*I've been off being all medical again, because everyone needs a hobby and reviewing books doesn't have the same flair as recreational use of anesthesia.
Oh Miranda Neville. We should be a perfect match and yet I find myself turning you away. I admire you so. While I was reading The Importance of Being Wicked I found myself thinking how well done it was, what a refreshing idea this or that aspect of the story was. It was so polite. I didn't want to leap into the pages and shake a bitch or weep into a cotton hankie while urging them to value themselves more. It was all the admiration in the world and none of the emotional passion. This means it's not you, it's me? Or something?
Doesn't help. Let's move on. Your cover is eye catching. I hate it. It's got this shade of dyed red hair seen clutching early bird special menus coupled with a red and rust palette straight out of fall. Her tomato red dress, the crimson chaise, it's a big yawn. The title is fine. I totally want a gig naming Avon romances, except I don't drink. Avon titles are the things you come up with after a long night of partying, the punchy humor that begs for high fives. But they work. They move books and they're memorable.
The Importance of Being Wicked has nothing to do with Oscar Wilde slash (sigh) and everything to do with a Duke. (Can we just move on to pretend kings? All these dukes. I expect Julia Quinn's next book to be You Only Duke Twice featuring a widowed duchess choosing from six lovely dukes. Maybe she's been widowed twice but runs away with an earl. Crazy stuff. Or wait, it could be The Duke Of The Month Club! Our heroine has one year to choose from an assortment of dukes reaching their majorities! A free YA suggestion. It's a gift. Holidays. You know.) Thomas The Duke comes from a long line of men who marry rich women. His dad screwed that up, so Thomas wants to get back on track. Caroline is the completely broke widow housing his teenage bag of cash. Enter hijinks.
Actually there are hardly any hijinks. Neville does a great job with Caroline. Impetuous and bad with finances, she's the girl who never wants to leave the party. As long as she's hosting, people love her. With the food and wine on offer the artistic community she adores will fill the silent corners of her home. Caro wants to have fun and forget when the bill collectors come round. She's always one step ahead and two bits short. Mostly this is her ex husband's fault. Disappointing, but it's a time honored truth that a widow in want of finances is rarely to blame. Thomas The Duke is super interested in family honor, almost as much as he is in refilling the family coffers. When the bright and beautiful butterfly of Caroline crosses his path he wants to forget everything and follow her.
It's a classic set up. Neville gets deeper into the motivations and causes of the characters than most authors bother with. Caroline is alternately frustrating and delightful. Thomas is a little less clearly drawn but he's a character that can't communicate emotionally so there's that. Problems are generally addressed and worked out leaving the conflict one of putting two lives together, not finding authorial reasons to keep them apart. What kept me from connecting to The Importance of Being Wicked was the sheer amount of sequel bait it held. Here is a character, here is a ton of background, here is a different character. Rinse and repeat. So many side threads are left unresolved. I got tired of waiting for a player to factor in a meaningful way or have their own storyline summed up. The canvas felt too infinite, the players too multiple. This one is a friend but also a nemesis, an enemy but also maybe a relative, a thief but also maybe.... my patience wore out. Tell the story you are telling me. Don't lay the case for a different one. I stop caring about what we have when I'm constantly told what I'm getting. The product placement may be skillful, but it's not necessary to the tale.
Overall, my admiration for The Importance of Being Wicked overpowered my weary rejection of it's chorus line. If you like Tessa Dare or Julie Anne Long I think Miranda Neville will fit the bill nicely.