Sins of a Virgin by Anna Randol is a gritty crime novel dressed up in the slinky red dress of a romance. The blurb led me to believe I was getting the lustful love story of a scandalous courtesan and a disciplined police officer but what I received was much, much more.
After the Napoleonic Wars end Madeline Valdan returns to London. She had been one of three great spies but now that the war was over she was no longer needed and cast out. But Madeline has a plan to make a lot of money fast – become the most famous and sought after courtesan in London and auction off her virginity to the highest bidder.
Gabriel Huntford became a Bow Street Runner after his sister’s death and finally, after seven years, he’s come across a solid lead into her murder. When Gabriel is assigned as protection for Madeline he sees it as the perfect opportunity to investigate. Although they each keep their past close to their chests, both are quick to realise that the other is more than they seem.
Anyone who knows me knows I have terrible issues with female characters. Romance heroines are even worse than the average female in fiction. They’re always bold and brave, but need to be rescued every chapter by their man. They’re stubborn, but they never take charge. They’re plain ass two dimensional.
Madeline Valdan was different. She was a believably strong female. People know I usually have issues with strong females as well, but Madeline was shockingly different. Madeline had had a difficult past but had adapted and hardened herself against becoming cold-hearted and cruel to the point where she also believed it. Madeline had been a spy for so long she’d completely forgotten who she really was and only knew the roles she played. And it was believable. I believed this woman, which I rarely do with female characters. Never romance characters.
Gabriel was the first hero of a romance I’ve found myself falling for. Like Madeline, his flaws seemed real. My list of fictional crushes to the side will tell you that I usually prefer the flawed characters. Neither Madeline nor Gabriel came across as a Mary Sue once. They had none of those “fake flaws” that could be likeable and sometimes kind of be considered complimentary. Most romance characters have one flaw and it’s usually stubbornness which isn’t usually treated as a flaw at all.
There were times Gabriel had to save Madeline’s life, which yeah, pissed me off, but someone really wanted her dead and most of the time she fought to save herself just as hard as Gabriel. There were times she did a better job of it.
Each piece of their past was revealed at just the right time to be most effective and you could really feel the way it affected the character.
Like I said at the start, this book feels more like a regency crime novel than a romance, the focus being on finding the man who murdered Gabriel’s sister as well as another girl. The investigation had me on the edge of my seat at times and baffled by some of the red herrings. However, although I say all this, I did guess the correct killer pretty early on in the book, I just didn’t have any proof other than the frequency of his name occurring. Randol should probably work on that if she ever does another crime themed novel; which I hope she does.
I loved Sins of a Virgin, I’m a little ashamed to say. But it never once came across as your typical romance novel. If this book had been published by Random House or Penguin instead of Avon Romance I’m sure a larger range of people would pick it up unabashed asides from the target demographic. If you’re looking for a really decent Romance novel and enjoy a little intrigue, Sins of a Virgin is the book for you. I personally cannot wait to get my hands on the sequels and read other books by Anna Randol.
I give it four out of five stars and it gets zero for so-bad-its-good. It simply wasn’t bad. I, at least, loved it.