Ways to Be Wicked
Okay, maybe it’s just me, but despite the buzz I’ve been hearing for a while now about Julie Ann Long, my first book by the author left me distinctly underwhelmed. Yes, I agree that she has a strong and true voice and a way with words that I admired, but this book relies too much on knowledge of the previous books in the series for it to work for a first-time reader and, regretfully, it also comes complete with pages (and pages and pages and pages) that were, in a word, boring.
The set up here involves beautiful French ballerina (and I’d love to know if that was a term commonly used during this period) Sylvie Lamoreux, who travels to England to find her long-lost sister, a circumstance that will be much more clear to you than it was to me if you’ve read the author’s previous books. Mysteriously, after being told that the woman she believes to be her sister is, in fact, in France on the same quest, virtually all talk of Sylvie’s search is dropped for approximately the next 200 pages while she struggles to fit in as a dancer in a bawdy London theatre owned by the book’s hero.
Sylvie and Tom Shaughnessy meet awfully cute (though, technically they had a brief encounter hours earlier) when both foil an attempted coach robbery. After arriving in London and being rebuffed by her sister’s butler, Sophie goes to Tom’s theatre hoping to find a welcome. She does, of course, though the kind of dancing she’s expected to do hardly qualifies as classical ballet.
Of course, Sylvie and Tom are attracted to each other, but Sylvie already has a lover in France (and kudos to Ms. Long, for he is, indeed, her lover) for whom she clearly has ambivalent feelings and Tom doesn’t “do” the women who work for him. Eventually, Sylvie and Tom get together, but readers who like these matters to move a bit more speedily should know that this doesn’t occur until page 257.
My biggest problem with the book though, is the many, many, many, many pages devoted to Sylvie’s life at the theatre. If you’ve always wanted to know everything (make that everything) about Regency-era theatre of the bawdy type, then this is certainly the book for you. If the minute details of preparing a new stage production and an intense and detailed examination of the bickering and spats amongst the dancers don’t sound like your cup of tea, then it’s a good chance your eyes will glaze over just as much as mine did.
Add in the fact that while I liked both Tom and Sylvie (though the repeated descriptions of her breath-taking beauty and immense talent soon began to grate), I never really felt the chemistry between them. The many references to Tom’s rakishness also felt a bit hollow since he really doesn’t come across as a rogue at all, but instead as a basically decent but flawed man trying to run a business. The love scene (once you get there) is very nice, but that’s something you can look forward to only after wading through all those pages (and pages and pages) about the theatre.
In the book’s latter pages, Sylvie’s quest for her sister again takes center stage and is wrapped up lickety-split, but if, like me, you haven’t read the author’s previous books, it all seems pretty darn pat.
I have to say, however, that even though this was a less than auspicious introduction to the author for me, I can’t say how it compares to Ms. Long’s previous books, so please make your own judgments and take into account my lack of familiarity with the continuing storyline. First time readers, though, will definitely not want to start with Ways to Be Wicked. I’m certainly sorry that I did.