His Wicked Will
The Duke of Ashcott is upset because his father left sixty thousand pounds to his mistress, known to him only as Lucinda. He’s determined to track down the trollop and make her renounce the legacy. He and his friend, Viscount Chandler (Chan to his friends), encounter Elizabeth Merriman, who looks just like Lucinda. Elizabeth is in fact a rigidly respectable young woman . Chan at first believes Elizabeth is the trollop he’s after, and when he learns that Lucinda is actually a close relative of hers, he becomes Elizabeth’s friend – in part to get closer to Lucinda, and in part because he’s fascinated by her.
This book features some very good things. I like the fact that it takes place in Bath, rather than the usual London Season. Elizabeth and Chan get off to a very bad start (more about that in a minute), but they gradually become good friends, and only after they both know how much they care about each other do they consummate their relationship. Elizabeth is a character who has very strong opinions, and definitely has moments of frustrating stubbornness. But she has very good reasons for her behavior, and I found her sympathetic. Also, there are at least three moments in this book in which the characters could have succumbed to the temptation to have Big Misunderstandings, and to my relief they never did.
Chan starts out as your requisite handsome Regency nobleman, and his behavior in the beginning of this book is strictly plot-driven. Believing that Elizabeth is the old duke’s mistress, he treats her really badly – hounds her through the street, accuses her of being a hooker, and offers to make her his mistress, all while ignoring her protests of innocence. Then, when he meets the duke’s real mistress, he immediately is overwhelmed with sympathy for her and becomes her champion and friend. He also goes on to harangue Elizabeth for not being more tolerant of Lucinda. Inconsistent behavior like that makes no sense – except to an author trying to create initial tension between two characters.
Later, though, Chan reveals his hidden depths, and this is where Cody’s real talent lies. There’s not a lot of action here, but we learn a great deal about Chan and his complex relationship to the duke, a friend he values more than a brother. We also learn about the hidden hurts in Elizabeth’s life that have shaped her personality. We even get to know the Duke, who is the closest thing in the book to a villain, and even he manages to be fairly sympathetic. Cody is very good at characterization, and getting to know Chan and Elizabeth is the part of the book I liked best. There are some good scenes, too – one in which the duke causes a scandal at a party is extremely effective, and another in which Chan confronts his claustrophobia for Elizabeth.
All this good writing is harnessed a rather pedestrian plot. If Cody ever manages to put her quietly intelligent, deeply emotional characters into a plot that’s dramatic and original – well, that’s one book I’ll want to read.
His Wicked Will is the kind of book that’s most difficult to review. It’s not bad at all, and in spite of its flaws it will make for an enjoyable afternoon’s read. I enjoyed it, but it won’t linger in my memory.