Thursday 19 March 2020

#CBR12 Book 12: "A Wicked Kind of Husband" by Mia Vincy

Page count: 386 pages
Rating: 4.5 pages

Official book description:
Cassandra DeWitt has seen her husband only once—on their wedding day two years earlier—and this arrangement suits her perfectly. She has no interest in the rude, badly behaved man she married only to secure her inheritance. She certainly has no interest in his ban on her going to London. Why, he’ll never even know she is there.

Until he shows up in London too, and Cassandra finds herself sharing a house with the most infuriating man in England.

Joshua DeWitt has his life exactly how he wants it. He has no need of a wife disrupting everything, especially a wife intent on reforming his behavior. He certainly has no need of a wife who is intolerably amiable, insufferably reasonable … and irresistibly kissable.

As the unlikely couple team up to battle a malicious lawsuit and launch Cassandra’s wayward sister, passion flares between them. Soon the day must come for them to part … but what if one of them wants their marriage to become real?

Cassandra was married to a wealthy man who her father trusted to take care of her, but she hasn't seen him since their wedding day. She barely remembers what he looks like, she was nervous during the ceremony and it was dark when they consummated the marriage. Now Cassandra is doing her best to take care of the family estate, but after the deaths of first her brother and later her father, her mother is no longer to be relied on, mostly retreating into a laudanum stupor. Both her two younger sisters are out of control in different ways, and it's becoming painfully clear that the eldest of the two, Lucy, needs to have a season and be married off before she ruins the entire family and/or creates a scandal out of sheer boredom.

So against her harried secretary's advice (he was sent there by her husband to assist Cassandra), the young woman goes off to London to speak with her grandmother, the Duchess of Sherbourne, whose help Cassandra needs to her launch Lucy into society.

Joshua DeWitt has a lot of darkness and grief in his past. He believed himself to be the heir to the Earl of Treyford until he was fourteen. Then it was discovered that his father was a bigamist, so Joshua, his two younger brothers, and little sister were all illegitimate. Joshua's mother, no longer a countess, took his little sister and disappeared without a trace. Joshua and his brothers were disinherited and had to fend for themselves. One of his brothers went to India, the other joined the Navy, while Joshua eventually became a very wealthy and powerful industrialist. He was married once before and had a child, but it would be spoilery to reveal any more details than that. He felt intense gratitude towards Cassandra's father (who helped him settle his brothers in their chosen professions and helped Joshua get his own start), hence he married her as a favour, to make sure she could keep the estate in the family. He doesn't need, nor want a wife, and certainly has no intention of interacting with her in their London home.

When the couple are first reunited, in a public park, neither of them recognise the other. Cassandra believes her husband to be on an extended business trip in Liverpool, he thinks she's off in the country taking care of her family and estates. He wants her to go back to Warwickshire, she's not going to leave London until she's secured her grandmother's promise to help Lucy. This isn't really enemies to lovers, more like strangers to friends to lovers. From the start, the dialogue between Joshua and Cassandra is amazing:

“You’re meant to be in Warwickshire,” he said.
“You’re meant to be in Liverpool.”
“I did not give you permission to come to London.”
“I did not ask your permission.”
“You should…  Let me explain, Mrs. DeWitt, how marriage works.”
“Oh, please do, Mr. DeWitt, I’m all agog.”
“I am the husband, so I make the rules to suit me.”
“And I am the wife, so I change the rules to suit me.”
“You seem puzzled,” said his disruptive wife, as they reached the gate. “Have I said something to puzzle you?”
“Most of what you say puzzles me.  It’s almost as though you have a mind of your own.”
“Please don’t vex yourself. I’ll try not to use it too often.”

On the surface, Cassandra is all that a proper, young lady should be. She's unfailingly polite, gentle, dutiful, takes care of her family and dresses with decorum. Yet there is a lot of pain and darkness hidden underneath her mask of amiability as well, and having been forced into the unwilling role as the head of her family, she's certainly not going to let some man who hasn't bothered to even visit her order her around. Neither of her sisters understands the sacrifices she's made for them and her mother has entirely checked out.

Both protagonists carry a lot of understandable grief and have dark secrets they haven't been able to share with anyone. They both project one image to the world around them, while secretly feeling lonely and vulnerable. It's obvious to the reader from early on that they need one another a lot, but it takes them quite a while to open up to the other and accept help and support.

I wish I could go into more insightful details about the plot and characters, but the problem with 1) not taking notes while I'm reading and right after I finish a book to help me gather my thoughts about what I just read and 2) letting life get in the way and waiting a month and a half to review the book, means that I no longer remember clearly exactly why I really liked this book so much. I read it in little over 24 hours, which with my busy schedule and especially last year's deplorable reading record, is in itself a testament to how much I liked it. I promise it really is a very good book and it rightfully appeared on a bunch of the Best of 2018 end of year lists. The fact that this is a debut novel makes it all the more remarkable. I'm very happy that I discovered Mia Vincy and am very excited to read what she does next.

Judging a book by its cover: Gah, this cover is so excessively pink I can almost feel my teeth hurting. Rather than making me likely to buy the book, this would likely make me run (in a figurative sense, I really try never to run) in the opposite direction. Had I not read several extremely glowing reviews about this book, I would have relegated this book to the "Nope" pile - that's just too much Pepto Bismol pink in one place for me.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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