Book Review

Lord Scandal and Lord Sin by Kalen Hughes

B-

Title: Lord Sin & Lord Scandal
Author: Kalen Hughes
Publication Info: Kensington 2008
ISBN: 0821781502
Genre: Historical: European

A two-book review from the “And Now For Something A Little Different” department.

You know those women who are friends with scads of men but not so many women? What if one of those women was in a historical romance? What if she were a widow, free of those pesky expectations of innocence and demureness? What if she were bawdy, outrageous, and friends with absolute piles of handsome, rakish men who adored her and considered her one of their own? Who would reign her in? Other women, gossip, scandal, and the expectations of society at the time? What if she didn’t give a rat’s ass about gossip, scandal, or the expectations of society? Who needs other women, anyway?

So, couple all that setup with a depth of historical knowledge that will literally make your corset spin around on top of your head, some sharp dialogue, and settings that are original, fascinating, and located in the same historical period with which you may be familiar, but at often unexplored locations within that period, and you have Hughes’ two books.

That trifecta of historical research, clever setting, and wholly memorable characters, held competently by Hughes’ writing, is some powerful juju.

Lord SinThe first, Lord Sin, is the story of George, aka Georgianna Exley, who is what tomboys grow up to be when they’re wealthy, whip smart, sexy, and aware of their female allure, but also wicked good at things like pool, shooting, horseracing, and generally making a gleeful sport of life. Ivo Dauntry left England in disgrace six years prior for fighting a duel over George. He’s returned to find that she’s a widow, she’s surrounded by men at all hours of the day, her home is an unofficial gentleman’s club, and despite his best intentions he has absolutely no power to resist her. He’s wildly jealous of all the other men, and is completely unimpressed with George’s mandate that, should she take a man to her bed, he gets one night and one night only. Ivo wants six nights, one for each year he was in exile.

So let me warn you: this is not your average historical romance novel. For one thing: the person struggling with moral and personal virtue vs. fiery burn-your-hairs-off sexual attraction? That’d be the hero. The one who has more potential partners than a stick could be shaken at? That’d be the heroine. If you’re up for having your expectations of the heroine’s virginity and relative innocent inexperience stood on their heads, and you’re up for meeting a heroine who will stick with you awhile, head directly to this book and jump in. Ivo is cranky, George at times treats him in ways that made me cringe, but I still rooted for them. The two of them knock heads before they knock boots in ways that toss a grenade on the idea of “conflict” and kick that conflict up in its own teeth. George and Ivo do not have it easy, but when they earn it, they earn it hot and good.

Lord ScandalWhich is why I was pleased and yet somewhat bummed out to find her in the next book in Hughes’ series featured George and Ivo, but most specifically George. She’s fascinating. She’s marvelous. She’s larger than life.

She damn near chews the scenery to the point where if you put the book down you might pick it up to find little bites taken out of the pages, and no cat in sight to blame for the nibble.

Lord Scandal follows Gabriel, a mere mister of some fortune and even more some reputation, and Imogen, the “Portrait Divorcee.” Divorced on grounds of her alleged infidelity after she sat for a rather scandalous portrait (Think Madame X only more alluring, I think) and the resulting gossip humiliated her politically-ambitious husband, Imogen is an outcast in a society she once managed marvelously as a political hostess. George takes Imogen under her wing, and quietly goes about restoring Imogen to society, albeit a more racy, outrageous, and frankly fun, if you’re asking me, section of society.

One element that Hughes exploits to great advantage is the idea of cliques within the ton, as George and her cronies are of “the sporting set,” which defines them apart from other groups, though they all might end up at the same ball or gathering together. Plus, Hughes’ understanding of what sorts of activities those sporting folks might get on with makes for some witty dialogue and refreshingly different scenes. Almack’s my ass: we have horseracing, hunting parties, country parties with fox hunting and shooting – places men would only be welcome except for the iconoclast George and her companion Imogen. And before the book gets top heavy with the manly manhood, there are scenes with the women spending an afternoon reading fashion catalogs, for example, and discussing dresses and styles, which revealed what some women of status and fortune actually did with themselves during the day.

And therein lie my problems with this book: George is all about installing Imogen among her set of manly man friends, and as a divorcee, Imogen’s social options are rather limited. What better group to ignore her alleged dalliance than a crew of dudes? Dudes, obviously, won’t give a flying crap cake. Gabriel, a fixture in the rakish sporting posse, is barely allowed entrance to most social events, and the more outrageous he is, the better he was to read about, and the more fun he is to see within his social circle. But the actual conduct that made Imogen a pariah is never fully explained, nor is the impact of Gabriel’s intimate knowledge of that portrait revealed. I had to wonder what would happen when Imogen learned the extent of Gabriel’s knowledge of her – and since it wasn’t revealed in front my readerly eyes, I’m not sure I can believe it was for the best.

Imogen’s coming back from a place of deep humiliation, so of course she fears the consequences of a shocking and gossipy fling with Gabriel – and she has real reason to fear those consequences, as Hughes makes a point of underscoring just how vulnerable Imogen really is, despite Ivo and George’s protection as her friends. George, rakish social pirate that she is, comes to Imogen’s defense again and again with her own considerable power in society, but essentially, Imogen is very, very vulnerable. And thus, Imogen herself pales, unfortunately, in comparison to George. George is full-strength oils applied with a trowel. Imogen is watercolors. Lots of them, skillfully done, breathtakingly moving, but water colors. George is a canvas you can smell drying from across the street.

Even despite the more frustrating aspects of the writing – scenes that are absurdly short, for example, and ended way too soon for my tastes, and a secondary character, as I’ve noted, who is so larger than life she can easily overshadows the sequel protagonists – the strength and clever originality of the setting, coupled with a whole posse of memorable characters and a deeper knowledge of the time period than I’ve grown accustomed to from most historical romance authors, combined to create a very diverting read. Even if at times I was looking for George or Gabriel more than I was looking for Imogen, I came to appreciate and enjoy the whole set of characters that I was happy to spend more time in Hughes’ Georgian world.


But soft! What awesome from yonder website breaks? It is the giveaways, and I have five! To be specific: I have five sets of both books, Lord Sin and Lord Scandal, if you are interested in taking a gallop around Georgian England.

You want to enter? Leave a comment. Say anything, but say it in the next 24 hours. I’ll select five random winners from the total number of comments, and announce them once time is up. 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    kelly says:

    i can has georgian kick ass womminz plz??

  2. 2
    KCfla says:

    I love bawdy, crazy ladies- in any era.
    Sign me up for the give-away please!!!

  3. 3
    nekobawt says:

    seeing as i was going to look into acquiring those books based off the review, it only makes sense to try and take advantage of an opportunity for free stuff. huzzah!

  4. 4
    Kate says:

    I’m in! These sound like great reads – sort of the fast, fictionalized Georgiana of Devonshire.

  5. 5

    You know those women who are friends with scads of men but not so many women?

    Heh. I am those women. Now if only I had two coins to rub together, some political clout and a really big gun…

  6. 6
    Randi says:

    Would Georgina be considered an anti-heroine, that DA was pondering not too long ago? hmmm…I’d like me some anti-heroine. plsktks.

  7. 7
    amy lane says:

    me me me me me!!!  I haven’t read a good Regency in AGES…and I’m a sucker for a well-drawn character.  (I’m also a throwback to the ‘virgins are fun’ school of Regency, so if nothing else, this could convert me:-)

  8. 8
    Cassie says:

    How refreshing, to have a little switcheroo of the hero and heroine’s positions.  I’m a bit tired of the demure heroine and the rakish hero.  Bring on the scandalous widows!

  9. 9
    Cat Marsters says:

    Ooh these sound fabulous.  I’m on a bit of a historical kick at the moment as it is (and finding I don’t have nearly as many of them as I thought!).  If winning don’t work, Amazon will have to…

    And Kirsten, I’m one of those women too.  Girls don’t like me.  Who cares?  Men buy me drinks.

  10. 10
    TraeCat says:

    Me me me me me too!!! I’m always game for a new book that someone tells me kicks righteous ass..
    the tiresome wilting regency heroine is outdated. Sounds like George says she’ll do it her way or get the hell out of her way..

  11. 11
    Mary says:

    Oooh, I love a good hunting party scenario.  Although I always end up thinking of this: Monty Python Hunting Sketch

  12. 12
    tracyleann says:

    I started Lord Sin a while ago and never finished it because there were so many other books out there I wanted to read. I was liking it, but (as of however far I made it) wasn’t blown away. But now you’ve inspired me to dig it up again to find out what I am missing. Darn you…

  13. 13
    Jage says:

    Oooh, I’m in, this sounds interesting and I’m just getting back into reading regency.

  14. 14
    Kalen Hughes says:

    *Squee* I can haz review!

    I’m one of “those women” too. My nickname at the local coffee shop is “the chick who’s a dude” due to my showing up most Saturdays in motorcycle leathers and hanging out with all the biker boys.

    Kate: I totally had the Duchess of Devonshire in the back of my head (mix with a bit of Sophy from The Grand Sophy, Lady Babs from An Infamous Army, and Serena from Bath Tangle and SHAKE). Those are among my favorite heroines of all time.

    Randi: I do think George is a bit of an anti-heroine (as discussed on DA), but I wasn’t about to pop off and mention my own book there. That always seems a bit too . . . too . . . you know what I mean.

    BTW, if anyone wants a freebie, I’m giving away a short story on my website:

    Something Wicked:  A Rakes of London Short

    SCANDAL IS IMPOSSIBLE TO AVOID . . .
    Eleanor Blakely is only too aware that her reputation dangles by a very slender thread. One false step, one mistake, and the entire world will know the secret her family has struggled to keep hidden. Unfortunately, she’s found herself in the midst of a desperate series of wagers with a consummate charmer . . .

    AND EVEN HARDER TO RESIST . . .
    Viscount Wroxton isn’t exactly sure what twist of fate has kept his friend Blakely’s sister on the shelf, but the inveterate little gamester is too fascinating to ignore. The fact that she has five enormous—and protective—brothers is hardly worth thinking about . . .

  15. 15
    Erin says:

    Oh, man, I’ve been wanting to read these books for what seems like forever – and my library is being pesky-slow about getting them for me!

  16. 16
    katiebabs says:

    So, the heroine is a “duchess of slut?” Oh wee about time I says!!

  17. 17
    Becky says:

    Pick me, pick me!  I’m always looking for something new and different.

  18. 18
    Kelly says:

    You know those women who are friends with scads of men but not so many women?

    Hi! Except as I generally explain, I’m the Janeane Garofalo of the group – one of the guys, never thought of as anything other than. Gets damned frustrating – perhaps I need a Georges to show me my mistakes. *snort*

    (And I’m game for a random drawing, since the first romance I read…er..last week.. was a regency era, and I genuinely enjoyed it. And besides, it’d be a nice offset to all the Deep and Serious academic books I should really be reading, instead of flitting about the internet…)

  19. 19
    Jean C. says:

    Sounds like a fabulous character.  I’ll be on the lookout for these, even if I’m not lucky enough to get one of the sets.

  20. 20
    plaatsch says:

    WANT!

  21. 21
    Ashwinder says:

    Oh hell, I’ll read these!

  22. 22
    Annmarie says:

    These sound delish, how’d I miss them?

  23. 23
    Jesbelle says:

    Yay for unconventional histories! Definitely going to check them out whether I win or not.

  24. 24
    Anya says:

    I am definitely in!

  25. 25
    Julia says:

    Sound like a couple of great reads there! Count me in.

  26. 26
    Lori says:

    As an impoverished grad student I’m a big fan of free books and these sound like a great way to spend some of my summer break.

  27. 27
    Rhian says:

    Count me in – George sounds wonderfully refreshing, and after Heyer’s Bath Tangle I’m a sucker for any hero named Ivo. (Even if I don’t win, I’ll be adding these books to my to-read list. We need more strong heroines in historical novels.)

  28. 28
    Anj says:

    And you’ve won me over! Pick me! I wanna read about about larger than life historical women! me!

  29. 29
    Esther says:

    Cannot. Pass. Up. Free. Books.
    Count me in!

  30. 30
    Avi says:

    These sound really interesting. It sounded like the first book warranted higher than a B- though.

    George sounds a lot like The Grand Sophy, except Sophy behaved when she had to. I am up for anything that brings me back to an old Georgette Heyer.

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