Saturday, February 2, 2008

Lady of Sin, by Madeline Hunter [1]

*/***** (1/5)

Only those moments featuring the mystery plot with the orphaned boy Harry engaged my interest in LADY OF SIN. The rest of this book contained way too much repetitive introspection and inane thoughts mixed in with the "romantic" exchanges that quickly evaporated my attention span. More than ever, I noticed endless paragraphs of insipid, meandering introspection interspersed between the conversation. I often lost the thread of both the thoughts and the conversation and I didn't care to pick up either of them actually. The romance was lackluster, the pacing awfully slooooooow, the plotting (regarding an orphaned boy's parentage) too sparse, Charlotte too selfish and shallow, and Nathaniel too weak and forgettable. Charlotte really doesn't have a leg to stand on, her self-serving interests aim to preserve her social status and her family's social status in British aristocracy at the expense of an orphaned boy's potential birthright (who lived in poverty). As many times as the book would have us believe Nathaniel an "honorable" man, it's really too easy him to sever the orphaned boy from his birthright or to forget justice for murder (the boy's mother) all in exchange for sex with Charlotte. As much as the book would likes to describe the depths of the emotional connection between Charlotte and Nathaniel (same idea repeated using different words over and over), it still just seemed like meaningless sex (nothing wrong with that really). The sex scenes suffered from all the repetitive introspective musings that forced an emotional connection between the h/h. Extraneous events continued from prior books (THE SINNER, THE ROMANTIC) plague this one such as the birth of Dante's child and Pen's wedding. Seeing Pen and Julian finally wed was actually nice, though would have been much nicer to see it through Pen or Julian's eyes. I kept wanting to see Adrian Burchard from THE CHARMER, but alas, he isn't part of the Duclairc family. I disliked the resolution of this novel too: I found it too tidy while selfishly skewed towards Charlotte's interests. I don't feel Nathaniel did enough to prove (or disprove) the orphaned boy's possible legitimacy.

Who does this book belong to? Definitely Charlotte, because although Nathaniel begins the investigation, he bows out early and often because of the sex with Charlotte. It's Charlotte who compels Nathaniel to see it through. The Lady of Sin title seemed a misnomer though, she's pretty bland and the one night of scandalous sex she has occurs prior to this book. She's a lady that values her social status above truth, justice or honor. So in that way, I suppose she's sinful, but not in the promiscuous sense.

This book likes to keep telling its readers how things are instead of showing us. The book likes to keep telling us Charlotte and Nathaniel hate each other when every indication in this book seems contrary to these assertions. The book likes to tell us Charlotte and Nathaniel share a deep, emotional connection (again and again in many different words) but again I found no emotional link between the two. The book likes to tell us how clever Charlotte is but some of the things she deduces has less to do with brilliance and more to do with common sense. The book likes to tell us how honorable Nathaniel is and how he pursues truth and justice but I found all of his actions in this book contradictory to this characterization.

Why does Nathaniel wish to abandon his quest for the truth behind the boy Harry's parentage after sex with Charlotte? He's really a weak character, and no, it doesn't show that he somehow "loves" Charlotte because he's willing to abandon the truth after what the book tell us is an emotional and physical high with Charlotte. It shows he's fickle, he lets his groin guide him, and that he's completely whipped. It should be about right and wrong, but instead he's willing to accommodate Charlotte (he spent the night giving Charlotte pleasure) because uncovering a secret behind Harry's true parentage would uproot Charlotte's family. Doesn't he care about the truth or doing the right thing? After a village shows no sign of the woman Jenny (who knows more about the boy), he has a "spry" step and he's happy that there's no sign of the woman who could tell them more about the boy Harry! Oh my god, please, if he wasn't remotely whipped before, he is now. He's wants to accommodate Charlotte's wishes after she allows him to pleasure her all night, and he wants to retreat from the truth or flee from doing the right thing in exchange for sex with Charlotte (because any potential truth could create a chasm between Nathaniel and Charlotte). Later, when Charlotte discovers the full truth, Nathaniel offers Charlotte comfort and pleasure and resolves to never speak of it again (because it upset Charlotte so much). Was the sex good enough to deny a boy his true birthright or to dig deeper behind it? Nathaniel's consistent answer to all their roadblocks: oh yeah, let's just have more sex, push off the difficult choices for later! I don't view any of these cowering retreats from truth and justice in Nathaniel as noble, and they're bartered with sex from Charlotte. Look at STEALING HEAVEN's Marcus: he found a way to be with Nesta and avoid open rebellion from the Welsh. Marcus and Nesta's contradicting wishes and their mutual passion didn't effeminate Marcus like it does LADY OF SIN's Nathaniel.

Charlotte is one annoying, shallow, selfish, snide heroine. There isn't a single quality -- with the possible exception of appearance -- to recommend her. And not really appearance either because she's "ethereal" through Nathaniel's eyes while Nathaniel is "handsome" through her eyes (over and over). Don't you love how romance heroes are so deep while their heroine counterparts fairly single-minded over height, muscles and handsome appearance? LADY OF SIN reminded me again of this ploy in the romance genre; that is, making the heroes deep and above appearances while the heroines very superficial. Charlotte wishes to protect her family from what she perceives are "scandalous lies" despite the possible authenticity of the "lies." She spurns any truth that would denigrate her reputation and her family's reputation. In fact, she's proud that amongst her family (her two brothers, and her older sister Penelope from THE ROMANTIC), only she is invited to all of the esteemed social circles. Amongst her family, she notes only her name and reputation maintains high standards for self-righteousness and eludes social censure. She values social status over truth or doing the right thing. When evidence finally indicates a legitimate and as yet unknown heir (not Ambrose the child she loves), Charlotte grieves that her life will be ruined. Cry some more, Charlotte? What, will she have to live in poverty? Will the child she loves (Ambrose) not know a comfortable life? None of this, she's genuinely more concerned about her social status and her family's social status than the truth and bestowing another child his rightful inheritance. Another child (Harry / Jose / Joseph) that has only known strife, poverty and hardship. Another child that has no family or real home. And here is our heroine Charlotte only concerned about herself. She even considers whoring herself to Nathaniel to ensure his silence, which she essentially does anyway since Nathaniel is so whipped he's willing to deny a boy's birthright in exchange for sex with Charlotte. Charlotte's "ghosts from the past" after she (and we as the reader) discover the full truth are lame and the very fact that she struggles with them unwarranted.

The emotional melodrama Charlotte suffers over the potential loss of her happiness if another child earns his rightful title and inheritance was beyond absurd and very frustrating to read. Not like she's been living a joyful and fulfilling life all this time because if that were the case, she would not have ventured to an orgy party (off-screen and prior to LADY OF SIN). Nathaniel was too eager to abandon his quest for the truth after sex with Charlotte.

All in all, poor characterizations, subpar plotting and pacing and below average prose. The best part of this novel? The preview to THE RULES OF SEDUCTION (*****), which I'll have to read again at some point.

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