The Absolutely Positively Worst Man in England, Scotland and Wales
If you love Reckless, my personal fave of Stuart’s historical romances, you’ll like The Absolutely Positively Worst Man in England, Scotland and Wales. The latter has all the trappings of the former with not quite the panache or charm.
In TAPWMiESaW, our anti-hero is (Earl) Kit Adderley who, if the reputation he has earned is accurate, is a genuine rotter. He ruins and kills without a care and is shunned by all of society… except the moronic peers who gamble with and lose to him (he cheats) and the women who simply cannot resist his overpowering beauty and seductiveness. Kit spends his dissolute days bored out of his mind–he is, of course, brilliant–and, when roused, doing very bad things.
Our tale begins with Kit playing cards with the absurdly oafish George Latherby who, when unable to pay his considerable losses, promises Kit the very large dowry of the plain woman he–George–is to marry in a few weeks. Kit is unwilling to wait so they hatch a plan to, that very night, kidnap the bride, whisk her off to Scotland, wed and bed her–Kit thinks he might as well do the latter because George has the pox–and collect her fortune which Kit, who is loaded, doesn’t need.
The caper, however, does not go as planned. The goons they hire for the job kidnap both the bride–one Bryony Marton–and her lovely young cousin Cecilia. The women are tossed into a carriage where Kit and, occasionally, George join them and they jolt off to Gretna Green. It will shock you not that Kit is immediately, ineluctably drawn to Bryony. She has freckles, a gorgeous mouth, is tall, and utterly uncowed by him. For her part, he is the most beautiful man she’s ever seen and by far the most interesting thing that’s happened to her since her globe trotting father died and she came to live with Cecilia’s truly terrible parents.
As they gallop along, stopping for food and shelter and–yes!–bathroom breaks, Bryony and Kit banter, Cecilia natters–she has an unnecessary romance with a Bow Street runner her parents have sent after her (only her, not Bryony)–and George competes to be the biggest evil idiot to grace the pages of an historical romance.
Kit is an enigma–it’s hard to know why Bryony falls for him although he has a swooning sexuality that jumps of the page–and I wish Stuart had shown us more of his evolution to (barely) hero. Bryony is overly self-aware but she’s amusing and I rooted for her to find her HEA. A few weeks after reading their story, I recall little about them other than I had a good time reading their romance.
This is a throwback novel–it hollers OLD SKOOL–and if you hate that sort of thing, you’ll hate this book. But if you’ve missed Stuart’s badly behaved, bad boy heroes and have got five dollars to spare, this book isn’t a bad bet.