by Jill Barnett, historical (1999)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 0-671-03412-X

Spoilers are present in this review

This book is the conclusion to Ms Barnett's medieval trilogy that began with Wonderful, followed by Wild. Wicked is much better than Wild, but it is the heroine Sofia that causes the book to pass my passing grade. I'm actually depressed to see her end up with Tobin de Swine, oops, de Clare.

Sofia is so much fun in Wonderful. Now that she's grown-up, she gets her own story. About time, I thought. Bad news is, she gets Tobin, who is totally in need of a whipping in the same book. Obviously someone has been neglectful in his or her duty (they should have called me), because Tobin ends up an utter swine. Never mind, I tell myself. Ms Barnett is a wonderful writer - I anticipate with delight de Swine's downfall.

Sofia's infatuated with Tobin the moment she saw him. Only to be totally humiliated when she discovers that his attention and kisses are all for a cruel, crude, and totally prepubescent bet (you can guess what sort of bet, can you?). Later, Sofia has turned away many suitors but is outraged when the King summons her to marry... you guess it, de Swine. Needles to say, everything goes awry, culminating in Sophia's fleeing and recapture, then there's a ransom plot in there somewhere... it's all wonderfully exciting, but trust me, the crux of the story is Sofia's tug-of-war with de Swine.

One of the reason why I just cannot like this story is the fact that Sofia is a wonderful heroine. Brave, intelligent, yet in need of love, she is made to fall in love with de Swine only through the author's machinations. I doubt this woman would touch de Swine with a barge pole if the author didn't give poor Sofia so many cruel, unpleasant suitors. I have never read about two people so, well, wrong for each other. de Swine has a skull the thickness of the Great Wall of China. Everything he does and everything he says end up savaging Sofia's pride and feelings both publicly and privately. In the end when he does mend his ways - barely - trust me, if I'm Sofia, it would be a case of I love you came too late. I wouldn't stay around for de Swine that long. 100 pages tops.

Oh yes, the delightful tug-of-war battle-of-sexes touted on the promotional blurb. Of course they fight, and trust me, Sofia gives back as good as she gets, but what's the use? The author has pegged this poor lass to a fate of eternal matrimony to de Swine. Sofia's doomed. In a moving confrontation, Sofia demands to know why de Swine married her. He spins her a story of him marrying her out of token sacrifice on behalf of all mankind and other macho nonsense... lucky for de Swine I'm not Sofia or he'd be singing high soprano by now. Instead Sofia runs away, and guess what? I'm applauding her. Then the author decides that Sofia's free for too long and lead her back to the swine pen.

Hence I find Wicked depressingly dark and gloomy. Sofia darling, you deserve someone better. If you ever need anything, dear, you know who to call.

Rating: 52

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