Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: This Wicked Man by Kate Harper (5 stars, traditional)

Full Description: Amazon

Rating: 5 out of 5

Thoughts After Reading:
I was a little hesitant when I first found Kate Harper's This Wicked Man, and I'm trying to figure out why. I think it was a combination of a somewhat vague description, a low price point, and - in my opinion - a rather odd cover. I gave it a shot anyway, mostly because of the reviews, and was pleasantly surprised to find a thoroughly enjoyable traditional regency. The humor is as frequent as it is clever, and the book strikes a delightful balance between an entertaining storyline and dedicating time towards romance development. I also loved the characters and final resolutions. There were a couple of things that bothered me over the course of the novel, but nothing significant.

This Wicked Man is one of the few regency books I've read that contains (comparatively) older protagonists: the heroine is twenty-eight and the hero is thirty-nine. The heroine is also a spinster and somewhat of a self-proclaimed bluestocking. She's has a wry, down-to-earth attitude that makes her conversations particularly fun to read. The novel opens with the heroine accepting guardianship of her newly orphaned nephew. She doesn't have much experience with children, but her loving nature allows her to make the transition to parent without much difficulty. They are given a small cottage out in the country, an inheritance of the nephew's, and the first few chapters follow their activities as they get settled in. The hero has a country estate that neighbors the cottage. He has a well-deserved reputation of being rakish, a downward spiral of activity that was started in his youth due to a tragic mistake. The hero and heroine have a couple of chance meetings, and really hit it off. They  develop a close friendship over the months that follow, but it's also a fragile relationship - there's a romance simmering underneath, but the heroine doesn't want to lose her heart to a man that can't return her love and the hero doesn't want to ruin the relationship. He also finds himself unable to hurt the heroine with a temporary affair, even when she decides it what she wants. In retrospect, I'm somewhat surprised that I liked the romance conflict - it's pretty typical, with the hero running away only to realize how stupid he's being. I think it's the way Harper wrote it that makes it so good: the characters fully understand where the other stands at the time of the conflict, and the inner anguish of the hero feels real. I also really liked that the romance conflict came up in the book early than usual, for two reasons. First, it shows that the heroine - heartbroken though she is - is able to focus on the other important aspects of her life, most notably her nephew. It also gives a little time to show the hero and heroine being happy together as the external conflict is solved, which was very satisfying to read about. If I had to make a complaint about the book, it would be that the heroine seems almost too nonchalant at times about the hero's previous relationships. But I guess that's what it takes to have a HEA with a rake.

As a final note on sex scenes: nothing was actually described (as one would expect from a traditional), but there were definitely some references after the couple became engaged. I'd consider that close enough to "clean".

Several of the reviews for Kate Harper's This Wicked Man mentioned typos, but - if they still exist - they were too small for me to notice. What I did notice was a first rate traditional read, with a plethora of humor, genuine romance, and a wonderful ending to boot. And considering the current Kindle pricetag of $0.99... it's a excellent deal.

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