Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wicked Angel, by Julia London


Months after beginning my weird and totally unreasonable quest to read almost every contemporary romance on the shelves, I decided that it was time to take a breather and return to my first love - the world of historical romance.  Lucky for me that I stumbled upon one of Julia London's earlier stories.  Wicked Angel is an engrossing read, whipping up a storm of emotions with every turn of the page. The plot itself is sequentially frustrating and fulfilling.  The main characters are both lovely and obstinate.  The story moves at a quick pace, yet is rich with detail and development.  I found myself smiling like a happy imbecile and alternately shaking my head in complete disbelief almost the entire way through the 374 pages. It's common knowledge among my family and friends that rollercoasters are generally not my thing, but I may reconsider after spending nearly five hours with Lauren Hill Bergen, Countess Bergen and the Duke of Sutherland, Alexander Christian.

Lauren has returned home to Rosewood, the crumbling estate/orphanage and barely working farm she had left nearly two years before. She is a beguiling character with a sunny disposition and a penchant for earning the complete adoration of the orphans at Rosewood. Thanks to her greedy uncle's machinations, she had been forced to marry a senile old man (a Bavarian Count, no less). When he died, she unthinkingly turned over her inheritance to the new Count Bergen and began thinking of returning home. Happy to finally be there, she throws herself into the task of making Rosewood self sufficient through hard work and clever barter.

Alex Christian, the Duke of Sutherland, is wealthy, handsome and bored. He's engaged to be married to Lady Marlaine Whitcomb and their wedding is set to be the event of the Season.  Although congenial, their relationship is not a love match, at least not on Alex's side. Lady Marlaine had been betrothed, almost from birth, to Alex's older brother Anthony.  However, upon Anthony's untimely death five years before, Alex not only inherited the Dukedom, but Lady Marlaine as well.  Their union is an important one, both politically and economically, and although he has some misgivings about the situation, Lady Marlaine is both charming and suitable and Alex sees his path in life clearly.

That is until he visits his country manor and stumbles upon Lauren singing to a rather large hog in a pasture.  As a result of the subsequent charge by the pig and Lauren's daring leap over a fence and into his arms, "Mr. Christian" as Lauren refers to him, is smitten. And Lauren Hill, as she introduces herself (sans her title of Countess) is equally enamored.

But of course, it is not to be. "Mr. Christian" must return to London and to his obligations and Lauren is left at Rosewood to dream of him. She doesn't have much time to enjoy those dreams, however, as her uncle decides to send her to London in a last ditch effort to find another husband for her - preferably one that will live long enough to provide enough funds to save his own inheritance.

Not surprisingly, once in London, both Lauren and Alex discover the truth about the other and each doggedly fight the overwhelming desire they feel.  But it is impossible. The story is wrought with angst as first Alex and then Lauren abandon conscience and duty in order to make peace with the inevitable - they must be together.

Speaking of musts - add this one to your bookshelf.  And while you do, I'll head over to Six Flags, although I doubt there's a rollercoaster out there that can offer a better ride than Wicked Angel.

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