seem all that bright, and comes across as a tad misogynistic at times. He is mostly sympathetic, which keeps his character from being too irritating.
The biggest problem with Sin Incarnate is the villain – the book doesn’t really need one. Their motivation is murky, especially given the timing of when they seek their revenge. George needing rescuing wasn’t strictly necessary; it could have just been a conflict between George and Ivo about her not wanting to need anyone, despite their feelings for each other. Overall, however, Sin Incarnate is a good read with compelling characters, though the plot could have used some retooling.
Note: This is a reissue of Lord Sin by Kalen Hughes, which was originally published in 2007.