MASTER OF SIN – Maggie Robinson
Courtesan Court , Book 4
Italy and Scotland – 1820
A few years ago, Andrew Rossiter provided the means for the Duca and Duchessa di Maniero to conceive an heir, and now he's in Italy to help once again. A lazy day spent on the Mediterranean with the couple gives Andrew a chance to get to know the three year old son that he can never claim as his. But the beautiful day turns into a nightmare when the duca's cousin, Gianni, shows up on the yacht and kills the couple. He's aware that little Marco is not truly the duca's son, and Gianni has no intention of allowing an illegitimate heir to usurp him as the next duca. Andrew is glad that he hid Marco before coming up on deck, and he manages to escape the burning yacht with a bullet in his arm and with young Marco unaware that he's lost everything. Andrew hopes that Gianni will assume they both died on the yacht, but knows he'll have to hide them both to be safe. Considering his own notoriety throughout London , Andrew decides on the Western Isles of Scotland, changes his surname to Ross, claims Marco as his own son (changing his name to Marc) and heads for seclusion and safety.
Gemma Peartree has her own reasons for hiding out in what seems to be the ends of the earth. She's lost her family and her dreams, and now just wants to earn an acceptable living. She forges a recommendation and is hired to be the governess to Marc Ross, but her new home turns out to be a disaster. Her trunk with all of her worldly possessions is lost on the voyage, and she manages to annoy Mr. Ross's housekeeper to the point that the woman locks almost all of the rooms in the house off and disappears. For two weeks Gemma lives in the isolated house with next to no food or necessities. When Mr. Ross finally arrives, she finds him a handsome if disagreeable man, who immediately fires her for her somewhat messy appearance, and bossy ways. That there is no housekeeper, and Marc is sick and takes to Gemma immediately ensures her employment until the next ferry in two weeks, but she intends to persuade him to keep her on indefinitely. Having been burned once by a handsome man and what she thought was love, Gemma decides it might be best to stay away from the enticing Andrew Ross.
An unexpected attraction between two people on the run is the foundation of MASTER OF SIN. Andrew's introduction to sex came when he was just seven years old, pulled off the streets of Edinburgh by an older man. It's through sex and charm that he's managed to support himself, but the act itself has little meaning or enjoyment for him any more. Miss Peartree, the drab governess with the almost boyish body, is the first person to excite him in longer than he cares to remember, but an innocent young lady fallen on hard times is not the right person for a man such as he. Little does he know that he and Gemma have quite a bit in common. The daughter of a beautiful Italian courtesan, Gemma's life was unconventional at best, and at the age of fifteen she decided that she was in love with her new step-brother. She's a bit disillusioned with love and men right now, so she's surprised by the attraction she feels towards Andrew. With Gemma unwilling to make another disastrous mistake, and Andrew's somewhat self-loathing image of himself, it takes a while for romance to brew between the two. But, on an isolated island with villagers who only speak Gaelic, Gemma and Andrew are shut away in their own little world most of the time, and it doesn't take long for the inevitable to happen.
Having not read the previous Courtesan Court books, I can say that this one stands on its own, with references to Caroline and Edward Christie (MISTRESS BY MARRIAGE), but no actual contact. The relationship between Gemma and Andrew is fun to watch as they are adversaries almost as often as they are friends. An enjoyable book, don't miss the fourth and final book of the Courtesan Court series, MASTER OF SIN.