The Importance of Being Wicked
Victoria Alexander’s The Importance of Being Wicked is the fourth book in her Hadley-Atwater series along with the novella Lord Stilwell’s Excellent Engagements. The latter introduces readers to the hero of this book, Winfield Elliott. However, readers need not read the other books in the series to enjoy this one.
Winfield Elliott, Viscount Stilwell, has been engaged three times and each of those engagements ended in his fiancé crying off before the wedding. While he was not in love with any of his fiancés, he believed he could have fallen in love with them and though his heart is not broken, it has developed a visible crack. Naturally, he is now a little leery of relationships. When the family’s country estate catches on fire and a substantial part of it is damaged, Win calls on the firm of Garrett and Tempest to rebuild. Win is shocked when Miranda, Lady Garrett turns up to represent the firm.
Miranda Garrett married young to a man she thought to be the love of her life. They both shared a deep interest in architecture and when John Garrett (later Viscount Garrett) opened his architectural firm, Miranda had input on the designs. Before long she was doing more of the architectural work than her husband. When he suddenly dies, it is up to her to keep the firm going for the sake of her employees. When she travels to the Stilwell estate, she brings the fiction of another chief architect with her. Upon first meeting Win and hearing his opinions of a woman’s place in society, she believes she has done the right thing in disguising her role in the firm.
Win and Miranda are simply delightful characters. While there is the backdrop of the rebuilding of Win’s country estate, the main thrust of this book is the relationship of the two of them. This book is almost completely character driven, and Alexander does a masterful job of bringing these personalities to life. The banter between the hero and heroine is witty and believable. Although Win had a reputation for being wild in his youth he has settled down and has a good head on his shoulders. Miranda is equally responsible and her dry wit continuously keeps Win on his toes. The secondary characters are very well drawn and while Win’s mother, Lady Fairborough, discusses the subject of suffrage for women and women working, the feminist angle is well played and not in your face. Miranda is not competing in a man’s world to spite men, but because she has a passion for architecture. Win and Miranda are friends long before they fall in love and by the time they realize it you wonder why it took them so long. There is only one sex scene in the entire book, but it is a lovely one. I also appreciated Alexander placing this story in the late 19th century making the changing roles for women more in line with historical accuracy.
This book just barely missed being a DIK for me. The one problem I had with the story was the secrets between the two dragging on entirely too long. The dialogue in the story made up for that small problem. It was just brilliant. Dialogue that flows naturally is extremely hard to accomplish especially in a period book. Alexander makes it seem effortless and I may add this book to my re-read pile.