Slightly Sinful (Bedwyn Family Series)

Slightly Sinful - Mary Balogh I really enjoyed this book about Alleyne... I must say that I was quite upset about him being MIA in the previous book with Morgan and Gervase. I was delighted and relieved that he made an appearance at the end of that book! And this book, "Slightly Sinful" is Alleyne's story - what really happened to him at the Battle of Waterloo and why he was missing for so long.It seems that Alleyne was the naked man that a young woman was screaming for help for when Gervase went in search of him. Except that a sergeant stepped in to help before Gervase could get to them, and so Gervase went on his way... which is just as well, or Alleyne's story would never have happened.Because Alleyne lost much of his memory on that horrid day. He'd been shot in the thigh, and then his horse reared and, being weak, Alleyne fell off the horse and cracked his head on a large tree root. By the time the young woman, Rachel, found him, he'd already been stripped by looters (clothes, too) and left for dead. But the woman, Rachel, bothered to check his neck for signs of a pulse and found one, which is why she started screaming for help. But in doing so and embarrassed to be found with a naked man, Rachel claimed he was her husband. The good sergeant who came to help her had just lost an eye in that same battle and given his walking papers; he'd only known the army, and he wasn't sure what to do with himself. But he knew he could help this lady and her husband.Turns out that Rachel is living at a brothel, where one of the four whores who own, work, and live there (Bridget) was a former nurse of hers. Rachel is a lady, but her mother died when she was young, and her father was addicted to gambling. When he died, Rachel became a companion to an older lady of the ton; that lady had come to Belgium, as many of the English ton had, to support a son in the army. Rachel had fallen for a very handsome clergyman, Mr. Nigel Crawford; and she'd introduced her newly betrothed to Bridget and her "sisters". Mr. Crawford convinced the "ladies" and Rachel that their money wasn't safe in Belgium, but he would safely convey it to London and deposit it for them. Yep, never gonna happen. And when Rachel overheard Nigel and his sister (yep) laughing about what they'd done, she hurried back to Bridget and the ladies and told them all. The "ladies" were going to use their nest egg to go legit -- to buy and open a boarding house and be good members of the community and society. But now, Rachel has nowhere to take the injured Alleyne, whom she's claimed as her husband, but to the bordello.Of course there's an immediate chemistry between Rachel and Alleyne. Problem is, while he can remember some things, he has no idea who he is or what he's doing in Belgium. They all assume him a gentleman and likely a cavalry officer. Rachel starts to call him Mr. Jonathan Smith, since he should have a name until he knows his own. Alleyne (Jonathan) is plagued by vague dreams of an important letter and a woman he's supposed to meet. Because he doesn't know if he's married or single, Jonathan tries to keep from being entangled with Rachel. And, for a time, she has him believing that she, too, is a whore. Which sparks an amorous event for the both of them, when Jonathan (Alleyne) realizes that she is not a whore -- she was, in fact, a virgin and likely a lady. He's so distressed, he says all the wrong things, including making an offer for her hand.Rachel and the ladies wish to go to England to pursue Mr. Crawley and get their money back. And Rachel wants to get her inheritance -- jewels that belonged to her mother. Rachel's written her uncle twice to ask for them, but her uncle refused; he told her if she were in dire straights to come live with him, and he'd find her a suitable husband. But the terms of the inheritance say that Rachel can get the jewels IF she's married to a man of whom her uncle approves. So Jonathan and the sergeant (now taken with the ladies and wanting to be Jonathan's valet) use the little money they have to gamble it into enough to get them to England and to Rachel's uncle's home. And all of them come up with a scheme to pretend that Rachel and Jonathan (Alleyne) are married and to convince her uncle to hand over the jewels.Well... nothing is as it seems, of course. Rachel and Jonathan are falling deeper in love, but so much uncertainty between them, they both do try to hide it. Rachel's uncle, whom she thinks is cold and never loved her, is very ill; his estate is in shambles, but he barely notices. So the ladies and Jonathan step up and start to fill the roles of cook, housekeeper, gardener/ladies' maid, and more. Jonathan and Rachel try to mend their relationship, at least to better pretend they're in love. But they all discover that her uncle has planned a gala ball in celebration of their "marriage"... and by the way, the uncle confides that the jewels were stolen, and it seems that the culprit is none other than Mr. Nigel Crawley using another name!How and when does Alleyne discover his true identity? Will he stop feeling so indebted to Rachel for saving his life? Is he only feeling indebtedness or is it love? Will Rachel ever be able to accept her uncle's or Jonathan's love for her? And will they ever locate the horrid Mr. Crawley and get their money and more back? Will he get his comeuppance?------------------Quite an interesting book! Although it seemed as if the author was returning to some of her earlier themes and plot devices: * In "A Summer to Remember", Kit & Lauren fake an engagement. In "Slightly Married", Aidan & Eve agree to a sham marriage. In "Slightly Scandalous", Freya & Josh fake an engagement. And now, in "Slighly Sinful", Alleyne/Jonathan & Rachel fake both an engagement and a marriage! * Rachel's behavior (especially in Belgium) reminded me a lot of Judith in "Slightly Wicked" -- the throwing her virtue & virginity to the wind to experience what she thinks she'll likely never experience with a man again.And I felt that this detracted from my enjoyment of the book and its characters. While I was amused, and mostly by the "ladies" BTW, I was constantly analyzing the scenes and dialogue to see if they reminded me of other books by Ms. Balogh -- in this series and in other books she's written. As a consequence, I felt I passed over or missed some of the best parts of this book. It was harder to see Alleyne/Jonathan or Rachel grow and learn and then truly fall in love than in other books. Yes, of course the story is fairly predictable. And yet, there are still lots of laugh-out-loud moments, and even times when the story took me into territory I didn't expect. And that was all pleasant and fun.And I wouldn't have missed Alleyne's homecoming for the world! It was a scene that had me in tears.But overall, this book felt weaker than previous books... because it seemed that it also contained some recycled parts of other Bedwyn stories. As much as I loved Alleyne in the other Bedwyn books, this book, that featured him wasn't as powerful or as fun as I'd hoped. We were supposed to see him grow up and find his place; but that seemed lost within the plot devices, especially the recycled ones and his memory loss.Good book, but not the best in the series. Too bad.