Can we call a halt to that cover? You know the one I mean, the one with the shirtless man standing in an inappropriate setting with a woman clinging to his leg with her dress about to fall off. Robyn DeHart’s Deliciously Wicked has a particularly bad version of this cover redeemed only by the fact that at least the heroine and the model on the cover are both redheads. During my years of reading romances, I’ve found many a good book behind a bad cover, however this cover enclosed one of the silliest historical romances I’ve read this year.
Meg Piddington’s (what a silly name) father owns Piddington’s Confectionary, a factory where they make fine chocolates packaged in fancy boxes. Mr. Piddington has hurt his leg, so Meg has been helping him by running errands back and forth to the factory (Mr. Piddington has an assistant and one might wonder why he isn’t running the errands). One night, in good TSTL romance heroine fashion, Meg goes to the factory alone to retrieve a ledger for her father and runs into Gareth Mandeville, who is working alone in the factory after everyone else has gone home. They get locked in, they bristle at each other, they kiss, Meg has to take off her clothes to shimmy out a window, but they eventually get out and both retire to their respective homes to brood over each other’s hotness.
The factory supervisor hates Gareth, accuses him of stealing some of the fancy chocolate boxes, and tries to have Gareth fired, but Meg is there and points out that there is no evidence against him. Meg offers to help Gareth make new chocolate boxes, which causes them to be much in each other’s company. In the meantime Meg gets her Ladies’ Amateur Sleuth Society together and they plan to find out the identity of the chocolate box thief (their sleuthing consists mostly of listening to gossip). They discover that the factory supervisor recently bought a race horse – something he could not afford on his salary. Could he himself have been the chocolate box thief? Meg decides to find out by sleuthing around dressed as a boy and drags Gareth along to help her.
Well, to make a long story short, Meg and Gareth are compromised, they marry, they brood, they have hot sex, there’s a murder, then there’s a fire, we find out who the villain is, the good guys win and they all live happily ever after. Oh yes, Gareth turns out to be a viscount.
Deliciously Wicked is a thoroughly silly book and an example of wallpaper historical romance at its most absurd. Neither Gareth nor Meg act like they belong to their time and if he hadn’t worn a frock coat and she a bustle, I would have sworn they were characters in a silly contemporary novel. Gareth meets Meg because he is doing a co-worker’s job after hours so the co-worker can take the day off to be with his wife who is giving birth. Does that make any sense? Would a Victorian factory owner allow this? I don’t think so. Would a respectable middle class Victorian woman go traipsing all over town – alone at night – like Meg does all through the book? I don’t think so. Would a respectable woman allow a man to feel her up while he’s hiding under her desk like Meg and Gareth do at one point? I don’t think so. I don’t demand total historical accuracy, but this book doesn’t even try.
Meg and Gareth are not an interesting pair, and don’t have much in the way of sexual chemistry. Oh, they kiss, then they separate and brood. They do it again. Then Gareth kisses Meg and gropes her breast, then they separate and brood. They do it again. When they do the deed, Meg turns out to be a Hot Virgin Sex Kitten. Only in Avonland.
A writer of light historical romance faces a difficult task. She has to keep her book charming and funny, but it also has to be believable and at least somewhat realistic. Some authors are very good at this, such as Amanda Quick, who made her reputation with the light historical romance. There are several authors who write charming and delighful historicals, most notably Julia Quinn and Julie Anne Long. Deliciously Wicked is light, but it is silly, unrealistic, and the characters aren’t a bit enjoyable. There are a couple more members of the Ladies’ Amateur Sleuth Society, and based on what we see of them in this book, they are thoroughly silly women. I think I’ll give them a pass.