Blurb: He is called the "Duke of Sin" … a notorious rogue and recluse whose reputation is as black as the Cornish night. They speak of his conquests, his past, and his mysteries in breathless whispers. And now lovely and desperate Vivian Rael-Lamont has no choice but to enter William Raleigh’s lair.
Vivian prayed that the scandal that drove her from London would never be revealed — but now she will be exposed to the world … unless William can protect her. She has heard the rumours about the infamous Duke of Sin, yet she is unprepared for the man’s raw, sensuous power … or for the traitorous response of her own body. Surrender, however, could prove most dangerous indeed — for both of them. For while the duke is intrigued by the guarded, intoxicating lady who has invaded his solitude — and fully intends to discern her every secret through sweet, unhurried seduction — it is his own heart that will be imperiled when passion takes them farther than he ever intended.
My thoughts: This is the first book in the "Duke-Trilogy". After reading "Winter Garden" I was curious to see whether I would like another story by Adele Ashworth just as much. "Duke of Sin" definitely has some similarities as to style and qualities of her characters.
The so called "Duke of Sin" is a formidable hero, as tortured as they come, but actually sweet, caring and pretty perfect. The title of the novel is not really misleading because only from reading the blurb every halfway experienced romance reader must know that the allegations about him can’t be true. He is just the Duke of Sin in the eyes of the gossipy neighbours, ton etc. but – of course – he is innocent and a victim of evil machinations.
Vivian is honest and sincere and never lies about her feelings. William never has to speculate whether she likes his advances, whether she likes him, loves him, desires him. It’s all plain out in the open. At the same time she is independent and self assured, downright acid sometimes when it comes to talking to her supposedly betters. She just has a secret that she doesn’t want to come to light. Fair enough.
I like Adele Ashworth’s writing style. Even though long winded at times, often she cuts to the chase instead of boring me to death. An example: Vivian has just told William that they can never be together and leaves him, never to see him again. End of chapter. Now normally I would expect at least a chapter or two of going back and forth from hero to heroine showing how much they suffer, how miserable they are, how they dream of each other…. Here right after the leaving scene the next chapter starts with a scene where Vivian and Will meet again after a five months separation.
The blackmail plot is pretty simple and really not very important. Just like in "Winter Garden" the smuggling plot, it is just a way to bring the characters together. I couldn’t care less whether those characters were fleshed out or not, they were just accessories.
There were a few things that bothered me a bit:
The dialogue is highly unusual for an historical romance. Especially the sex talk is open and straightforward, no pussyfooting around. This is even more surprising when you consider that Vivian is a virgin. An what a virgin she is! This is one of the flaws of the novel. Not even a modern virgin would behave the way Vivian behaves. She is sexually aggressive, she knows what she wants, how she wants it and and how to get it. I found this unbelievable.
At one point when Vivian tells William about her marriage she says something like "a few years later Leopold moved away to spend his life in France…". I thought that at this point William must have realized that Leopold was not dead but that Vivian was still married. How else, by the way, could she be blackmailed? Certainly the threat to expose that her late husband was an opium addict wouldn’t work. It must be a bit more substantial than that. But William did not draw that conclusion.
Why on Earth did Vivian (or William for that matter, since he already had a professional investigator at hand) never made inquiries as to the current status of Leopold. Excuse me, the guy was heavily addicted already umpteen years ago and wasted his life. Chances are that he died a long time ago (as he obligingly did), so what would have been more obvious than to check that out much earlier than they did.
Will’s two fellow dukes are the heroes of the following two books in the trilogy. They seemed likeable enough to me even though they only made a very short appearance in the book. So I’m looking forward to reading about them. Maybe this will explain a few things about them, like for example why one of them is such an excellent forger. A pretty unorthodox talent for a duke, if you ask me.
One more word to the back cover of the paperback. When I saw the cover online I was rather pleased with the unobtrusive front cover. Too bad that the back does not correspond to it. It is the usual tacky romance cover with a half naked stud and a long haired beauty. I could have done without this.
Duke of Sin is available on Amazon