The Wicked Wyckerly
Okay, so it’s sort of a cheesy title. I was going to give it points for not involving “seduction,” but then I remembered the “Wicked” part. Regardless, we romance novel lovers know that cringe-inducing titles often adorn the best of books. The Wicked Wickerly isn’t quite a DIK, but it’s still a lovely story.
Abigail Meriweather is a Country Miss, a young woman who runs the small family strawberry farm after her parents died. She would be content, but a solicitor decided that as a single woman, she was an unfit guardian for her four young siblings, and so took them away. All of her letters to a distant cousin, a marquis, have gone unanswered. But then Mr. Fitz Wyckerly is stranded near her home with his young daughter, and she takes them in.
Fitz is actually an earl, though a reluctant one. He contentedly lived off his gambling winnings until his father and older brother both died in rapid succession, making him heir to a title and massive debt. While trying to straighten his life out, he also reclaims his illegitimate daughter, and on his way to collect the winnings of a bet, he is stranded at Abby’s farm. It is soon after this that the widow of Abby’s distant relation arrives, having decided to bestow her with £1000 per year as part of a wager. Abby and the marchioness, along with Fitz and his daughter, set off to London — she to debut into society and to find support to get her siblings back, he to find a very wealthy bride to repay his family’s debts. Of course, neither do what they intend, and instead fall in love with each other despite the obstacles in both their paths.
Abby and Fitz are both great characters. They’re a bit archetypal on the surface — the gambling second son and the loving sister from the country — but have enough individuality to keep them from being contrived. Abby has a good dose of feistiness, and Fitz isn’t the reprobate that he appears to be at first glance. They’re good together.
One thing that bothered me, though, was their insistence that it was a “marriage of convenience,” both by the characters and in the narration. Denial of one’s true feelings is one thing, but it was clear that neither was what the other needed (on the surface, of course). Abby’s inheritance was not enough to get Fitz out of debt, and Fitz’s reputation wouldn’t guarantee that Abby would regain guardianship. In fact, even as I knew there would be a solution, the situation was a bit despairing. One thing I liked, actually, was that the ending wasn’t exactly neatly wrapped up. No one discovered a silver mine on Fitz’s property and there was no sudden massive inheritance at the end. The financial problems were real, and while they were resolved to an extent, it wasn’t an unrealistic deus ex machina of a conclusion. It was realistic, which was refreshing.
The children were adorable– not too cutesy nor the token comic relief parts. I really enjoyed Fitz’s relationship with his daughter and how they adjusted to each other and he learned how to parent. All in all, he and Abby and the five children made quite a lovely and loving family.
The Wicked Wyckerly didn’t exactly break ground, but it was far from clichéd and overused. The story was fun, romantic, and had a dash of realism that made it a great read.