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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Fiona's Formant: When He Was Wicked

When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn

Bridgerton Series, Book 6

Michael Stirling is in love with Francesca Bridgerton, but Francesca and John, the Earl of Kilmartin are in love with each other and are to be married in thirty-six hours. And Michael can do nothing? Why? Oh, and the plot thickens. Michael Stirling is John Stirling’s cousin. Enter love triangle.

Michael Stirling can not believe that the one woman he loves is married to his cousin. But his love and devotion for John is so strong that he goes to great measures to make both blissfully unaware of his feelings. In his desire to hide his true feelings, Michael does his best to create the ultimate image of a rake. Hence, the ton dubs him the Merry Rake.

Michael and Francesca form a friendship over the first two years of her marriage to John Stirling. John and Michael are as close as brothers and theirs is an easy relationship. While Michael and Francesca are out for a walk one evening, John Stirling dies at home in his sleep. Frencesca is crushed. Michael is overwhelmed by guilt, fearing he wished this upon his dear cousin.

Michael, unable to bear Francesca’s company, leaves for India. Little communication is passed between Francesca and Michael for the next four years. Francesca mourns the loss of John and runs the Kilmartin estates while Michael tries to deal with his guilt and grief. After four years apart, Michael returns to London to take over his inheritance and Francesca has decided that she is ready to shed her cloak of mourning and remarry.

Enter, the love affair. I was very happy that Quinn decided to include a large seperation before continuing with the story. I have read the widow/widower plot before, but very rarely was the first marriage a love match. Quinn did an excellent job of writing in enough time to make the second romance believable.

I wasn’t crazy about the Merry Rake title for Michael. It felt rather forced. I didn’t get the feel that Michael was a rake because as a reader, I never saw him be a rake only mentally pining away for Francesca. So that I didn’t get.

This book was definitely darker than any of the other Bridgerton books, which I liked. I felt I was ready for a really heavy, angst ridden kind of read. Francesca was not portrayed as heavily in the other books in the series, which I felt really helped lend a darker air to her character.

When Michael returned from India I felt that the time Quinn had written in was great but still wondered how she was going to get the two characters together. Malaria! Brilliant! What an outside of the box way to bring two characters together. I must admit, I was a little skeptical about the actual events surrounding Michael’s illness, but after reading the letter from Ms. Quinn at the end of the book, all is well.

I feel that this book had an integral thread that was missing from the other books…a link to Violet Bridgerton. The matriarch of the Bridgerton family has been key or focal to all of the other stories, but Violet’s relationship with Francesca really evolves in this story as they are both widows. We are given a glimpse of Violet that we have never seen before and to this reader, it stirred the heart.

While I must admit, When He Was Wicked contained probably the most forgettable characters Quinn has written to date, the emotion that she was able to write well makes up for it. Never have I read an author before who was able to convey as much grief, pain, and angst as Quinn was able to do. As I wrote this review, I was unable to remember Michael Stirling’s last name, however, the death scene and the one to follow later in the book at the cemetery are forever etched into my mind.


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