Desert Isle Keeper
A Week to be Wicked
Narrated by Carolyn Morris.
Although recommended often by friends who read historical romance, I had yet to read this one and when the chance came up to review the new audio edition, I grabbed it eagerly.
I’m so very glad I did, because the story is every bit as good as I’d been told. And narrator Carolyn Morris’ talent for bringing out the humour, as well her sensitive interpretations of some of the more intense parts of the story, only added to my overall enjoyment.
In a nutshell, A Week to be Wicked is a “rake-meets-wallflower” story but to leave it at that would do the book a serious injustice. It’s beautifully balanced and well-paced and is by turns funny, poignant, and sexy. I came away from listening on a real high and completely unable to think about what I wanted to listen to next because I was unwilling to let go of Colin and Minerva and this fabulous story.
Minerva Highwood is twenty-one, bespectacled, bookish and, she believes, completely unprepossessing. Even her own mother despairs of Minerva’s marital prospects, and takes solace instead in the fact that her beautiful oldest daughter, Diana, will no doubt attract a rich, titled husband – one like Colin Sandhurst, Viscount Payne who is currently rusticating at Spindle Cove.
Colin is stuck there until his next birthday when he will finally come into his inheritance. He’s broke and his cousin Bram, who is currently controlling the purse-strings, insists he remain there until that date. The only other way to obtain funds is marriage and, knowing this, Minerva is worried that Colin – a notorious womaniser – has his eye on Diana.
Minerva may be quiet and unassuming, but when it comes to protecting her loved ones, she is fearless and utterly determined to prevent such a marriage. Late one night, she marches up to Colin’s door to confront him and offer an alternative source of funds. If he will escort her to Edinburgh for the symposium at the Royal Geological Society of Scotland, she will give him the five hundred guineas prize money she expects to earn for the presentation she intends to make. She goes on to suggest that they stage an elopement and then return unmarried, saying things didn’t work out.
Once Colin has stopped laughing and has recovered from the shock, he attempts to get Minerva to think of what that would do to her reputation but she is undaunted. She doesn’t relish the thought of the scandal that will attach itself to her, but she would rather be cut off by society than be as she is now – forever in the background and living on the very outside edges of it.
Minerva hasn’t reckoned on the fact that this particular reprobate does in fact have some scruples. Colin might be an inveterate womaniser but he nonetheless abides by his own rules when it comes to his love life.
“I’m a lover of women, yes … And yes, I seem to break everything I touch. But thus far I’ve succeeded in keeping the two proclivities separate, you see. I sleep with women and I ruin things, but I’ve never yet ruined an innocent woman.”
Frustrated, but undeterred by Colin’s refusal to help her, Minerva continues to try to find a way to persuade him. Eventually, they find themselves on the road to Scotland.
What follows is a disastrous road trip in which practically everything that could go wrong does go wrong. They lose most of their money, get held up at gunpoint, pose as missionaries and long-lost royalty, and find themselves in a number of other ridiculous and dangerous situations. It’s fast and furious and often very funny as Colin, who is possessed of an almost indecent amount of charisma, spins yarn after mischievous yarn to the people they meet along the way. He does none of it out of a desire to deceive or harm – it’s rather to show Minerva some fun and to make the people around them smile. And when things turn serious and Minerva feels like giving up, Colin won’t let her. He pushes her and goads her because he’s realised that she needs to break out of the shell she’s been living in for so long and learn how to have fun.
Colin is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous, mixed-up heroes ever to make it into print and audio. He’s right up there with Sebastian St. Vincent (Lisa Kleypas’ Devil in Winter), at the top of my list of favourite bad-boy screw-ups. He’s a charming rogue – always ready with a quip or a suggestive comment – but underneath he’s beset by the feeling that he’s not good enough and can’t shake the feeling that he will always ruin whatever he touches and destroy the things he loves.
Minerva has spent most of her life in the shadow of her beautiful elder sister, and is more interested in academic pursuits than in pursuing men. She doesn’t conform to society’s idea of what a young lady should be; she’s withdrawn and awkward in company – especially around men – and even her mother describes her as hopeless. Her passion in life is geology, and she wants nothing more than to be taken seriously in her field of expertise. A number of her papers have been papers published as M.R Highwood and she sees her attendance at the symposium as a way to make her mark in life.
As their journey progresses, Colin and Minerva develop a mutual respect for each other, as well as being able to explore their growing attraction. The love scenes are romantic as well as very sexy. Colin is, of course, generous and attentive in bed and, even more importantly, both characters were still very much “themselves” during those scenes.
I’ve listened to a few of Carolyn Morris’ narrations over the past couple of months, and I have to say that I think this is her best yet. Her voice is pleasantly mellow and while she doesn’t adopt a much lower pitch to portray the male characters, she has a way of altering her timbre and adding a degree of resonance which leaves the listener in no doubt as to gender. Her performance of Colin was a real stand out for me – she captured his insouciance, charm, and wit perfectly, and also made him sound ridiculously sexy at appropriate moments. She made subtle changes to her interpretation of Minerva as the story progressed, showing how Minerva was gaining in confidence and finding her true self. Her narration also successfully included a few different regional accents to portray some of the secondary characters and the way she chose to voice Minerva, the seductress and dangerous assassin, was a hoot!
Ms. Morris has a real talent for bringing out the humour in the stories she narrates, and of course here, there was a lot for her to work with. There are so many fabulous lines and exchanges that it’s impossible to pick a favourite, but here’s one from the first chapter that sets the tone very well:
“Come in, if you mean to.” He winced at a blast of frost-tipped wind. “I’m shutting the door, either way.”
She stepped forward. The door closed behind her with a heavy, finite sound. Minerva swallowed hard.
“I must say, Melinda. This is rather a surprise.”
“My name’s Minerva.”
“Yes, of course.” He cocked his head. “I didn’t recognize your face without the book in front of it.”
… “I’ll admit,” he said, “this is hardly the first time I’ve answered the door in the middle of night and found a woman waiting on the other side. But you’re certainly the least expected one yet.” He sent her lower half an assessing look. “And the most muddy.”
She ruefully surveyed her mud-caked boots and bedraggled hem. A midnight seductress she was not. “This isn’t that kind of visit.”
“Give me a moment to absorb the disappointment.”
“I’d rather give you a moment to dress.”
Her narration in the more serious and romantic moments is also extremely good. Ms. Morris’ narration is note-perfect and she allows the words space in which to breathe and thoroughly settle in the listener’s mind.
For fans of romance, A Week to be Wicked has everything – a gorgeous hero, a beautifully developed central relationship, a huge dollop of sexual tension between the leads, and sensual love scenes. Add to that the humour and the sparkling dialogue, the tenderness and moments of true poignancy, and you’ve got a story that lives in the memory long after you’ve finished reading or listening to it.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to A Week to Be Wicked and I know it’s an audiobook I’ll be revisiting often.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: A- and Book Content: A
Unabridged. Length – 10 hours 58 minutes