He’s the battle-hardened son of a bastard, raised in the wilds of New York. She’s the sheltered, blue-blooded darling of the London broadsheets, destined to marry a duke. Their worlds could only collide in a boardinghouse by the London docks…and when they do, the sparks would ignite all of England.
Nothing can stop Hugh Cassidy’s drive to build an American empire…unless it’s his new nemesis, the arrogant, beautiful, too-clever-by-half Lady Lillias Vaughn. The fascination is mutual. The temptation is merciless. And the inevitable indiscretion? Soul-searing—and the ruination of them both. Hugh’s proposal salvages Lillias’ honor but kills their dreams for their futures…until they arrive at a plan that could honorably set them free.
But unraveling their entanglement inadvertently uncovers enthralling truths: about Lillias’ wounded, tender heart and fierce spirit. About Hugh’s stunning gentleness, depth, and courage. Soon, Hugh knows that as surely as he’d fight a thousand battles to win her…the best way to love Lillias means breaking his own heart.
Reviewers Caz and Evelyn both read I’m Only Wicked With You and got together to discuss – and share – their very different thoughts on the novel.
Caz: I’ve read and enjoyed a number of Julie Anne Long’s historical romances and enjoyed them. Are you a fan?
Evelyn: Yes! A big fan. I loved many of the Pennyroyal Green books and have read and enjoyed all of the Palace of the Rogues books so far.
Caz: I read the first one – (Lady Derring Takes a Lover) and enjoyed it very much, but I didn’t get around to reading the second one. That said, I don’t think this is one of those series that needs to be read in order, as the books work as standalones. So – what did you think of I’m Only Wicked With You?
Evelyn: I thought it was terrific. I agree that they can be read as standalones but the ensemble crew is excellent and part of the reason I like the books so much.
Caz: Well, this is going to be an interesting review, because I thought it was pretty dull. I agree that the ensemble cast is excellent and I loved their interactions – I also really liked Lillias’ family – but the book was really slow to start, and I felt like I’d come in part way through the story; Hugh and Lillias were already in lust with each other from the get-go and I had no idea why!
Evelyn: Ah, well you did come in after it had started because the end of book two (Angel in a Devil’s Arms) shows the initial interaction between Hugh and Lillias – so maybe you do need to read all the books after all!
Caz: That’s a good point – but series such as this are usually designed to be read as interconnected standalones so it’s more than irritating to discover that important information has been included in an earlier volume – especially when that information contributes to the reader’s understanding of the characters and their relationship.
Evelyn: I agree that it starts slow but I was invested right off the bat. Hugh has been a lovely character throughout and I was itching for his background info so spending time with him (and his adorable smiles) was interesting for me.
Caz: I did like Hugh – although part of me wondered why he was such a meanie in reporting Lillas’ cheroot-smoking to her father! – but he was definitely the highlight of the book. A self-made man who knows who he is and what he wants, with ambition to succeed and brains to boot – he’s a very attractive hero, and I enjoyed his interactions with the other residents of the Grand Palace. But… I wish he’d had a more interesting, likeable heroine.
Evelyn: I get that. I was pretty meh about Lillias for the first part of the book. But then I thought that she is pretty true to her times, and that she behaves exactly how a beautiful daughter of an earl would behave. But soon I saw that she was just playing a part – and that she was in the process of realizing that she was just playing a part. Her yearning to see a bigger vista was very symbolic to me of her aching to break out of the mold created for her. I’ve read the book twice and I got a much better sense of Lillias the second time, when I was reading it slower and seeing more nuances to her character.
Caz: I agree with the fact that she behaves as expected – and it’s obvious from the get-go that she’s hung up on someone she believes is going to marry someone else. Actually, the way she’s described sometimes made me think she was mildly depressed – such as when she’s unable to draw or paint, and her general listlessness – but I don’t know if that was the intended interpretation. I did understand her desire to do and be something else and her desire to be genuinely seen, but unfortunately, all that took quite a while to come through and by the time it did, I’d sort of lost interest in her.
Evelyn: I agree that the story is slow-moving. Almost all the action takes place at the Grand Palace, which might be a drawback for some readers. Me, I don’t mind slow-moving love stories. The yearning kept me coming back for more.
Caz: I didn’t have a problem with the location of the action – I liked spending time at the GP. I also love a good slow-burn. My problem was that it was all “slow” and no “burn” – I didn’t feel there was much chemistry between the leads and I didn’t feel particularly connected to them as a reader either.
Evelyn: Oh – I felt lots of chemistry between them. I loved Hugh’s thought – he’d never so profoundly disliked a woman while simultaneously wanting to take her up against a wall. And their silent battles in the drawing room were wonderful. We’ll have to kindly disagree about the chemistry!
Caz: Oh, of course. We all see things differently and life would be boring if we all liked the same things! But I’m Only Wicked With You got off to such a slow start that by the time things started actually happening after the half-way point, JAL had mostly lost me :(
Moving on… I said earlier that I liked Lillias’ family, especially her father. He’s not one of those overbearing “you must get married or else” types and I appreciated that while he did want her to be married, he also wanted her to be happy – and that he eventually realised where she would most likely find that happiness. I liked his dry sense of humour as well. Did any of the secondary characters stand out for you?
Evelyn: I loved her father too. So refreshing! Dot and Delacorte offered so much comic relief. JAL really does a good job interjecting some hilarity into this book (and series). I also thought Gilly was well done. Easy to like but a good foil to Hugh. I like that JAL didn’t make him into a villain. He was a good guy- just not the right guy.
Caz: I really enjoyed the evenings in the parlour at the GP – there’s a lot of gentle (and naughty!) humour there.
Evelyn: The Epithet Jar is hilarious and the “naked” discussions had me in whoops!
Caz: And you’re right about Gilly – those scenes at Heatherfield (his family estate) were really well done – the oh, so politely veiled insults and Hugh’s clever responses. I also liked that he was sensible enough not to delude himself about what Lillias really wanted. I think ultimately, the things I liked about this book were the “smaller” things – the secondary characters, the parlour evenings, the ball and visit to Heatherfield… and I liked Hugh. But even with those later insights into Lillias’ character I couldn’t warm to her.
Evelyn: I think the scene at Heatherfield was masterful! The second half of the book certainly moved faster. I’m curious if you will continue with the series?
Caz: I was wondering if there would be any more books because everything feels quite wrapped up in this, with no obvious “next hero/heroine” showing up (unless Gilly is getting a book!) But Goodreads lists a fourth book – After Dark With the Duke – (I’m guessing this is the duke who gets a cursory name-check near the end). This is the first of JAL’s books I’ve read that I haven’t liked that much, so I’ll put it down as a misfire and hope the next one works better for me. You?
Evelyn: That’s good news – I thought it seemed like a lot of background and characters for only three books! I’m wondering if it won’t be as long as the Pennyroyal Green series. I would love to see Delacorte get a small novella – what a hoot that would be!
Caz: Hah! I’d read that! But returning to the book in question, it’s crunch time. I really wanted to like it more than I did and I don’t think I can go higher than a C+ – mostly for Hugh, the secondary characters and the humour they brought to the story. But the romance didn’t work for me, and I wasn’t wild about Lillias as a heroine.
Evelyn: Big gap here because I’m going for an A. I really enjoyed the whole thing! The angst between Hugh and Lillias, the delightful characters at the Grand Palace, the self-discovery Lillias made, and the humor made it a total win for me!
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