Saturday, February 4, 2012

Review: My Wicked Little Lies by Victoria Alexander (2 stars, historical)



Full Description: Amazon

Rating: 2 out of 5

Thoughts After Reading: 
I wanted to like My Wicked Little Lies. I really did. The near perfect reviews on Amazon of the new release painted it as a lighthearted and humorous version of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, only set in the regency time period. And the book did have a few really funny sections, as well as quality writing. But what Alexander essentially did with My Wicked Little Lies was to take my least favorite part of a romance novel - the stretch before the conclusion where the couple has finally fallen in love and that is often filled with hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and stupid choices by the protagonists - and turn it into an entire novel. I expected some confusion and misunderstanding between the couple, but I also hoped that it would be done in a fashion that was both cute and fun. Instead, when the hero knows it's his fault the heroine had to endure hardships and doesn't come clean - well, let's just say I had to skim the last 20% of the novel.

There's not a whole lot to say about the characters in My Wicked Little Lies: it's pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get. The hero and heroine both worked as spies before they were married. Unbeknownst to the heroine, the hero was the mysterious man who sent her the orders. The hero meets her in person to make sure the heroine isn't working for someone else, and ends up falling in love with her. They marry, but they never tell each other about their intelligence work. The storyline's arguments are that the hero wanted her to love him for himself, rather than as the mysterious spy, while the heroine just took the "out" the hero offered ("the past before we met doesn't matter") I guess because she's not sure how he would react (these last words are more of a question than a statement). At any rate, two years of marriage go by and the heroine is sort of forced to do one last job for England. This plot device is quickly forgotten, but it serves to have the hero start jumping to conclusions and becoming insecure about his wife's fidelity. Yes, it's almost as bad as it sounds. And the story just gets worse from there. This all leads to the aforementioned hurt feelings, stupid decisions (testing a spouse's fidelity by pretending to be some else is never a good idea), and misunderstandings (all the heroine wanted was the hero to try a little more to win her back). Looking back at the protagonists, I don't think I even really liked them. The heroine was alright, I guess, but the hero's best attributes seemed to be that he was handsome, charming, and never unfaithful. The only love scene was at the absolutely worst place in the novel, when the heroine is admiring the hero for saving her from what was essential his fault. To add insult to injury, the conclusion wasn't really satisfying: the heroine basically just forgives him after he almost dies (she does love him - for some reason - after all). And then there was an almost heavy-handed of references to lies, especially "lies of omission" (yes, we read the title, we got it the first time).

I realize I'm being extremely critical of My Wicked Little Lies, and I hope that Ms. Alexander never reads my harsh words. It's just that I feel the book deserves it, especially as I reflect back on the story. I don't think I ask too much of romance novels: I want to like the plot, like the characters, and have a resolution that's both upbeat and satisfying. Unfortunately, My Wicked Little Lies fails on all three accounts.

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