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This is a review of the 2011 book "One Wicked Sin" by Nicola Cornick. Set in 1786, it is a loosely historical novel about a romance between a fallen lady and a French (but actually he is Irish) political prisoner during the Battle of Trafalgar who fall in love. The lady, Lottie Cummings is chosen by the notorious Ethan Ryder from the brothel as his preferred Mistress and he takes her from London to the sleepy town of Wantage deliberately intending to cause a stir (and a diversion) with their outrageous behaviour.
The relationship between Lottie and Ethan is quite equal. She puts out and he pays for it handsomely. Lottie needs every penny she can get her hands on and is determined to return to the high society lifestyle she once enjoyed.
Freedoms and restrictions
Ethan is a prisoner of war, bound to the Village of Wantage but he can get leave to attend to business elsewhere via his parole officer. Ethan rooms in a local pub with other foreign POWs and is central to the local resistance. He uses Lottie as his cover to retrieve and send messages essential to their cause.
Spying on her lover
Meanwhile, Lottie is torn between being a spy for her brother to regain the family's approval and to do this she must report on Ethan's movements. She is hopeless in this role and Ethan catches her out again and again. She takes his money whenever she can, snitches on him, backchats and challenges him and he wonders why he is constantly obsessed with bedding her.
Speaking of bedding, there are many of these moments in the book, yet a lot do not involve a bed. The stagecoach is a favourite location, as is leaning on the piano, under a tree and other scenarios. Bursting bodices and britches doesn't even begin to describe the titillation in this book! I have to quote one page for you which made me titter: "Lottie had never seen Ethan in his uniform before and the deep navy blue with striking splash of red at the shoulder almost stole her breath. He had the broadness of chest and thigh to carry it off." Be still my beating heart!
Once the pair got to Wantage, the book really reminded me of the TV series 'Lark Rise to Candleford' for some reason. I read the book quickly and enjoyed reading a different genre and time setting. I would not be desperate to seek other books in the series (I think they feature different characters each time that are mentioned in the background of other books) but if I came across them I might read them.
This book was a pleasant enough read, not particularly taxing but enjoyable to witness the cunning and plotting that Lottie goes through to ensure she is clothed and housed. Although she is living a scaled down life to her past experience as Lady of the Manor, she still has a maid and enough clothing to not care when her lover rips yet another front of her dress off in his haste to devour her. I would recommend this for romance novel fans but not those seeking an accurate historical account.