An Affair Most Wicked
An Affair Most Wicked is an average read, written in a style reminiscent of many other recent Avon releases. If you’ve been enjoying the offerings of Jeffries, Hawkins, and company, you might enjoy this; it’s kind of in that vein.
Clara Wilson has come to London to catch a titled husband, just as her sister (from To Marry the Duke) did before her. She makes an unfortunate misstep right away. She and her chaperone grab the wrong invitation one night, and end up at a legendary Cakras Ball – a hedonistic event intended only for married women (loose married women) and adventurous men. Clara shares a dance and a passionate embrace with a handsome man who quickly determines that she’s not in the right place. He sends her on her way, but she can’t stop thinking about him. Clara looks for her attractive mystery man around town, but he doesn’t seem to appear at any respectable events, so she convinces her sister to accompany her to another Cakras ball. This time she is properly disguised, but the mystery man still recognizes her and dances with her – and again tells her that she needs to leave. This time she gets his name – Seger – and learns that he is the Marquess of Rawdon.
The reason Seger has been difficult for Clara to find is that he doesn’t attend many respectable events. He gave his heart once, and was devastated when the woman he loved was lost at sea. Since that time he has pursued hedonistic pleasures, and he retired from polite company when he was involved in a scandalous divorce trial. He’s never intended to marry, but he finds Clara refreshing and attractive. Before he knows it, he has stepped back into polite society and become engaged.
Seger and Clara marry quickly, because neither can really wait to begin the more intimate part of marriage. But there are problems with the hasty match. Clara married Seger knowing that he felt an attraction for her, but didn’t yet love her. She starts to wonder if that is enough. Meanwhile, both of them have issues with trust. Many of Seger’s old paramours would like to pick up where they left off with him. Though he tells Clara he will try to be faithful, she doesn’t know how hard he’ll really “try.” Clara also has secrets from her past that come back to haunt her, and two of Seger’s family members will stop at nothing to break up the already shaky marriage.
There were some aspects of this book that worked fairly well for me. I liked the pre-marriage interactions of Clara and Seger, which I found romantic, sexy, and fun. A lot of recent European Historicals lean towards warm (rather than hot) sensuality. This was a little more explicit than the usual fare, and the love scenes were more abundant. At times things got a little silly – Clara is quite innocent and needs everything spelled out for her – but it was still a change from the usual. Their post-wedding relationship also works in some ways. Clara struggles to find ways through her marital difficulties, and she is both sympathetic and believable. However, Seger becomes more remote at this time and is not quite as fun as he was earlier in the story.
This was looking like more of a B-/C+ read until the end of the book, when an annoying plot device rears its ugly head. It’s the type of “only in a romance novel” scenario that makes readers grit their teeth, and it comes right on the heels of yet another trust argument between Clara and Seger. This slid the book right into average territory.
It should also be noted that the history is more of the wallpaper variety, and characters speak in somewhat modern language. Clara also writes letters to her sister Adele in New York, and they (along with Adele’s replies) seem to fly across the Atlantic at the speed of e-mail. This would have been understandable were the characters sending telegrams, but these are garden-variety letters, which likely would have taken far longer to reach their destination.
If you have enjoyed many of the recent Avon historicals, you might want to give this a try. A lot of them have a certain sameness to them, and this is definitely in that mold. It also might appeal to avid “marriage in trouble” fans. Otherwise, it’s pretty standard fare that you can pretty much take or leave.
I've been at AAR since dinosaurs roamed the Internet. I've been a Reviewer, Reviews Editor, Managing Editor, Publisher, and Blogger. Oh, and Advertising Corodinator. Right now I'm taking a step back to concentrate on kids, new husband, and new job in law...but I'll still keep my toe in the romance waters.