To Sin With A Scoundrel

To Sin With A Scoundrel - Cara Elliott As Lady Ciara Sheffield sits drinking her morning tea it’s taste turns to ash, the headlines she reads in the morning paper concern her involvement in her husband’s death. Although the inquest into the reason for his demise is closed she remains the subject of suspicion and malice because it is believed by Polite Society that she poisoned the blighter. Ciara is a member of a group of ladies known as ‘The Circle Of Sin’, each of whom have a particular scientific interest and expertise. Unfortunately for Ciara she has particularly nasty in-laws who are out to prove she poisoned her husband so they can lay their clutches on her 8 year old son Peregrine, his title and the monies associated with it.

Murder was a hanging offense in England at that time and as the innuendos resulting in headlines about the ‘Wicked Widow‘ escalate Ciara’s dearest friends from the Circle close in to protect her and devise a scheme to find her a suitable fiancé thereby providing a male protector, and someone who will re-ingratiate her with the Ton. Ciara rebells against this plan because her marriage had been an unhappy one. Sheffield was a despicable man, who physically and verbally abused Ciara and their son. She has no intention of marrying again. However, Ciara also recognizes she has no choice and opportunity presents itself in the form of the least likely candidate.

Lucas Bingham, the Earl of Hadley, is a devil may care rake-hell who is well known for excessive womanizing, drinking and general debauchery. And, Lucas enjoys every minute of it. He has no intention of settling down, instead keeps company with ladies of the evening and willing women of Polite Society. ‘Mad Bad Had-ley’ is known for his sexual prowess with women and has made a point of honing his skills in seduction. I loved this guy. The dialogue in the novel is laced with sarcastic rapier wit between Lucas and his friends, especially Lord James Jacquehart Pierson, or ‘Black Jack‘ as he is better known.

In spite of his rake-hell ways Lucas is devoted to his uncle, Sir Henry Phelps, an invalid who raised and nurtured the wild youngster when his nephew was orphaned. Like Ciara, Sir Henry is scholar and scientist, and when an ancient manuscript comes into his possession which requires deciphering he asks Lucas to take it to Ciara.

Lucas is quite accustomed to women falling at his feet, his prowess as a lover is after all well known. The good Lady Sheffield however, proves to be unimpressed by his presence and turns him away on a number of occasions. He finally breaks into her house to plead his case. Ciara knows Lucas’s reputation thanks to his exploits being splashed all over the newspapers. Interestingly, both these people have soiled reputations with Polite Society for very different reasons. Lucas leaves the manuscript behind to tempt Ciara’s, scientific curiosity in hope she will concede and translate it for his uncle. However, thanks to a stroke of luck he enlists the help of her closest friends in the Circle of Sin and becomes her pretend fiancé, the plan is hatched. Ciara in turn will translate Sir Henry’s manuscript thought to contain a medical miracle.

Ciara and Lucas grow as people over the course of this story, she learns what true passion is with a man and how to really enjoy life. Ciara, thanks to her horrible husband has self image issues and with Lucas’s reassurance and kind nurturing her self esteem improves. Lucas realizes his care free life as a non-repentant rake isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What I really liked is that he grows to respect Ciara which then turns to love. He also proves to be a very intelligent man. This is a sensual novel, and I don’t mean it is loaded with explicit sex because it isn’t, it is the tenderness and almost reverence that I thought made the love scenes special.

Ms. Elliott writes a romance sub-plot for Sir Henry and Ciara’s sweet, brilliant friend Ariel into the narrative that was lovely. She also involves Ciara’s son Peregrine, who Lucas comes to love as his own.

Ciara’s feisty, multi-linguial friend and confidant Alessandra della Giamatti has a few choice scenes and exchanges with Jack, which were hilarious. I’m looking forward to their story in the next book of ‘The Circle of Sin’ trilogy due out in June.

If you enjoy a historical romance, I think there is something for everyone in “To Sin With A Scoundrel”, sensuality, adventure, suspense and witty dialogue. Also if you enjoy a story about the reformation of a rake, I found this to be an excellent one, because Lucas? Definitely a rake reformed.

Heat Level: Simmers, then boils, very sensual.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Excellent read.