The Importance of Being Wicked
By Miranda Neville
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.
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?