Carol *Young at Heart Oldie*'s Reviews > One Wicked Sin

One Wicked Sin by Nicola Cornick
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ONE WICKED SIN, the second book in Nicola Cornick's delightful series Scandalous Women of the Ton, is a compelling story of scandal, honour, betrayal and passion.

Once married to a fabulously wealthy banker, Lottie Cummings had been one of the foremost hostesses in London until her reckless behaviour changes everything. Divorced by her husband, shunned by her former friends and disowned by her own family, she finds herself destitute. Her options are limited and she becomes a courtesan in a Covent Garden brothel, but the life is not at all as she imagined. She can see no way of escaping her fate until Ethan Ryder, Baron St. Severin, comes into her life.

The illegitimate son of the Duke of Farne, Ethan ran away to France as a boy and later joined Napoleon's army. He quickly rose to be a dashing cavalry officer but was captured by the British and is now a parole prisoner of war. He is planning a spectacular revenge on his British captors, but needs a suitable distraction to cover his activities. Having the notorious Lottie Palliser as his mistress fit his plans perfectly.

Lottie certainly causes a stir in the small parole town of Wantage, enabling Ethan to finalize his plans but neither expects that their arrangement will lead to a passionate and all-consuming love, one which will be tested by the events unfolding around them.

At the heart of this book is the story of two unlikely people meeting and falling in love. At first, their relationship is based on one of mutual need--Lottie needs Ethan as a means of escaping a life of degradation in the brothel and Ethan needs the 'notorious' Lottie to act as a smokescreen for his activities. Neither expects their relationship to be anything other than sex and money. Lottie provides the sex and Ethan provides the money!

I like the way in which Ms Cornick conveys the subtle changes in Lottie's and Ethan's feelings for each other. When they first meet in the brothel, Ethan is expecting someone sophisticated and experienced but finds a vulnerable woman, very unsure of herself, and nothing like her reputation suggests. I think this is why he is initially attracted to Lottie, because she is totally different from what he expected, softer and appealing.

Lottie expects no special treatment from Ethan:

This was a man who had brought her for his pleasure and she knew she should not forget that. He had been bored, wanting a mistress to pass the time. She was the woman chosen.

She is, therefore, surprised when he shows her great tenderness, realizing how her self-confidence has been shattered by her time in the brothel. He is even willing to seduce her rather than the other way around! In doing so, he helps remind Lottie how wonderful physical love can be. I think this is what initially draws Lottie to Ethan.

Ethan is the one who struggles the most with his deepening feelings for Lottie. His reactions when he makes love to her are far different from those he has felt with other women:

And yet making love to Lottie had been as profound as it was sweet. It had felt intimate and seductive in a far more dangerous sense than simply sexual.

I sense a natural affinity between the two of them because they were both badly hurt in the past. Lottie was hurt both when her father abandoned her at the age of six and also when her husband rejected his seventeen-year-old bride. You can fully understand why she embarked on the various affairs. She was lonely and it was a form of escape from the emptiness of her marriage and I think that deep down, she was always looking for love.

Ethan had also suffered when he was a child. He was taken away from his mother by his father, the Duke of Farne, to be brought up in a household that despised him and was later sent to a school where he was bullied because he was illegitimate.

Those who enjoy steamy love scenes will not be disappointed and I particularly have in mind the scene where Lottie decides that enough is enough. She has always submitted to Ethan's will but this time, she is in charge!

The plot is well paced with quite a few twists and surprises involving a traitor in their midst, the escape of Ethan's son, Arland, and the appearance of Lottie's brother, Theo. The theme of betrayal is an important element in the plot on different levels. Lottie is willing to betray Ethan because Theo offers her a chance to recover at least a semblance of her former life, which seems so important to her at the time. However, as she comes to love Ethan, she knows she can never betray him and is willing to risk her life to protect his son and Ethan himself. The traitor is willing to betray his friends for money and there is a further betrayal which I feel is the worst of all but I will not elaborate as this would spoil the impact.

There is a certain lack of humour in this book compared to the other books in the series but I did find myself chuckling on a number of occasions. The scene in the marketplace where Lottie turns the tables on the stallholder who refuses to serve her comes to mind and the letters from the townsfolk asking Lottie for advice on fashions and other more intimate matters.

I admit to being intrigued by the historical aspects in this book and wondered whether there really were parole towns and whether French officers were allowed a certain freedom. I did a little checking and discovered that Ms Cornick had certainly researched her material well because Wantage was actually as parole town. It just goes to prove that reading Historical Romance can enrich your mind!

Here are a few of my favourite quotes:

How had he, the most cold and calculating man in the kingdom, ended up with a courtesan who seemed almost as nervous as a virgin, accompanied by a canary that could not sing.

She supposed that she could hardly blame her breasts for drooping; she was fairly weary of life herself.

In the candlelight, she saw the shadow of his eyelashes against his skin, so spiky and hard, yet so soft that her heart did a little tumble. Strange that it should be that one small thing that pushed her over the edge into love and yet she could no longer deny it.

"I love you. I've loved you for weeks. I would go barefoot for you, to the ends of the earth...."

Anyone who enjoys a blend of powerful emotions, sizzling love scenes and lively action will definitely enjoy this second installment in Nicola Cornick's Scandalous Women of the Ton series.

http://www.theromancereviews.com/view...

This review was originally written for The Romance Reviews.
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Reading Progress

March 8, 2011 – Started Reading
March 8, 2011 – Shelved
March 15, 2011 – Finished Reading

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