Night of Sin

Julia Ross
2005, European Historical Romance (1830s? England)
Berkeley, $13.00, 402 pages, ISBN 0425200132

 

Grade: B- Sensuality: Hot

 

Night of Sin features a hero who is a tortured rake, and the heroine is a scholarly Dissenter. The atmosphere is dark and filled with angst. I had some problems with the book, but was won over by the interesting characters. And the atmosphere! Those who like their romances lush and a bit dark will eat this one up.

Lord Jonathan Devoran St. George (also known as Wild Lord Jack) has spent years roaming the Far East, where he studied, and and did some spying for the government. Jack has come back home to England, and on the dock he steps into a murder. A mysterious Malay kills a sailor in an attempt to steal a fossil, but before the man dies, he stashes the fossil in Anne Marsh’s luggage, and she unknowingly takes the fossil with her to her aunt’s home. Jack also wants the fossil, and when he realizes what has happened, he knows that Anne is in danger. So he comes to her that night, and persuades her to go with him to his parent’s home for safety.

On the way to Jack’s family, they stop for a night in a cottage and there Anne persuades Jack to allow her to explore the differences between the male and female body. Scholarly pursuit turns into seduction, and Anne and Jack make love with her being the aggressor. Jack is in rapture, though he believes that he is totally unworthy of her and they can never have a future together. But she is compromised and they must wed.

The author gives no time for this book, but since it takes place at the time when dinosaur fossils were being discovered, I would place it in the 1830’s. Jack is the main focus of the story, and he is much more than just a rake. He’s also an explorer rather like Sir Richard Francis Burton. He’s a complex man who has been places no Englishman has ever been, and seen and done things that would horrify a gently bred Englishwoman. But not Anne.

Outwardly, Anne is a sheltered English rose but she has the heart and soul of an explorer. She is a searcher, curious about many things and not horrified when she discovers that some of the answers to her questions are not quite savory. Her whole world is turned upside down in the course of this book, but instead of shrinking from it she embraces it. Jack finally realizes that despite his bravado, Anne is much braver than he, and he is worthy to be her husband.

On the downside, this book gets extremely slow in the middle portion. After a long lull, the author crams a lot into the very end, making the denouement feel very rushed. Along with the pacing problems, there are several instances of faulty storytelling, like characters who appear from the woodwork, and lots of showing rather than telling.

Even with these faults I enjoyed Night of Sin. It’s one of the most lush and atmospheric books I’ve read in a long time; I was drawn in and engufled in the story. Readers who love a book that emphasizes atmosphere will probably have the same reaction I did, lulls and all.

— Ellen Micheletti

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