Nov 21 2012 9:30am

First Look: Miranda Neville’s The Importance of Being Wicked (November 27, 2012)

The Importance of Being Wicked by Miranda NevilleMiranda Neville
The Importance of Being Wicked
Avon  / November 27, 2012 / $7.99 print, $4.99 digital

The rules of society don't apply to Caro and her coterie of bold men and daring women. But when passions flare, even the strongest will surrender to the law of love . . .

Thomas, Duke of Castleton, has every intention of wedding a prim and proper heiress. That is, until he sets eyes on the heiress's cousin, easily the least proper woman he's ever met. His devotion to family duty is no defense against the red-headed vixen whose greatest asset seems to be a talent for trouble . . .

Caroline Townsend has no patience for the oh-so-suitable (and boring) men of the ton. So when the handsome but stuffy duke arrives at her doorstep, she decides to put him to the test. But her scandalous exploits awaken a desire in Thomas he never knew he had. Suddenly Caro finds herself falling for this most proper duke…while Thomas discovers there's a great deal of fun in a little bit of wickedness.

In The Importance of Being Wicked, Miranda Neville has created two engaging characters who are the perfect foils for one another. Widowed Caroline Townsend,  part of a rather fast, artistic set in London, is chaperoning her wealthy cousin who is being courted by the oh-so-correct Duke of Castleton, a match highly desired by both the cousin's family and the duke's.

We begin the story with a scene in Caroline's drawing room.

Half a dozen guests remained in the drawing room of Caro's Conduit Street house. In one corner, an argument between two painters and a writer on the superiority of their respective arts had degenerated into desultory insults. Adam and Lydia Longley, exhausted by their roles in a reenactment of Hogarth's Rake's Progress, had collapsed on the sofa like a pair of puppies. And Oliver Bream was drunk.

This scene not only paints a vivid picture of the kind of life Caroline has been living, but sets the tone for the entire book: a dry, elegant, tongue-in-cheek humor. This scene is followed by a wonderful description of our hero and his pursuit of an heiress.

There was an irony in there somewhere should he wish to disinter it. But the Fitzcharleses didn't go in for irony, or any other fancy attitudes. Thomas was first and last a Fitzcharles, the Duke of Castleton, and his prime duty was to find a duchess. A rich duchess. The richest of all.

Miranda Neville describes our starchy hero while maintaining the subtle humor that pervades the book. So now we have a sketch of the characters of both the hero and heroine; sketches that, without a ton of detail, lets us know exactly what to expect: a devil-may-care heroine and a hero who is her polar opposite. We can hardly wait for the fun to begin.

It doesn't take long. Soon after Castleton's courtship of Miss Brotherton (the rich cousin) begins, he finds himself involved in a brawl.

The brawl spread, with men who neither knew nor cared about the cause of the fight joining in the fray. Thomas found himself back-to-back with Caro, she swinging her lethal accessory, he wielding his fists. Someone succeeded in landing a punch in his eye, but he ignored the pain. “Are you all right?” he yelled at his unlikely second. “Splendid!” she shouted back. “How are we going to get out of here?” “I have no idea.” And he didn't. He should be worried, for the situation looked to be developing into a full-blown riot. Instead, he felt exhilarated, blood coursing through his veins in the excitement of combat.

It soon becomes obvious that Castleton's stiff exterior harbors a much-less-starchy core. It is equally obvious that his courtship of the prim and proper Miss Brotherton is doomed. Nevertheless, Caro persists in dwelling on Castleton's reserve, referring to him as Lord Stuffy whenever she speaks of him to her friends. But she gets some insight into what's underneath that reserved exterior when he overhears her using the Lord Stuffy appellation.

“I don't like to be particular,” Thomas went on, “but that really should be the Duke of Stuffy, you know. Or, if you insist on ceremony, His Stuffiness.” Her smile stretched into a delighted grin. “No formality between friends, surely. I shall simply call you Stuffy.”

And so begins the flirtation that ends just as you would expect in a good Miranda Neville Romance.

As he slipped his ring on her finger, he couldn't resist raising her hand to his lips. As his head dipped closer to hers, she breathed “Nice pantaloons.” So at the most holy moment of the ceremony, she made him want to laugh. He thought it a good omen for their life together.


Myretta is a founder and current manager of The Republic of Pemberley, a pretty big Jane Austen web site. She is also a writer of Historical Romance. You can find her at her website, and on Twitter @Myretta. Show More

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