by Deborah Raleigh, historical (2005)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7855-2
Some Like It Wicked is a mess. I find myself really taken by some aspects of this story but on the whole there is too many things about this story that don't come together well.
The premise is a big bewildering balloon of "You have to be kidding me!" moments. You see, Jane Middleton inherits her father's huge bags of money as well as the authority to use the money as she sees fit. She realizes however as soon as she comes to London that her money will not get her any husband anytime soon. So what she decides to do is to pay five thousand pounds to a Mr Caufield who will be called by his nickname "Hellion" in this story. Hellion is a rake who for some reason is also the Ton's leading social figure. So, if she gets this disreputable rake courting her in front of everyone, people will see her as a person to marry. Instead of, you know, the Hellion's latest conquest. And this plan works. Of course, Hellion decides that he'd rather marry her himself eventually.
It's really strange that an infamous rake can help a wallflower improve her standing in polite society and I find it hard to grasp that conflict. I'm not the biggest nitpicker when it comes to historical accuracy but this premise is so bizarre even for me to accept without plenty of reservations. Then that's the fact that everyone calls the hero "Hellion".
Not only that, there are some problems with Hellion, starting with the fact that he's this fellow who dislikes his titled uncle but nonetheless relies on his own status as this uncle's heir to live outside his means. So, when this uncle marries and Hellion's creditors, realizing that Hellion may be displaced as the heir of this uncle anytime soon, start chasing after Hellion for the debts he owes them, Hellion is not happy. He doesn't want charity from his uncle, he doesn't want to marry a rich wife, so he will just... complain and complain until Jane offers him her business proposal that is worth five thousand pounds. The thing is, Ms Raleigh proceeds to have Hellion going on and on about the hypocrisy of the Ton and all when all I can think of is that Hellion himself doesn't have a leg to stand on when it comes to being a social commentator on the state of things in 1814 London.
Furthermore, Hellion rather unrealistically transforms into this very aggressive husband who comes up with all kinds of amazing business ideas that the wife is then forced to agree upon. Suddenly Jane the supposedly smart businesswoman is reduced to being Hellion's sidekick as Hellion starts going around acting like he's the new King Midas or something. I find myself wondering why then this fellow with his bright amazing ideas were reduced to being a sulky spoiled brat at the start.
However, I like Jane. She's a smart heroine, barring her being a complete putty in Hellion's hands when it comes to heavy petting and all, and even then she has some most amusing self-depreciating remarks to say in her diary about her weakness where Hellion is concerned. Jane is that rare historical heroine who actually has some self-awareness about what she is getting into. She has some really good scenes here with Hellion that are most amusing. The writing is generally most fun and bouncy with Ms Raleigh having a pretty good ear for witty banters.
Therefore, it is most unfortunate that Some Like It Wicked has a bizarre premise with a series of developments that defy logic at times and a hero who can't make up his mind whether he wants to be an arrogant know-it-all or a self-absorbed rake. This story has a fun couple with good chemistry but the story is too much of a mess.
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