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A lower-key Bedwyn family romance
on 2 March 2007
"Slightly Sinful" continues the story of the Bedwyn family, first introduced to us in "A Summer To Remember" and now with their own "slightly" series.
"Slightly Sinful" follows Lord Alleyne Bedwyn, youngest brother of the Duke of Bewcastle, as he approaches the Battle of Waterloo as a courier for a diplomat. Injured when carrying a letter away from the Duke of Wellington he falls from his horse and loses consciousness.
He awakes not knowing who he is - and finds himself in a brothel. He was rescued by Rachel York, a young lady who happens to be staying in the brothel with her former governess, now a prostitute, and her three co-workers. The five ladies are all bound together by a shared disaster - a clergyman they trusted to carry their money back to England has absconded with it. This clergyman was also engaged to Rachel but they now know he was only interested in her inheritance. The ladies decided to go and loot some of the bodies after the Battle of Waterloo and this is where Rachel found Alleyne, his body already stripped as he was thought dead. She brought him back to the brothel as the only place to take care of him, with the help of a one-eyed sergeant, and waited for him to wake up.
The descriptions of the battle are excellent, as is the way that Alleyne deals with his loss of memory. His romance with Rachel is gently portrayed - in fact it's something that arrives very gently over time. Of course both of them are very attractive (as usual in this kind of book) but Mary Balogh seems to be trying to say that shared experiences of fear and rescue are what originally bind them together.
They return to England and Alleyne agrees to masquerade as Rachel's husband so that she can get her jewels from her aloof uncle - they will come to her on her twenty fifth birthday or when she is married. She arrives at her uncle's house with Alleyne, the four prostitutes pretending to be maids or companions and the Sergeant. But her memory of her uncle isn't true to reality and she has to start reconsidering his dealings with her in the past and viewing them in a new way.
In some ways this book is a little cold and gentle - there's not too much action after the initial Waterloo battle, most of the scenes are between Rachel and Alleyne and I liked that, and the lovers themselves aren't as warm and passionate as some of the other books in the series. In a way I liked that about this book - it felt more real, particularly the description of Alleyne's emotions. He's afraid in the battle and once he realises who he is, he is afraid to go back to his family. This rang true and I liked it.
Overall I think this was a well-written book but it wasn't the sort of novel that stays in your mind and that you want to read over and over again.