Tuesday, May 19, 2009

TBR Challenge: When He Was Wicked; Julia Quinn

When He Was Wicked is Julia Quinn's sixth book in the Bridgerton family series. This is Francesca and Michael's story. Ms. Quinn also wrote a 'second epilogue' for WHWW which readers can order from her site HERE. The first book in the Bridgerton family group is The Duke & I which is a keeper of mine. The seventh book, the one which directly follows this one is It's in His Kiss. Information for both of these is on Ms. Quinn's website, link embedded in the title above. I read this for Avid Reader's monthly TBR Challenge which is due today. This month's theme is unrequited love or friends to lovers, themes that are among my favorites in romance. WHWW is set primarily in 1824 in England and in Scotland.

Michael and John Stirling were raised together in the same household, despite being cousins they were closer than brothers. John was the heir, though, and to the heir go all of the riches. In this case that would be Francesca. John's wife. Cupid's arrows struck Michael deeply and true. Unfortunately, Michael hadn't met Francesca until two days prior to her wedding to John. Somehow Michael manages to hide his feelings from them & the Earl of Kilmartin marries Francesca Bridgerton. Michael is that unique Romanceland creation: the rake with the heart of gold. He seduces only unhappy, lonely married ladies with whom his dalliances are acceptable and sought after and who are least risky in terms of a bad outcome. Among the Ton he is known as the Merry Rake.

Francesca and John were happily married for two years. Somehow the newlyweds incorporated Michael into their lives and slowly Francesca came to see Michael as her closest friend second only to John. One fateful night Francesca and Michael go out for an evening stroll and return to Kilmartin House to find John dead in bed. Stunned and deeply in shock each say things to the other, expect things of the other, that can't be lived up to. Francesca miscarries their baby. Michael, now Earl of Kilmartin upon John's death, flees for India, not knowing how to cope with all of the losses and changes.

Four years later, Francesca has finally come out of mourning and come down to London for a season. Perhaps it's time to hunt for another husband. She's twenty six now and her biological clock is ticking. Francesca wants a baby and a husband and she knows that she's unlikely to find another man with whom she'll have a deep bond with. Unknown to her, Michael too has returned to face taking up the reins of his title. As soon as he sees her Michael knows he's still deeply in love with Francesca. But how can he cope with feeling guilty about inheriting John's title and loving and desiring Francesca too?

Michael wars with his feelings as Francesca tries to fit Michael back into the box she'd had him in while John was still alive. After four years, though, Michael is definitely not the same man. Francesca can't seem to let go of her preconceived notions about who Michael is & what's best for him. Michael, believe it or not, is nudged into action by Francesca's brother Colin. Will either of them be able to make peace with their conscience and the memory of John so they can embrace happiness again? Michael, for whatever reason, won't tell Francesca how he feels until it's almost too late. Will she hear him?

Later in the book Francesca struggles with feelings of disloyalty to John and struggles with society's expected sexual roles & sexuality of wives. She has some serious issues to struggle with, not least of which is that she's more than willing to enjoy Michael's sexual favors but doesn't want to marry him, and yet she denies (for a while anyway) that she's using him. The other problem is her possible fertility problem. Earlier in the book, I most appreciated and enjoyed Francesca talking to her mother about her mother's widowhood & what Francesca might be looking forward to. Francesca was willing to go after what she wanted, and she was confident enough to discuss it with her mother before setting out what to obtain it.

I've not read any of the Bridgerton books for several years, Penelope and Colin's book was the last one I read. This book felt fresh and new for me since I didn't remember any of the characters other than Violet (Francesca's mother). I really liked Ms. Quinn's attention to the intricacies of the emotional issues involved between two people who loved the same person, now dead. I liked her attention to Francesca's emotional and sexual conflicts. It was an excellent read & I plan to keep it.


Renee said...

Great review! :-)

I read a couple of these last year, then read a couple more over the last few weeks. I really enjoy this series, and still need to read Penelope's & Colin's story, then, this one (I read some out of order.)

I like that Francesca and Michael have lived a little, before coming together.

Bookwormom said...

Hi Renee- Thanks for stopping by. JQ is a pretty reliable read as far as quality goes, for me. I too like my H/H to have lived a little prior to the story.


Anonymous said...

This is one of my favorite Bridgerton novels. I'm a goner for unrequited love. Good choice for this challenge! *g*

Bookwormom said...

I think I'm going to collect the last couple of Briderton books I'm missing & read them. I find I've really missed JQ's romances. :)