Thoughts After Reading:
I tend to associate most strongly with heroes who are respectable and a bit staid. And so – when done correctly – I greatly enjoy reading a book in which the straight-laced hero is paired with his polar counterpart. Emma Locke’s The Trouble with Being Wicked was “done correctly” in just about every respect. The novel tells of a poignant romance between a former Cyprian who wishes for love despite the unlikelihood of it all, and a slightly tortured hero who tries to do what he thinks is best for his family. It is a very well written book, with an intelligently humorous edge to the narration that I have only seen from the most skilled of writers. The plot itself was an emotional rollercoaster of ups and downs, and things get darkest just before the light at the end of tunnel.
The heroine became a whore as a young girl, the only real choice available to a bastard child whose parents had abandoned her. She seems to enjoy the attentions men bestow on her, but – conversely – her profession has beaten true desire out of her until she meets the hero. The book opens with the heroine moving to a small cottage in the country with her very pregnant friend. The heroine wishes to escape her notoriety in London, trying instead for a subdued existence while helping her friend raise her new baby. The hero is a viscount from whom the two women bought the property. He has spent the last decade or so hating his father for becoming a notorious womanizer, ultimately leading to the hero’s mother murdering the man. The hero has tried to do his best for his sisters, constantly urging them to curb their hoydenish ways in order to attract a respectable marriage. He has economized to provide them with meager dowries and planned a London season in which they avoid scandal completely. The hero has also remained celibate for the last seven years, wishing to be as little like his father as possible.
The storyline essentially follows the plot outlined in the blurb. The hero and heroine are unexpectedly drawn to each other, despite the heroine not wanting to get mixed up with a man needing respectability and despite the hero having many suspicions about the heroine. He tries to stop falling in love with her when he finds out what she was, finds out that isn’t possible, and they enter into a turbulent affair. New issues arise as the heroine’s decisions threaten the future plans the hero has for his family. It is the emotional undercurrents, however – and not the storyline itself – that makes The Trouble with Being Wicked truly exceptional. The happiness the hero and heroine reluctantly find with each other, despite being so different in personality. The heroine’s reconciliation of her wishes for love with her own inability to love herself. The hero’s realization that he doesn’t necessary know what’s best for his sisters, who are mature young women.
The only unhappiness I had with the novel is when it becomes especially dark towards the end. While I understood the need for the protagonists to gain a better understanding of each other, and of themselves, it was still a bit heart-wrenching for the characters to drift away from each other for months at a time. Quite a bit happens in the final resolution, and I must admit some of it went over my head – I was hurrying to finally get to my much desired HEA.
Emma Locke’s The Trouble with Being Wicked is a novel I will probably never read again, for the simple reason that I have a difficult time enjoying themes of darkness and drama. Nonetheless, it was an artfully crafted book – one made all the more impressive by the fact that it appears to be a debut novel. The hero’s and heroine’s romance was highly charged with sexual overtures, yet managed to come across as an authentic relationship that is so much more. Their love story inspires a wide range of emotions, and I’m sure any reader will await their happy ending as eagerly as I did.