Friday, February 27, 2009

When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn *****

This is one of my first romance novels, and also one of my first audio books - and I've listened to it several times. Simon Prebble is the narrator - he can read the phone book in my ear any day! I just love his voice so much.

This is book #6 in the Bridgerton series - which I read in order after reading books #6 and 7. Books #1-5 are not on audio, unfortunately. This is Francesca Bridgerton's story, and it's the darkest and most serious of the series. Quinn is known for her humor, and although there are humorous moments, the subject is not humorous. Michael Sterling, we learn in the first paragraph, has been in love with Francesca since the moment he met her - the week of her marriage to his cousin John. He remains best friends with both John and Francesca for the first 2 years of their marriage, keeping up his reputation as London's most notorious rake, all done to hide his true feelings.

Not only does John have Francesca's love, he's also the Earl, with all the family holdings and money - his father and Michael's fathers were twins, but John's father was born first. They are each only children, and Michael was raised in John's home because his own parents died.

So when John dies of an apparent aneurism, in the first chapter, Michael stands to inherit everything - everything, that is, except the woman he loves, because he cannot bring himself to let her know of his feelings. He feels such guilt that he may have wished this to happen. He spends 4 years in India, letting Francesca continue to run all the estates as the Countess, trying to forget her or at least get over her.

After 4 years, they each have an epiphany of sorts: She wants a baby, and realizes she must remarry. He tires of India, and returns to England to take up his position as the Earl. When he returns, and she confides in him her wish to have children, he then realizes he must face losing her again.

She also comes to a realization: she finds him handsome, attractive, and it shocks her that her best friend, John's best friend, would be attractive to her. She isn't really expecting to have love again, and is hoping her new husband will at least be someone she likes as father of her children. But the lust she feels suddenly for Michael scares her.

Leave it to Colin Bridgerton to force Michael to admit his feelings for Francesca (if you're a Bridgerton fan, you will know why I say this). Convinced he must act, he begins the seduction.

The "wicked" part of the story is that, before John died, Francesca was always asking Michael to confide his wicked ways to her. He knew she liked to hear what he did, and that she got a secret thrill from learning what he did, who he was with. He never really told her all - he was a gentleman after all - but he uses this proclivity in his seduction of her. She must face what he has already discovered: John is gone forever, and her love for Michael is different and separate - and perfectly reasonable.

I liked all of the Bridgertons' stories, some more than others, but this one is my favorite, maybe because it was my first so I didn't already have a preconceived notion of what Quinn's stories were usually like. It's in the AAR Top 100 of 2007, and it's also a series (Serial Readers Challenge) and fits my A To Z Challenge.

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