Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Slightly Wicked by Mary Balogh

Book Description from Goodreads:
Meet the Bedwyns…six brothers and sisters - men and women of passion and privilege, daring and sensuality…Enter their dazzling world of high society and breathtaking seduction…where each will seek love, fight temptation, and court scandal…and where Rannulf Bedwyn, the rebellious third son, enters into a liaison that is rather risqué, somewhat naughty, and…Slightly Wicked.

With his laughing eyes and wild, rakish good looks, Lord Rannulf Bedwyn is a hard man to resist. To Judith Law, a woman in need of rescue when her stagecoach overturns, Rannulf is simply her savior, a heroic stranger she will reward with one night of reckless passion before she must become a companion to her wealthy aunt. Imagine Judith's shock when the same stranger turns out to be among England's most eligible bachelors…and when he arrives at Harewood Grange to woo her cousin. Certainly, they had made no vows, no promises, but Rannulf never did forget his uninhibited lover…nor did she forget that one delicious night. And as scandal sets the household abuzz, Rannulf proposes a solution…but when Judith refuses to have him--in love or wedlock - Rannulf has only one choice: to wage a campaign of pure pleasure to capture the heart of the woman who has already won his.
Slightly Wicked is an ugly duckling story of a young woman, Judith Law, who, by posing as an actress, has one last fling with a handsome stranger before facing a life of drudgery living with her wealthy aunt and uncle as a virtual unpaid servant. Unexpectedly, the handsome stranger turns out to be Rannulf Bedwyn, whom Judith's vain and self absorbed cousin targets as her chief matrimonial prospect. When Judith and Rannulf meet again, all is revealed.  They both have to own up to the fact that neither one of them had been honest with each other during their brief but idyllic interlude. Can they forget their blissful two days together or get on with their lives as if it never happened?

I liked the book overall, but I was distracted by the many Austen similarities in the plot, plus the story line itself was far fetched.  Judith is a poor relation en route to live with her aunt and uncle (shades of Mansfield Park).   She knows exactly what her life is going to be like living with them.  She will be ignored by most, except her grandmother who is elderly and needs a companion and "servant" to do any number of trivial chores and favors for her.  All Judith's life, she has been led to believe that she was unattractive with her red hair and overly curvy body.  Little does she know...

On the way to her relatives, the hackney carriage she's riding in breaks down in the mud.  By happenstance, a handsome young rider comes along and offers help.  He scoops Judith up onto his horse to take her to an inn where they can send someone back for help.  One thing leads to another and Judith thinks of this as her last chance to do something daring and memorable.  A night of passion that she can live on for the rest of her dreary life.  She pretends she is an actress and Rannulf Bedwyn (the handsome young rider) takes the bait and propositions her in so many words.  Bliss and passion take place.  Rannulf winds up falling for her hard, having no idea that she's a gentlewoman who he has just deflowered!  Thinking she's an actress, he considers making her his mistress, but Judith flees - she knows she cannot continue with him and she has to get to her cousins.  Rannulf is furious at her and goes on to his destination... his grandmother's house which is right next to Judith's aunt and uncle!

Once Judith is ensconced at her uncle's estate, life is just as she suspected it would be.  Forced to wear an ugly cap that completely hides her hair and frumpy loose fitting clothing to hide her figure, she becomes the invisible poor relation (except to her obnoxious cousin).  Poor Judith, I felt so sorry for her!  I just wanted to tear those ugly things off her!  Her aunt, Mrs. Effingham, is just awful, channeling Fanny Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility.  There is no way in hell she is going to let Judith's luscious curves take away from her own fair daughter's beauty and chances for making a sparkling match with none other than the Duke of Bewcastle's younger brother, Rannulf Bedwyn who is coming to stay with his grandmother for a number of weeks!

Well, you can imagine what happens once Judith and Rannulf see each other again.  At first he doesn't recognize her, and then once he does he figures everything out.  He's still annoyed that she disappeared on him, but he understands and now is irate to see what kind of life she has to look forward to.  Plus, he is racked with guilt that he took her innocence!  A gentleman just does not do that sort of thing!  He keeps trying to get Judith to speak with him, but she is determined to keep her distance and try to forget him - fat chance!  All he can do is try to get her to reveal herself  to the rest of world.  There is a beautiful, talented young woman under those dowdy clothes and cap and he wants to see her shine.

There are plenty of bumps in the road on the way to love between these two and it takes a long way for them to resolve their differences.  Judith's brother comes for a visit and he is later accused of stealing his grandmother's jewels.  The whole thing is a mess on the same night of a big ball in which Judith has her chance to shine.  Poor Judith is accused of being in on it and helping him as well.  She runs away to try and find him - all right before Rannulf plans to propose to her - again!  (She turned him down the first time - a nod to Pride and Prejudice and the tragedy that befalls the Bennet's when Lydia runs off with Wickham just before Darcy is about to declare himself to Elizabeth again in Lambton?)  I was biting my nails in aggravation, but loved every minute of it!  Rannulf with the aid of his brother, the Duke, saves the day and it was so good!  I love it when the Duke steps in and makes everything all right with a wave of his hand (I can't wait to get to his story.)

I am enjoying this series.  Rannulf and Judith made a good couple, albeit their differences and unorthodox first meeting. ;)   I'm glad to see Judith get her happy ending, though I do wonder at how she'll enjoy life as mistress some day of the estate next door to her hateful aunt!  Much of the story was a bit hard to swallow, for the whole scenario would so never happen in real life, but it made for an entertaining read.  But of course, anything can happen in romance-land.



Iris said...

Have u read the other books in the series?

I'm rather fond of the Bedwyn siblings, but not all books were captivating - Slightly Married was nice - i like the characters though. n Wulfric! He makes the list ov favourite intimidating men =D

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Iris, I've read Slightly Married and the ones before it, I like the series to far, I can't wait to get to Wulfric's book! I agree, intimidating is the word!

Yvette said...

I haven't read this one, Julie, but in the past I've read so many books by Balogh. I'm going to be arbitrary and say that maybe her earlier books were the really special ones. Of all her books, my favorite is still LORD CAREW'S BRIDE which was an old Harlequin Regency. I think when Balogh began writing she tackled subjects and plotlines that not too many other romance writers dared touch. She was quite innovative.

I also see you're listening to one of my favorite books: GRAVE GOODS by Ariana Franklin. Loved it.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Yvette, I know that Balogh has been writing for years, but she's relatively new to me, I've read about 4 books by her now, starting with this Bedwyn series. Yes, I've early on in Grave Goods, so I haven't gotten really into the main plot yet, Adelia's still try to figure out what to do with herself, I suspect she'll be hearing from Henry soon to analyze the supposed bones of Arthur.

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