When She Was Wicked by Anne Barton

February 6, 2013

Giant chest on cover alert!
When She Was Wicked is the first in the Honeycote series for debut author Anne Barton, and it's a charming beginning. This is a tale of two people from different worlds, sort of. Our heroine, Anabelle, is a seamstress and the only support of her family (mother and sister). The mother has been diagnosed with tuberculosis and any money Anabelle has earned has gone for her mother's medication. This leads us to Anabelle's other occupation: extortion. And, what better place to hear gossip than in a dress shop where a seamstress is pretty much ignored while clientele talk about all kinds of sex-capades. 

Well, Anabelle is desperate; she overhears something and sets out to blackmail a duke. This time she has picked the wrong pigeon, and she ends up getting caught by our hero, Owen, Duke of Huntford. Instead of throwing her in prison, he makes her pack up her things and come live with him and design gowns for his sisters as a punishment. Included in this punishment is paying her back rent, providing food for her family and bringing in another doctor to look at her mother. Some punishment. In the process, they fall in love. The end.

I loved the beginning of the book, I thought Anabelle was a nice change from standard heroines. She was smart, strong, and for the most part able to take care of herself. She also wants more out of her relationship with Owen than he's willing to give. So, she is walking a very thin line: she will not be a mistress, she wants to be a wife. She is very much aware she is not trained for some of the complexities built into his social class. He is also aware of these differences and even when it is discovered that her grandfather was/is a viscount, it doesn't change anything.  Owen stills does not accept Anabelle as his social equal.  So, their struggle with their differences was an interesting process to watch.

Where the author lost me a little was with some implausible scenarios.  I know this is a work of fiction, but there is a fine line between fiction and fairytale.  I found it hard to buy into Anabelle attending a high society weekend party as Owen's sister's companion. This included her being at the table with all of the invited guests, some of them her clientele from the dress shop. I'm not sure if that would have been acceptable in that time period. I suspect she would have been given the "cut direct" big time, and that didn't happen.  One of the other things that had me raising my eyebrows was when she is tricked into attending a ball, she is in the middle of the ball room and Owen approaches her, bypasses everyone, stands before her and what does she think?  Why she thinks he is going to ask her to be his seamstress.  Puleese. Do you really think a duke is going to make such a public display?  Just to find a seamstress.  All eyes are turned on him as he walks past everyone, his family, his friends, her family, society gossips - just to employ someone.  My smart heroine took a nose-dive into stupidville at that point.

The chapter sub-titles were fun and I read all of them (usually I skip chapter headings). The heroine was a strong woman, who while a little naive sometimes, for the most part didn't let people walk all over her. Owen was a little weaker; it took him a little longer to make up his mind. Overall, this was a good read, nothing too complex, nothing too exhausting, and I will be checking out Ms. Barton's next story in the series.

Time/Place: Regency England
Sensuality: Medium Hot


nath said...

Nice review, SidneyKay! This book was on my radar and then I read a not so great review and had decided not to read it in the end. Now, after reading your review, I'm hesitant... Maybe I'll wait for Ms Barton's next novel? :P

SidneyKay said...

As much as I hate to say it, this may be a library check out.

Pillow said...

I skimmed through the book. It started off promising but didn't deliver. And very unbelievable situations.

SidneyKay said...

Pillow: I realize that there is a need for something different in romance books. Authors are looking for ways to spark things up. However, when it comes to historical romance, one must be careful how far one stretches believability. Doing something that is totally unlikely throws readers out of a book. Having said that, I am keeping my eye on this particular author.