DUKE OF SIN
Author: Adele Ashworth ISBN: 0060528400 11/2004 HISTORICAL Publisher: HARPER COLLINS/Avon
RRAH's THOUGHTS AND PONDERINGS:
I've long been a fan of Adele Ashworth, but I have to admit her latest releases haven't quite measured up to her earlier works, such as MY DARLING CAROLINE, WINTER GARDEN, and STOLEN CHARMS, all three of which sit on my keeper shelves. What a wonderful surprise, then, in reading DUKE OF SIN, to find that the sensuality and depth of character that I so loved in those previous stories seems to have, once again, reappeared.
Will and Vivian, the two main characters, are both in their mid-thirties. I realize not everyone will like an older heroine (it never seems to matter for the men, for some reason), but it's refreshing to have a mature, responsible and sensible woman be the focus of attention, as opposed to the endless run of 19 to 20 year-olds most historical romances seem to favor. In DUKE OF SIN, over the period of ten years, Vivian has made herself into an independent woman, very well-respected in her own community. Having her be of an older, more mature age only adds credibility to Vivian's handling of both her relationship with Will, and the steps she has taken to protect the reputation of her family.
As the brooding and elusive duke, Will exudes both charm and sexuality. His pursuit of Vivian and the evolving of their relationship over time is finely crafted by Ms. Ashworth. Will is, at times, somewhat self-centered, as most aristocrats pretty much were, I think. But he is also a thinking and sensible man, who listens and tries to ease Vivian's fears, weighing his options rather than acting through sheer emotion and impulse.
It might sound as though DUKE OF SIN should merit a Top Pick award from me, but alas, I still had a few problems with it, mainly towards the latter part of this story, after a confrontation between Will and the villain. Without spoiling the plot for you, which has a very unexpected twist to it, Vivian's care by Will after this climatic event and the conversation during a romantic interlude between the two that follows, left me rather flat. Knowing Vivian's concern for her reputation and her good standing with the townsfolk, Will's tending of her in his bedchamber just didn't make sense—with his shirt off, no less. Their small talk while lovemaking at this point, is somewhat "purple" and unbelieveable, not to mention a bit over-the-top, while oddly the conversation directly after-the-fact is sensible, heartwarming, and true-to-life.
DUKE OF SIN might not be what this reviewer considers the best of Adele Ashworth, but it is still well worthy of my recommendation as an above-average read.