I was a bit leery when I started this book. My first Meredith Duran book was The Duke of Shadows and I absolutely loved that book. I couldn't wait to read the next two, Bound by Your Touch and Written on Your Skin. I did enjoy them, but I never had any connection to the story. I felt very removed from the characters and their issues. When this came out I hesitated, but in the end I bought it anyway. I am so glad that I decided to! Once again I felt that connection that immerses me in the story and makes me become invested in the characters and their relationship.
When the story opens you might think that Gwen and Alex are an unlikely pair. However, as the story progresses the author shows us more and more of their layers and we realize just how perfectly they do fit. Alex and Gwen have a sizzling chemistry between them. What's even better than that is way they develop into friends. I'm so glad that the author made them meshing personality-wise just as important and their sexual chemistry. There were some great scenes in this book, and some excellent banter between the protagonists.
While trying to explain this book to a friend of mine I realized how cliched and trite it sounds to explain how Gwen decided to live for herself and stop trying to be so nice after she's jilted for the second time. I realize that the good girl gone bad seems like it's been done a million times before, but that's not how this storyline came across at all. It's not a story of Gwen going bad and starting to hang out with a rake, it's a story about Gwen growing up and dealing with her issues and learning who she is as a person. Along the way she falls in love with a man who is so much more than his surface personality would suggest.
I loved the scene toward the end where everyone was gathered in the library (trying not to give spoilers). I loved watching Alex try to deal with all his assumptions turning out wrong. I felt bad for him but also found it rather humorous. I sympathized with them both but was also kind of proud of Gwen. Toward the end when I found out why she did that I was kind of surprised. That wasn't what I thought the issue was, but oh well it still worked for me because it made sense.
I highly recommend this book, but I do have to admit it wasn't perfect. The whole situation with property was kind of a letdown. At the end when everything was figured out it still didn't seem that intelligent to me. I guess I just expected that to make a bit more sense.
Considerably lighter fare than I've come to expect from Duran, but I suspect it was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time; an enjoyable Loretta Chase style romp, with all of Duran's crisp, incisive prose.
Literally on the heels of her disastrous second attempt at marriage, miss twice-a-jilt, Gwen Maudsley is determined to ruin her good reputation. She settles on her late brothers best friend, Alex Ramsey as the instrument of her destruction, but guilt-ridden over his late friend's death, and determined to honor his promise to look after Gwen and see her safely married, Alex has other plans...
Of course, being a romance, you know going in that it's just a matter of time until Gwen persuades Alex to change his mind. And (of course), being a Meredith Duran, you know she's going to take her H&H on a rocky road less traveled in order to bring them to their HEA. The fact that Alex has been nursing a (well concealed) secret crush on Gwen for years adds an element of unrequited love, and kick starts some sexual tension that might have otherwise been slow to build in a "best friend's kid sister" love story.
I can't say that Duran came up with an entirely original premise here. Like her previous two books, this one reminded me of something I'd read before as well. While I saw shades of the new Jo Goodman (whose writing style has drastically evolved in recent years) in Written On Your Skin and Bound By Your Touch, this book reminded me of a classic Loretta Chase romp, with smidges of Judith Ivory's The Indiscretion, and Adele Ashworth's Stolen Charms. With any other writer, I might find those similarities infinitely boring and predictable, but Duran has a way of making everything you may have seen and heard before uniquely her own.
Being one of those who was totally slain by her debut effort, Duke of Shadows, I can't say that this book really holds a candle to it. However, I did enjoy it quite a bit more than her previous two books.
I gave it a solid A.
Sensuality Rating: R
~ ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC - EVERYTHING ONE COULD WANT IN A ROMANCE AND MORE! (5 stars) ~
WICKED BECOMES YOU is a fabulous read and I cannot recommend it enough. You know those books where you find yourself going back and rereading paragraphs or sentences and grinning stupidly and foolishly despite yourself? That was me with this book! This is my first Meredith Duran, though I own two others by her and just haven't gotten around to reading them yet. April 27 was a blockbuster romance day - both for contemporary and historical - and I'm not sure why I decided to start off with Duran's book, but I am **so glad** I did (though she ruined me for the others)!! I am a longtime historical romance reader and this book truly has it all.
My only fear about writing my opinion about this book - and thus a glowing review - is that when a person's expectations are so high they're almost invariably disappointed, and I want everyone who reads this book to enjoy it as much as I did ... Oh well, because I just have to share ;-) - especially since after a number of bad new romance releases, I seem to have miraculously stumbled upon a lucky streak with Sarah MacLean's NINE RULES TO BREAK WHEN ROMANCING A RAKE, Anne Gracie's THE PERFECT RAKE (which isn't new, but was to me), and now this utterly delightful read that is definitely joining my all-time favorites.
(I haven't written any cons, so don't bother looking for that section)
The leading characters were fantastic - complex, perfect together though believable, presenting one another with a challenge, and two of my favorite leads of all-time. The tension between them was charged, the chemistry sizzling, and the banter absolutely a delight to read. There were many, many scenes and exchanges that had me literally laughing out loud (and even now bring a smile to my face) and the historical backdrop was detailed (without being overwhelming), authentic, and vividly described.
The twists and turns were unexpected, keep you on your toes and unsure, yet don't overshadow the main feature of the hero and heroine's relationship and also don't seem obvious contrivances by the author (well ... I mean, taking into account that you are reading fiction of course - and historical romance fiction at that!). The little surprises that Alex and then Gwen spring at the end, which prolong our wait for their HEA, only made the story better IMHO. This is one of those books where you wish there was a sequel that continues the main characters' story so you can encounter and enjoy them again.
OUR HEROINE AND HERO, Gwen (23) and Alex (28):
These two characters were so wonderful, which in this case was completely essential, since it is really a character-driven book. You wouldn't think so, because there are other plots going on, questions lurking in the background, the story moves from London to Paris to Nice to Monte Carlo, etc. However, when it comes down to it, this book is about one woman discovering that she is not who she has been trying to force herself to be for so many years; it's about one woman actually living life for herself, instead of for others. And it's about the one man who has suspected she was different than she seemed, has seen glimpses of this possibility in her for years, and who joins her in her discovery and along the way faces his own fears. (God, could I make it sound cornier? But it's true! And need I say - wonderfully, skillfully done!).
Gwen and Alex are so perfect for one another, though you (definitely) wouldn't think it at first. She's the nice, proper, darling of the ton, whom everyone loves. Gwen lives strictly within the rules of society, afraid to vary from the norm in any way, living a careful balancing act and playing a part that she has come to believe - or wanted to believe - is true. Alex lives to confront and deviate from any strictures or society guidelines he meets, and of course holds nothing but gentle contempt and amusement for people like Gwen. He runs from any hint of ties or roots to people or places (what she yearns for above all), has traveled the world, is from the aristocracy but earns (very successfully) his own living, and is comfortable in his skin no matter where he is.
Gwen is from "new money" and was sent off to school at a young age to learn how to be a proper young lady, her parents died shortly after, and then her brother died a few years later. She is utterly alone, and yet/therefore has surrounded herself with people whom she has made/charmed to like her. Honestly, in the first two chapters she seems spineless and weak, her friends are vapid and twittery, and I was afraid that Gwen was not going to be a likable heroine. This was not at all the case!
Gwen's transformation is wonderful and believable and a rocky roller coaster ride that the reader experiences along with her. Alex's contempt and condescension for what he sees as an urge she will quickly repress is invariably turned on its head. She challenges him at every turn, while at the same time Alex also challenges her, betting she won't take the plunge and then surprised when she does - though always with her own twist and still tentative, trying out her newfound wings. He is overprotective yet not wanting to be, anxious to see her change while at the same time afraid of no longer being able to stay away from this "new Gwen," and in the end so sweet and tender towards her. ::Sigh:: Basically: JUST READ IT!!!
UPDATE, 5/3/2010: Just finished Duran's BOUND BY YOUR TOUCH - was also fantastic and definitely a five-star read, though in some ways WICKED BECOMES YOU was better (mainly because the relationship was tenderer/sweeter and the book was so laugh-out-loud funny).
The pretext was good. I was looking forward to reading this book, but unfortunately, I was a little upset with the delivery. The chemistry between the hero and heroine was not typical. I felt like the story dragged at times. The story line did pick up at the end, but it was one I should've waited for instead of buying.
I decided to read this book because it looked like it was a story where a woman bound by convention and society breaks free to find out her true strength. This book did not disappoint. Upon her second jilting, Gwen decides to throw out her family's wishes to marry for title and find out what she truly wants out of life. The only way she knew to do this is to become utterly "wicked" for a woman of those times so she could finally be free to act how she wants. Alex, her brother's best friend, knows that this undertaking will have consequences that she may not recover and so tries to steer her away from her own destruction while finding himself more intrigued than he had ever had been in the past. He had always admired her quick wit even if it was mostly hidden by convention. This new Gwen shows him a part of himself he never thought existed. As she grows in spirit and self, so does Alex. That was the surprising part in this book. Not that he found it within himself to love her fully since romance books are full of those aspects, but he also grew as a human being. Finding that he was not at all as sure of himself as he pretended.
This book was a short fast read with a couple of good steamy bits. However, this book is more on the heavy side of romance and not erotica. I give this book 3 1/2 stars and recommend it to anyone wanting a light read with a bit of fun in the romance.