Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday Review: The Importance of Being Wicked

The Importance of Being Wicked
By Miranda Neville
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: November 27, 2012

Caroline Brotherton, who is introduced in the novella “The Second Seduction of a Lady,” was a romantic seventeen-year-old when she eloped with Robert Townsend. Seven years later, Caro is a widow with little more than a scandalous reputation, enormous debt, and memories of a marriage that had its happy moments but also its troubling ones as Robert’s addiction to gambling consumed his fortune and eventually his life. Caro is preparing to take on a new role. She is to chapherone her young cousin, the heiress Anne Brotherton, during a visit to London.

Thomas Fitzcharles, Duke of Castleton, is a conservative, staid gentleman very conscious of his duty to his name and his family. He belongs to a long line of aristocrats who have married well and improved the family coffers. The fact that his father departed from the tradition makes it imperative that the current duke marry an heiress. Anne Brotherton seems perfect for his purpose, and Castleton is prepared to make her his duchess.

Appearances lead to the conclusion that Caro and Castleton are opposites, and thus it should come as no surprise to any experienced reader of romance fiction that the two fall in lust at first sight. Less predictable is that Caro proves to be less shallow than she appears and Castleton less bound by convention than one might suppose. Neville gives her readers a story that fits the deceptive externals of her characters: what appears to be mere froth and sizzle upon closer examination reveals unexpected subtlety and complexity.

Caro is another Neville heroine with an interesting history that makes her choices comprehensible even when they make her less than a fully sympathetic character. Brought up by a domineering mother, disowned by her family upon her elopement, abandoned emotionally by her irresponsible husband even before his death, she is loyal to those who have become in effect her family. Her near obsessive attachment to the valuable Titian is more logical when the reader understands that the painting affirms that Robert Townsend once loved her. Her immaturity is a correctable flaw, as the story shows, and her intelligence, humor, and warmth are always in evidence, offsetting less positive qualities.

Castleton can be sober and contained, but it is clear fairly early that he has a sense of humor that includes the ability to laugh at himself, hardly a characteristic of a hero who truly deserves the epithet with which Caro endows him. I loved the exchange after Castleton overhears Caro use her name for him.

“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.”

It sometimes seems to me that far too few couples in romance novel share a sense of humor. I believe laughing together is a prime requirement for the level of intimacy required for an HEA in which I can believe. These lines went a long way toward helping me believe that Caro and Castleton would give me the kind of ending for which I always hope.

Miranda Neville has consistently proved to be one of those authors whose books have added value. I find her characters engaging and her stories interesting and intelligent, and I also find her fictional worlds places where I like to linger because they are always different in significant ways from the norm of historical romance. The Importance of Being Wicked is the first book in the Wild Quartet. I’m eager to see what’s next in the series.

How important do you think a sense of humor is in relationships? Is humor a quality you look for in fictional characters?


Nancy Northcott said...

Janga, I enjoy humor in fiction. I can enjoy a book that's dark, but humor is always welcome.

quantum said...

I have a couple of Neville's earlier books on my TBR following an earlier author interview.

Miranda is a charming English lass, educated at Oxford Univ, who really knows her history. I feel an affinity and really must make time to read her!

Humour is such a powerful tool in all walks of life. Invaluable for defusing tricky situations and lightening burdensome loads. I remember Khrushchev taking his shoe off and banging it on the table at an important international Conference. The English prime minister (Harold MacMillan) was speaking, and peering over his glasses requested a translation .... defusing a nasty incident!

Very difficult to write it successfully I think. But when it comes off, it can send the reader into orbit, particularly in the romance context. No-one does it better than Jennifer Crusie. LOL

irisheyes said...

I love humor in my romances! I agree with Q in that it is hard to write. When an author does it well it is magnificent, though.

A lot of my favorites can write a passage that brings me to tears on one page and laughter on the next. Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Jennifer Crusie, Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn just to name a few. And now that I think about it almost every one of my auto buy authors has some element of humor in their stories, even if they just make me smile with a turn of a phrase or a situation they put their characters in.

I just told my daughter the other day the most important aspect of any relationship is the ability to laugh together. Shared humor is the best!

Janga said...

Q, Neville has become one of my favorites. I always look forward to her books.

Crusie is great at humor. She's one I always reread when I need to laugh.

Janga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janga said...

Nancy, so many of my favorites manage to combine angst and humor. While I've read some powerful books that are pretty much unrelieved darkness until the resolution, those books are very rarely the ones I want to reread again and again.

Janga said...

I love your list of those who can move you to laughter and tears, Irish. I'd add Eloisa James and Anne Gracie to my list. I think they both excel at covering a range of emotions in their books. That's one of the reasons they are both favorite rereads for me.