Sunday 20 March 2022

CBR14 Book 3: "I'm Only Wicked with You" by Julie Anne Long

Page count: 400 pages
Rating: 3.5 stars

Hugh Cassidy is an ambitious man. He knows exactly what he wants from life, he's going to run for mayor of his hometown, from thence devote his life to politics. While his parents may not have been particularly distinguished, they clearly loved one another and raised Hugh and his siblings to believe in hard work, as well being moral and upstanding people. Hugh is in England to try to track down the runaway daughter of a good friend (and as the story progresses it becomes clear that there may have been some form of sentimental attachment between Hugh and the young lady), and while he's travelling around, he's using the comfortable Palace of the Thames as his home base. Complications involving the beautiful high-born daughter of a nobleman complicating were the last thing Hugh expected to face. 

Lady Lillias, the eldest daughter of the Earl and Countess of Vaughn, is both angry and frustrated. Stuck in some pokey boarding house near the docks just because her idiot brother decided to bring a snake home and a large hole was shot in their wall, she now finds herself confined to her chambers, chastised like a naughty child, just because some insufferable American caught her in the garden, smoking a cheroot. Hugh Cassidy may be tall, trapping, and very handsome, but as far as Lillias is concerned, he may as well be the devil, having tattled to her parents and gotten her barred from shopping, socialising, and anything else that could make her involuntary exile somewhat more bearable. All the while, the gossip sheets are speculating about her absence, not to mention what advantageous match she is likely to make during the end of the season. Of course, no one, not even Lillias' family, knows that she's nursing a broken heart, convinced that she'll never really find love, as the only person she's ever felt close to seems likely to offer for another. 

Hugh and Lillias may not seem like an obvious match, and while this was a perfectly fine romance novel, I must admit I found it rather lacking compared to Long's previous entries in The Palace of Rogues series so far. The book is probably still better than the most forgettable of her Pennyroyal Green books, but nevertheless, a diverting read, if a bit slow to start.

I think part of the problem is that it takes too long for the reader to get a proper insight into what Lillias is going through, and at the start, she just seems like a spoiled and bitter society maiden, with too much privilege and not enough experience about the world around her. It's difficult to see how she and Hugh will ever find any sort of common ground, and it takes a bit too long before the story progresses from sniping disguised as banter or insta-lust. It probably doesn't help either that to me, living in upstate New York in the early 19th Century, sounds like a fate worse than death. Rustic pioneer life really never appealed to me, I really didn't care how enthusiastically Hugh kept describing his home.

I very much enjoyed spending more time with the already established supporting cast of the series, however, and Lillias' family is also fun and remarkably understanding for your high-born noble parents. There's also the fact that even a middling Julie Anne Long historical is usually at least entertaining, and if I don't exactly remember all the details of the plot a year from now, that's OK - she still has some solid gold classics that make her worth my time and money. 

Judging a book by its cover: For some inexplicable reason, all the covers for this series are just a bit off, and there's always some element in them that doesn't work for me. In my review of book 2 in the series, Angel in a Devil's Arms, I mentioned that I hoped Ms. Long would be luckier with her next cover. Yes...and no. The many shades of green are very soothing to the eye, and we thankfully can't see the hero's face, as he's facing away from us (no sad Antoni knock-off cover model here), but the woman who I'm guessing is supposed to be Lillias looks sickly somehow. Possibly she's going through some sort of stomach bug? I think the look on her face is supposed to be flirtatious and sexy, but I think whoever drew this made her look bone-tired and/or possibly drunk instead. Sigh.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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