Daring the Duke
The Viscount’s Wicked Ways

Three Nights of Sin
by Anne Mallory
(Avon, $5.99, R)  ISBN 978-006-124241-0
Three Nights of Sin is an intriguing story and at times so engaging I couldn’t put it down.  Then I would set it aside and have to convince myself to pick it up.  There are some dark secrets, rather off-kilter adventures and grisly murders, but the strength of the tale is the relationship between Gabriel and Marietta. 

Marietta Winters has lost her parents and her brothers have just about bankrupted the family, so they are living on credit and on the fringe of the ton. When her youngest brother is accused of committing some murders in the style of Jack the Ripper, they are ostracized. Marietta uses the last of their funds for a barrister, but realizes that the press and the public have basically convicted her brother Kenny. Her brother Mark has chosen to drink himself into a stupor every night. So it is up to her. She hires Gabriel Noble to help.  He is a man who has a reputation for getting the job done, whatever that may be.  He helps those in need. If they can pay, the fee is exorbitant. If not, the fee is three favors to be “cashed in” at his convenience. Despite his hints that Marietta’s favors may be in the bedroom, she agrees to his terms.

Realizing that Marietta might be in danger from a panicked mob and that she might actually be able to help him, Gabriel moves her to his home, a house that is on the fringe of the savory part of town. He is extremely industrious and handsome, charming her where no man has ever succeeded. For Marietta, her intuition tells her to trust him.  Gabriel is amazed that she sees things in him that no one has ever detected before. He fears for his secrets, but at the same time he is intrigued and attracted to Marietta.

When these two are playing the relationship game of bantering, challenging, verbal foreplay and at times, physical foreplay, the tale is engaging, enjoyable and filled with promise. When the story goes off on the investigation and brings in the “mystery” of the murders, I found it a tad unbelievable and at times, too clever for its own good. When the ending is finally revealed, it is interesting. But again, just a bit too jaded for my tastes.  Because of the sordid nature of the mystery and the reason for the murders, the author plays with little hints and tries to be clever in divulging the ultimate depth of the secret.  It was so “clever” it was easy to guess, which lessened my enjoyment of the “who” and “why..

Kenny was weak, as was Mark. It seemed incongruous that Marietta would be such a strong character. I liked her gumption and courage. Throughout the whole story, she relied on her wit, her humor, her instincts and her feelings to make her way. Then all of the sudden, at the first sign of trouble, she falls for some unreliable person’s lies and turns her back. What a disappointment.

Gabriel was written to be an enigma so that he wasn’t pitied. He is the true hero who could have been the bad guy, but turned his energies to good. While that made him sexy and likable, he wasn’t the most humble and his cynicism (which was his defense mechanism) was hard to find charming at times. His willingness to show his vulnerability was his saving grace.

Three Nights of Sin is a mixed bag of charming dialogue and romance, and investigations amidst a whodunit. Sadly, it is inconsistently engaging due to the pacing, the rather over the top love scenes and the overly dramatic mystery.   

--Shirley Lyons

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