Not Wicked Enough
Berkley, $7.99, Feb. 7, 2012
When Lily Wellston heads to the Bitterward Estate to comfort her widowed friend Caroline, she certainly does not have romance in mind. In fact the playful but level-headed Lily is amused to no end when, en route, a gypsy gifts her with a beautiful medallion, claiming it will ensnare the romantic desires of a stranger.
But Fate has other plans in the form of Caroline’s ruggedly handsome brother, the Duke of Mountjoy. One day at Bitterward and Lily can’t deny the sizzling attraction between her and the roguish duke. Nothing can come of it, of course. She’s not looking for entanglements and he’s practically engaged. But whether it’s her outgoing nature and the duke’s outlandish ways sparking off one another; or the mysterious gypsy medallion working “magic”—hearts are stirring in the most unexpected and wicked ways...
Historical romances are my first love when it comes to the romance genre. I read Lord Ruin by Carolyn Jewel last year, and it very well may have been my favorite read of 2011. So I approached Not Wicked Enough with a high level of anticipation.
The hero and heroine, Mountjoy and Lily, aren’t your typical romance characters. Jewel’s characters are so beautifully and painfully human. Not Wicked Enough could very well have been a biography, but with the wonderful prose and happy ending that only fiction guarantees.
Lily appears to be confident, happy, and perfectly settled in her life. But she’s definitely not a Pollyanna or Mary Sue; she’s had difficulties and a rather tragic situation with her father. For someone who has grown up with so little love and affection, I suppose it explains why she was dragging her feet when it came to love. Sometimes there was too much delay, honestly, in the book.
Lily is very direct and in control. She needs to know how things are, and generally gets to dictate that. In the book, however, she isn’t sure what Mountjoy feels and in fact almost dismisses him saying he loves her. I know even the most capable or observant person can be emotionally stunted, but it felt a bit overmuch here. Especially as she and Mountjoy were depicted as being so instantly in tune with each other. Lily also holds onto, or almost uses her deceased fiance, Greer, as a crutch. Much of the book is her saying she couldn’t ever love, or admire, or want anyone like she had wanted Greer. But Mountjoy is someone who elicits such extreme reaction from her—and she decides to ignore it. For a little while, at least.
The hero, Mountjoy, comes from humble origins, growing up as a farmer, and then inheriting a dukedom. He’s done incredibly well for himself and his family, but aside from hating “dressing up” and being stubborn, you don’t find out much about him, except that he’s aloof, and is mad for Lily.
Mountjoy knows he’s obsessed with Lily—actually in love—and that nobody has, nor will ever be, what Lily is to him. And yet he considers proposing to his neighbor Jane, even after he and Lily become lovers. That’s understandable, in part, because he’s uncertain as to how Lily feels about him, and the entire town believes there’s an unspoken arrangement already in place between Mountjoy and Jane. But it was still frustrating. Especially as Mountjoy discovers very early on that Jane is terrified of him. It seemed silly for him to continue to consider proposing to Jane simply because everyone expected him to.
But those caveats aside, when it came to the last third of the book, the plot moved quickly, all the characters did something rather outrageous, and Lily and Mountjoy finally admitted their love for each other.
Regardless of the lull in the plot or pacing, Lily and Mountjoy’s encounters are hot. I loved the little bright spots, such as Mountjoy showing Lily the tower he’s claimed as his “man cave,” with obscene carvings. Let me tell you, this is one hot book. Ms. Jewel writes a heroine who is bold and enjoys lavishing lots of physical attention on the hero. I found this refreshing, and quite different from the typical historical romance. It was also nice to see Mountjoy go after a relationship with Lily even though he knew it wasn’t necessarily the best or perfect situation.
There are four secondary characters in this book: Lord Nigel, who is Mountjoy’s younger brother, Ginny, who is Mountjoy’s younger sister, and Lily’s best friend, and lastly, Fenris. I was seduced from the start by the secondary characters, Ginny and Fenris. Fenris first appeared at page 67, and I knew—knew!—that he and Ginny were going to be together. But we won’t find out how their story ends until Not Proper Enough is released.
Carolyn Jewel’s writing and characterization is so fantastic I can ignore the parts that bugged me, and will likely reread Not Wicked Enough prior to the release of the next book in September.