03 January, 2013
Review: Your Wicked Heart by Meredith Duran
"She’ll do whatever it takes to secure a berth on an England-bound ship, even if it means pretending to be the wife of the absentee viscount who jilted her. But when the anchor lifts, she’s not the only impostor on board—for the stranger in her bed claims to be the real Viscount Ripton. Can she trust this devastatingly attractive scoundrel? Or is his offer of friendship only a pretext for seduction...and revenge?" - Simon & Schuster
His offer of friendship? Can I get that again, please?
"Amanda's having the worst day of her life. Her groom failed to appear at the wedding, her employer withheld her references and now a man claiming to be the real Viscount Ripton has kidnapped her. When the anchor lifts she can only pray the truth isn't as bleak as her fears." - Meoskop
I spent less than ten seconds on that. (At least I read the story.) Pretending to be the Viscount's wife? More like destitute bride in search of answers. An offer of friendship? More like crazy accusations and deranged imaginings. Can she trust him? Not if she has half a brain in her head. I haven't been reading Meredith Duran lately. The middle of Your Wicked Heart reminded me why I liked her so much while the beginning and end made me want to DNF the short and call it a day. Amanda is beautifully portrayed as a lost soul at the end of her rope. The book opens on her heartbreak and desperation giving the reader every reason to root for her. Our first encounter with Spencer shows a power mad man who can't function without the full weight of his wealth behind him. He's threatening, he's accusing, he's enraged. He doesn't have to listen to anyone because he has already made up enough answers in his head to satisfy himself. He enables his relatives (who then disappoint him) while assuming the darkest motives in those his relatives dupe.
In the center of the novella I was able to put aside Spencer's extreme dysfunction long enough for Duran to charm me with the tale of a poor little rich boy and a scrambling companion. Amanda's issues of self worth rang true, her desire for more than she has while accepting that she's likely to have even less also worked. Spencer's defensive posturing turned to desperation and exhaustion. Slowly I began to accept that this couple deserved more than a third class ticket on the Titanic. (I even got past Spencer telling Amanda she was inviting rape by appearing above deck without him because he's a super duper good guy and those sailors, no telling! This isn't some classy ship I kidnapped you onto, baby, it's full of all kinds of miscreants!!)
Eventually, Amanda and Spencer catch up to the other Viscount Ripton and all is revealed. (Here lie spoilers.) I was disappointed in Amanda's revelation that she agreed to wed as an escape. A more complex situation involving Amanda actually having feelings for both men would have been welcome. Knowing that Amanda did not love the second Viscount, Spencer still steps aside for the man. Amanda, it seems, is a commodity. He paints it as freedom of choice, but it's still appalling. A freedom of choice requires communication and Spencer hates to use his words when his power will do. Amanda tells them both to get lost. She searches for work she doesn't find until she does. She then rejects the job because Spencer arranged it for her. She hopes he will come and find her. Amanda is about to be homeless, cannot pay for her food, and she turns down the only viable job offer she has based on principle and magical thinking. I completely lost patience with her.
In a less capable author's hands I wouldn't have finished the story. Duran carried me though with her beautiful descriptions of place and her ability to make me feel for the most appalling people. If issues of power and communication bother you less than they do me you'll probably love Your Wicked Heart. There are worse ways to spend a buck and a lot Duran gets right.