Title: Wicked Becomes You
Author: Meredith Duran
Page Count: 402 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: historical romance
Copy for review provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
50 words or less: Gwen Maudsley is pretty much convinced, after being left at the altar for a second time, that nice girls finish last. Her solution is to turn to Alex Ramsey, her recently-passed brother's best friend, and learn how to be a naughty girl instead.
Wicked Becomes You is a fun story that takes quite a few familiar story elements and whips them together in a unique way. I confess that typically, some of these elements are not my favorites when it comes to historical romance, but for the most part I was pleasantly surprised here.
Gwen Maudsley is a nice girl. She knits sweaters for orphans. She wouldn't say boo to a ghost. She deals with snubs, slights, and insults about her dead parents, who had the misfortune to be industrious people from the merchant class whose industry is responsible for her mindbogglingly huge fortune. She's aware that her money is what makes her attractive to a whole bunch of penniless-but-titled noblemen. Nobody has a single bad thing to say about her, so when she gets abandoned at the altar for the second time, most everyone is pretty sure that the third time will be the charm and Gwen will be married soon, regardless of how devastating being jilted would be to a woman less loaded than she.
Alex, on the other hand, is a product of two of my less frequently enjoyed story elements- he feels that Gwen is "hands-off" because of her position as his best friend's sister, and he made a promise to that best friend that he'd make sure Gwen is "taken care of," with conflicting feelings about what that actually means. He figures he can discharge his duties to his late best friend by setting Gwen up with a guy who isn't a complete cad, moron, or general loser. He thinks Gwen has horrible taste in men and expounds upon this at length throughout the book, but ultimately he realizes that the only guy on his list of men for Gwen to pursue is himself.
Gwen's evolving perspective of herself is easily the showpiece of the novel. She starts the novel at a crossroads in her life- does she keep doing what she's always done and hope desperately for different results or take advantage of her position and strike out on a completely different path? It doesn't give too much away to say that Gwen opts for the latter. Although some of Gwen's exploits were kind of painful to read, as ultimately, she is a good, sweet person who thinks positively of everyone she meets and her version of scheming and scamming was definitely comical, she gained a level of self-awareness and comfort in her own skin that's kind of uncommon.
I loved the lush descriptions of Paris and Monte Carlo, and the sense of adventure that permeated the story. I also appreciated that the narrative was very honest about the amount of disbelief that needed to be suspended. Alex ruthlessly analyzes Gwen's marriage situation and points out to her face that other women, most other women in fact, would not be able to be resilient in the same situation and that her fortune, while attracting a bunch of losers as suitors, is also what gives her the ways and means to try again when things don't go her way. Gwen's pursuit of a husband also illustrated pretty effectively the thoughts and rationale besides love and commitment that go into negotiating a marriage in this time period.
This isn't a perfect book- I found the secondary characters to be rather two-dimensional; Alex's brother and twin sisters were pretty tiresome, and the side plot involving his family was kind of uninteresting. I also didn't really buy the twist involving Gwen's first aborted marriage- I felt like, at the point in the story that that situation came up, it was such ancient history that the huge reaction wasn't really merited. I felt like it kind of intruded on Gwen and Alex getting their happily ever after.
Beyond that, though, Wicked Becomes You was a fun, engaging read. I'd heard great things about Meredith Duran's books prior to reading this one and now her other titles are definitely on my TBR list.
Overall Grade: B+
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