I’m nearing the end of my stack of borrowed paperbacks, but I’m still mostly finding winners. I’ve read a few books by Meredith Duran and enjoyed them all, including this one.
The book takes place in 1890, and I don’t know the proper name for that time period other than post-Regency, or, “still all about Society but they have electricity and trains.” Gwen Maudsley is a wealthy merchant’s daughter who was shipped off to be raised in Society and given a very attractive dowry. Gwen knows how to be nice and polite, how to embroider handkerchiefs for charity and how to decline wicked parlor games. But she’s just been jilted for a second time and fears that no amount of handkerchiefs can restore her reputation.
Alex Ramsey is her late brother’s best friend and, what else? A notorious rogue, of course. He promised Gwen’s dying brother to look after her and see her settled, which means he feels obligated to check in on her after her latest tragedy.
After being abandoned at the altar, Gwen thought about all the effort required to get back into good standing, and then decided against it. She’s got millions of pounds, so what if she doesn’t marry into a title? She’s going to stop being nice and start being real. I mean wicked. Alex thinks she’s just traumatized and so he humors her, even when she kisses him to determine whether all men kiss like slobbery dogs.
In an interesting twist, the action moves from London over to Paris, where Gwen convinces Alex to take her to the notorious Moulin Rouge. I’ve never read a book with that setting, and it was fun to see Gwen’s amazement at all the lights, and drinks, and strippers. She even flirts with a stranger, successfully. Alex has some side business to pursue, and so he and Gwen continue on to the south of France where we get a glimpse of a Monte Carlo casino. It’s brief, but again a fun change from the average drawing room.
Alex was a touch on the tortured side stemming from a childhood illness and the blame he carries around for his best friend’s death. He used that angst to become a wry, witty shipping magnate who travels the world, only coming to Town to solve problems for his siblings. He and Gwen have a lengthy conversation on a train about how he likes to be free, not dependent upon others. Love is for the weak.
For her part, Gwen just wants someone to cling to because her family all died on her, and her fiancés all left her, so she has abandonment issues. Alex seemed to overcome his problems faster than Gwen. Her issues near the end felt muddled to me, and then they were reconciled very quickly. I’d say that the ending turned into a big stew pot of thoughts and actions that didn’t connect with the giddiness of the earlier plot.
So, this book was a bit different than the average historical, and the characters and setting were fun. The ending felt strained to me, but everything else was handled well.
Click to purchase: Amazon
Wicked Becomes You
by Meredith Duran
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Publisher: Pocket Books