How to Seduce a Duke

Love is in the Heir

Rules of Engagement

The Most Wicked of Sins
by Kathryn Caskie
(Avon, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-06-149101-6
The Most Wicked of Sins is the second book in Kathryn Caskie’s planned series about the seven Sinclair siblings.  These children of the Duke of Sinclair behaved so outrageously that Edinburgh society labeled them “the seven deadly sins” and their disgusted father cast them out until such time as they mended their ways.  The brothers and sisters made their way to London where the live in straitened circumstances privately but have, by dint of their good looks and titles I suppose, gained acceptance in society.

This installment is the tale of Lady Ivy, a beautiful redhead.  She is being courted by the oh-so-respectable Viscount Tinsdale.   As the story opens, we find Ivy the recipient of an angry letter from her father threatening even more dire punishment should she fail to accept Tinsdale’s suit within the month and begin behaving in a way that brings honor to the Sinclair name.  Ivy heads off the Almack’s that very night to reel in the viscount, only to find him paying court to the latest beauty to take London by storm.  Envious of the lovely Miss Feeny, she hits on a plan to regain Tinsdale’s attentions.

And what a plan!  Ivy decides to find someone to woo Miss Feeny away from her marital prospect.  She will hire an actor to impersonate the new Marquess of Counterton, who is as yet unknown to society.  She even goes so far as to illegally lease Counterton house for the masquerade.  Waiting outside Drury Lane Theater, she encounters the perfect candidate for her ruse.  She invites him into her carriage and to ascertain whether he has the stuff to fascinate Miss Feeny, pulls him into a passionate kiss.  And thus it begins.

The reader grasps pretty quickly that Nick, Ivy’s prospective co-conspirator, is no mere actor.  And given the fact that the family tree at the beginning of the book informs us, somewhat prematurely, that Ivy is going to marry Dominic Sheridan, Marquess of Counterton, we can figure out what’s up.  Nick is understandably intrigued that this beauteous miss whose kisses enflame him wants him to impersonate himself.  It is obvious from the outset where this is going.

The question that very early occurred to me was whether this reader really wanted to go along.  And I am afraid that I didn’t.  I plowed through one improbable turn after another, thankful only that the book’s print was quite large.

What were my problems with The Most Wicked of Sins?  Let me begin with the premise of the series.  Would and could a duke, however frustrated with his offspring’s behavior, cast them out of Scotland?  Would the ton accept such a ramshackle crew as the Sinclairs apparently are? There seems to be no attempt at historical verisimilitude in this book.  I do expect that an author at least make an effort to offer a create a moderately realistic setting.

Second, Ivy’s plan and its implementation are simply too far-fetched to be believable.  Granted that the Sinclairs are unconventional, but that Ivy’s brothers and sisters could believe that such a hare-brained scheme would not end in disaster takes a real imaginative stretch.  And while I understand that coincidences happen and that they have been an authorial device since people began telling stories, the idea that Ivy would just happen to encounter the real Marquess of Counterton asks for an extreme suspension of belief.

Perhaps I would have been willing to take such a leap had I found the characters attractive and interesting.  But Ivy is not particularly attractive and Nick is not especially well drawn.  I’m afraid I really didn’t care for or about them.

In short, The Most Wicked of Sins is a most unsatisfying romance.  It is a real problem when the best thing I can say about the book is that the print was large.

--Jean Mason

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