Wicked Angel is author London’s second book; the hero and heroine of her first novel, The Devil’s Love, appear as secondaries here. I am very much impressed by the writing in Wicked Angel, the complex characterizations, and the emotion the author was able to convey through the characters’ words and deeds. For many pages into the book, I thought I had a Keeper; then I hit a few snags. Still in all, it’s a book I can recommend.
The story begins in Bavaria as Countess Lauren Hill Bergen prepares to leave Bergenschloss to return to England with her younger brother, Paul. At twenty-four, Lauren is a widow, having spent the last two years married to the senile count who never really knew her, let alone made her his wife in full. Because Lauren didn’t produce the expected heir, per the wedding contract, she signs over her inheritance to the late count’s successor, Magnus, and heads for home as penniless as when she had arrived. Uncle Ethan, the Lord of Rosewood, will not be pleased.
Back home at Rosewood, Ethan has allowed his excesses to ruin the place, so Lauren decides to grow vegetables and trade them in payment for the necessities it will take to keep the decaying estate on its feet. Additionally, Lauren is responsible for several local orphans – children no one else wants, but Lauren feels it his her duty to protect. As she is about to be snouted to smithereens by the large and angry farm pig, Lucy, Lauren is “rescued” by a tall, handsome, arrogant stranger. Lauren falls immediately in love with Alexander Christian, whom she takes to be a country gentleman. She doesn’t tell Alex she’s a countess; Alex doesn’t mention to Lauren that he is the Duke of Sutherland. The attraction between the couple is strong, and when Alex leaves abruptly after kissing Lauren to within an inch of her life, Lauren hopes-against-hope that her country gentleman will return to offer for her.
He doesn’t. He can’t. Alex is engaged to Lady Marlaine, a woman who had been set to marry Alex’s elder brother when he was killed in a riding accident. Alex feels, as the new duke, it is his responsibility to take up where his brother left off, including taking his brother’s intended to wife. Although he is fond of Marlaine, he does not love her; she is stiff and dispassionate, although she means well and tries desperately to keep Alex when she realizes he is slipping through her fingers.
Ethan finances a Season in London for Lauren. Though lacking in a dowry, she is a stunning beauty, and a countess. That title and her looks should ensure her a financially advantageous match. But Lauren runs into Alex once again, and the sparks fly. He pursues her, she runs. He wants her, knowing he cannot have her. What about Marlaine? What about his family? His responsibilities? He cannot chuck it all to wed a simple country girl, countess or no. Plus, Lauren now has some serious suitors, not the least impressive of which is the tall, handsome Magnus, who has traveled from Bavaria to offer for Lauren himself.
As I said, this book had all the potential in the world – until I hit the love scenes. Partly, they were okay; partly they were, well – “pulsing member?” Does anybody write that way any more? Also, early on, Lauren had made it very clear to Alex that she was still a virgin, even though she had been married, but Alex is shocked to the core when he swiftly “breaches her maidenhead” and she convulses in pain. The second love scene takes place in an abandoned estate cottage. Such a worn device. There must be conveniently abandoned cottages every ten feet in England, just filled to bursting with lords and ladies having impromptu trysts. I’m surprised they all don’t bump into each other on the way out.
These odd inconsistencies aside, this is a well-written, absorbing story that is completely character-driven. The secondary cast, especially Paul, Marlaine, and Magnus, are compelling in that they are real people, decent people, yet are painfully blindsided by the attraction that Lauren and Alex have for each other. Hey, it happens. Why does a man love one woman and not the equally attractive, intelligent, perfectly nice woman standing right next to her? Alex does his best to do the right thing, but, in the end, only Lauren will do. A good read; give it a try.