The Wicked One
With its title alone, The Wicked One may bring more than one curious reader around looking for a deliciously wicked hero as the title infers. But it’s best you understand upfront that it is only a name given to the hero for past wrongs he never committed. Though he’s seen his share of wild living, this is one well-behaved, but still vastly appealing hero.
Ten years ago Connal Delaney almost died after being shot in the back by his cousin Finn during a duel over his betrothed’s honor. Finn compromised and impregnated Connal’s dear Rosleen who, in shame, took her own life. Believing Connal was on his deathbed after the duel, Finn’s father publicly placed the blame on Connal and sent Finn to America to escape the hangman and start a new life.
Defeating death, Connal never attempted to clear his name because he strongly believed he failed Rosleen by not protecting her from the notorious Finn’s attentions. Lonely but at peace, Connal lives at the Delaney family home of Glenmeade where he pursues his passion of horse training and breeding. Word comes from America that Finn is dead – shot by a husband in a jealous rage after discovering Finn with his wife. Connal doesn’t feel any grief over Finn’s death, but he does experience a sense of freedom at the news. Glenmeade is now his and his alone and with some financing he can finally expand his stables and stock.
Connal’s wicked reputation keeps him a stranger to polite society and proper women visitors to his home are rare. When a beautiful woman of obvious good breeding shows up at his home looking to stay for a while, Connal is shocked and angry when she claims to be Finn’s widow. There is an aura of decency and honesty surrounding Bethany Delaney, but he strongly suspects she is merely there to lay claim to Finn’s portion of Glenmeade Stables. Determined that no greedy strumpet from a world away will find her fortune at his expense, Connal informs Bethany that only a male Delaney can lay claim to these lands. As he speaks, a young lad who is obviously Bethany’s son and who bears a strong resemblance to Finn appears, announcing he’s a Delaney as well.
Connal’s expansion plans are well under way by the time the newest Delaney arrives and borrowed funds are proving to be a problem. Connal’s cousin James heads a consortium of men once willing to back the Glenmeade expansion but who now are hesitant to lend their support since Connal is no longer the sole owner. Further, it seems someone is out to seize the Delaney home, though Connal doesn’t take the threats very seriously. He appears quite naïve and powerless in this area for most of the book and I found myself nervously waiting for it to be resolved for I, as the reader, was privy to many events that Connal was not. My preference was to be left in the dark as Connal was.
Bethany is a gracious, wonderful heroine and one I liked tremendously. She suffered at the hands of Finn, too, and only wants a heritage for her son. Despite his naiveté , Connal is a very likable hero who certainly proves to be a gentleman. The development of Bethany and Connal’s relationship is realistic, tender, and the vulnerability both exhibit is very touching.
There are a number of well-written love scenes between the leads, but James and his American lady friend are burning up the pages before page twenty. These scenes play completely opposite to the loving scenes between Bethany and Connal.
Though I thought The Wicked One contained a decent love story, my enjoyment was curbed by the feeling that the ax was going to fall at any moment and that this tender man was going to be undeservedly hurt once again. But that bit of anxiety can’t compare to the frustration I felt over an extremely predictable ending that tied up everything neat as can be. Of course, I can’t say much without entering grave spoiler territory but as the book ended, my mind was protesting “It would not happen that way!” But I did, nevertheless, find comfort in Bethany and Connal’s hard-earned HEA. And after a string of books I have reviewed recently that received grades no higher than a C, that is not only a relief – but a joy.