My Wicked Little Lies
Characters playing mind games in romance novels is about as enjoyable as it is in real life – that is, not at all. However, it does provide a sure conflict, and all things considered, Victoria Alexander does it about as well as one can in My Wicked Little Lies.
Not many romance novels begin with a happily married couple, but this one does. Evelyn Hadley-Attwater and her husband Adrian, Earl of Waterston, have been blissfully married for two years. They decided early in their courtship that their respective pasts are of no consideration, and, thus, have never talked about what each did before they met. It’s not really lying, you see, it’s just a little lie of omission to not tell your husband that you were an agent of the crown, as Evelyn was. For much of her twenties (she married Adrian at the advanced age of 28), she frittered about Europe, ostensibly as a wealthy socialite but in truth as a spy, “Eve,” on the orders of a man called “Sir,” the head of the clandestine government department for which she worked. Eve and Sir never met, but their letters served almost as a courtship, and Eve was left with memories and the question of “what if,” even though she loves her husband.
It will come to no surprise for most readers that Sir is, in fact, Adrian. He met Evelyn on a pretense, to determine if Eve was reconsidering her loyalties, but the two instantly clicked, and each resigned from their posts when they married. Two years later, though, Eve is called back into service when a file containing the names and identities of many agents and department heads was stolen. As the only one whose identity was stricken from all records – at Adrian’s command – she is the only one whose identity has not been compromised. Adrian recognizes her distress and restlessness, but attributes it to something else entirely: discontent in their marriage.
And so begins a series of games and tests Adrian begins to play to determine the affections of his wife. He walks a very fine line between understandable self-doubt and irrational suspicion. For the most part, he just barely stays on the “understandable” side, but I know for others his actions will very easily cross into the “crazy” realm. When he begins to try to seduce Evelyn as Sir, it is an obvious ploy to create drama, and one that fell flat for me; but Evelyn can give as good as she got, and while I generally don’t think meeting mind-games with mind-games is a healthy course to take in a relationship, Evelyn gets back at him quite well.
Games and lies of omission aside, I did really like Adrian and Evelyn’s relationship. For all the secrets they kept, they still truly loved each other, and that love was evident in the moments where it was just the two of them, without the intrusions of espionage. Obviously their relationship is strengthened by the revelations of secrets, and the story ends on an optimistic note.
This story is not particularly original, but it is entertaining and very readable. Victoria Alexander is a talented writer, and this is a funny and well-written story. It is a testament to the quality of the book as a whole that I could even stomach the fairly manipulative nature of the plot. I know some other people will not enjoy it because of the machinations Adrian uses but the other aspects of the book – the writing, the dynamic side characters, and overall relationship between Adrian and Evelyn – were able to charm me, regardless.