Too Wicked To Love
Too Wicked To Love takes a familiar theme, gives it a fresh slant, and presents the reader with a love story that has some nice little twists and turns along the way. And that step-back cover isn’t so hard to take, either.
Sour old spinster Miss Jane Mayhew steps out her front door one morning, only to trip over a basket containing an abandoned baby. The child, Marianne (a lovely name and one of my personal favorites), appears to be the illegitimate issue of Ethan Sinclair, the Earl of Chasebourne, a divorced man, a rake, a rogue, and the man Jane has been in love with since they were children together. At twenty-six, Jane’s biological clock chimes loudly in her heart when she sees Marianne, and she bonds with the infant immediately. From that moment on, Jane considers herself the baby’s mother and protector, and will do anything to ensure her future – even challenge the morally declined earl.
When confronted by dour old “Miss Maypole” with the fruits of his deed, Ethan’s in bed with a lusty blonde. He’s angry and affronted that he should be accused of fathering an illegitimate child, something he has been careful to avoid. Having been living a life of debauchery in direct response to his late father’s strict code of ethics, Ethan, nonetheless, is not what he seems. When Jane tries to adopt Marianne and raise her alone, Ethan becomes unreasonable and resists her efforts. As a result, in a twist on “who’s-the-father?”, Jane and Ethan set out to discover the identity of the child’s mother. Jane envisions there must be hundreds, thousands of tossed asides mistresses all bulging with his bastards, but Ethan knows there are only four. Is one of them the child’s mother?
Meddling in all this is Ethan’s mother, Lady Rosalind, who is delighted to have a granddaughter, legitimate or not. Lady Rosalind is Jane’s godmother and has an agenda, obvious to Ethan, of her own. Though Ethan is aware of his mother’s machinations, he is powerless against them, and Lady Rosalind prevails. But at what cost to the trust between Ethan and Jane?
In the best tradition of Cinderella and rags-to-riches, and “plain Jane”-to-celebrated beauty stories, Too Wicked To Love hits the mark. Both Ethan and Jane are injured and vulnerable, but their common love for Marianne slowly brings them together. Their love story is believable and their loves scenes passionate. Each secondary character is well-drawn and pivotal to moving the plot forward, especially the manipulative Lady Portia.
The only complaint I have is that Ethan struggles a little too long against recognizing his love for Jane, and Jane is a little too naïve for a grown woman. Although her isolated and bookish country life might account for that, she was too easily drawn in by Portia and for too long. Nevertheless, the story moves quickly along, the characters stay true to themselves, and the mystery of who gave birth to Marianne is provocative. Because I’m a mystery fan, I admit I figured it out almost immediately (not every woman they encounter is what she seems) but don’t peek ahead if you don’t want to know.
Too Wicked To Love is an enjoyable, well-written read, and I can recommend it.