Friday, December 3, 2010
One Wicked Sin
Lottie Paliser is the most notorious woman in London after her many love affairs ended with a scandalous divorce from her very wealthy husband. Her extravagant lifestyle and spending habits have left her destitute and her entire family has refused to help her. With nowhere else to turn Lottie agrees to become a courtesan in a brothel but her past experience with sex is of no use and she is in danger of being thrown out after leaving several customers unsatisfied. Ethan Ryder is an Irish nobleman who is being held in England as a prisoner of war after being captured fighting for the French. Ethan is planning something big regarding all the other prisoners being held in England and he wants to create a distraction so no one will dig too deeply and Lottie is absolutely perfect. He hires her as his mistress and she agrees because there really are no other options open to her and because she is intrigued by the handsome man who spurned his titled father and ran off to fight for the French.
Ethan escorts Lottie back to Wantage where he is being held and quickly sets her up in her own little cottage. The two begin their affair on a very physical level and neither can deny that there is something more there as Ethan is sweet and attentive and Lottie is strangely reticent. Both of them enjoy this softer side to their relationship but Ethan does not believe he can trust Lottie and Lottie doesn't believe that Ethan wants anything more from her than a bed partner. Lottie is pulled in different directions when her brother offers her a way back into society if she agrees to spy on Ethan and though she agrees she does not want to betray the man she is coming to care for. When she learns that the English have imprisoned Ethan's son, Arland, in a nearby prison just to torment him she is even more determined not to bring harm to Ethan. Ethan is finding that Lottie is nothing like the coldhearted shrew he had been expecting and when she helps his son he knows that he is hopelessly in love with her. But when Lottie discovers that he is hatching the prisoner escape plan she must make a heartbreaking decision and risk losing Ethan forever.
Lottie came across as incredibly awful, shallow, and selfish in Whisper of Scandal and I was a little worried that Cornick had created a character she would not be able to redeem and make worthy of her own book. While I still did not remain convinced that Lottie was an entirely likable character, it was obvious that her divorce and the ensuing scandal had made Lottie recognize her past mistakes and genuinely want to make up for some of her past transgressions. Her past, with her father leaving her and her ex-husband spurning her for other lovers, went a long way toward explaining her promiscuity but not necessarily her flightiness and willingness to betray her closest friend. Her life as a courtesan is rather cloudy and I am not certain she went through with any of her contracts but I admit that I admired her courage and willingness to do whatever she needed to do to survive and I really enjoyed reading about her learning to open up and trust someone and her struggles as she chose between love and country.
Ethan was a new character to the series and not very easy to warm to until we start learning about his son but I very much admired him for fighting for his principles by joining the French. I admit I've never really been a fan of books where the French Revolution is so roundly villain-ized because, although it did take a dangerous turn, it had good intentions and was an important step towards equality in Europe. The most disconcerting aspect of this was his acceptance of Lottie's betrayal as I felt like he should have been much more upset at her for spoiling his plans. I really liked the development of their relationship and how it progressed from sex to feelings and how it was detailed so throughly and so evident throughout the book. Each of them wanted to make the other happy and there were just little moments that made that so clear. I was a little weirded out by the reappearance of Joanna Grant and how she and Lottie were now the best of friends and so happy to see each other after the way things had ended between them, but the other secondary characters were very well done.
Rating: Another really great book by Cornick with an unconventional heroine whom I thoroughly enjoyed reading about.