Wicked Little Secrets by Susanna Ives

March 13, 2014
Tented trouser alert!
It may not be a good sign when you decide to ponder for a day or two what you've just read, and then you forget the story, the plot and the characters.  You know what that means?  It
means that one must go back and try deciphering ones notes. 

When I began to read Wicked Little Secrets it wasn't too long before I knew that I wasn't going to take anything too seriously in this story...not even the plot.  What I had opened up to read turned out to be a farce.  There is an abundance of characters, some more developed than others, and occasionally I lost track of who was who and why they were important to the tale.  Some of their reason for existing wasn't told till the very end when all the strings were tied.  I'm not sure how fond I was of all the directions I was led down.  However, having said that, I'm also going to check into more of Susanna Ives writing, because I found this book different from the usual angst-filled drama.  The humor in the book was a tad bit exaggerated and it should be, ‘cause it’s a farce.  However, while I smiled through most of the book, I didn't break out into any hysterical laughter.  I do commend Ms. Ives for dipping her fingers into comedy.  It takes a brave author to do is soooo subjective; what works for me may not work for others.  What others think is hilarious, I think is disgusting.  Aside from the comedy, certain plots in this book worked better for me than others.  There may have been one too many things going on and not enough time given in the book for these events to make sense.

Let’s see what we have.  We have Vivienne, our heroine, who is living with her bible thumping aunt.  Their neighbors are Vivienne's childhood friend Lord Dashiell and his wacky uncle.  By the way, Dashiell is a rake.  When we first met him, he is being screeched at by his theatrical mistress, while his aristocratic mistress looks on.  His theatrical mistress is throwing a fit, tossing his antiques and artifacts around.  It is at this time that Vivienne finds out Dashiell has returned home from one of his adventures and runs next door, charging into the chaos of the mistresses, artifacts and rake.  Of course, she leaves behind the weekly "let's read the bible" group at her aunt’s house, which incidentally has just been entertained by Lord Dashiell's uncle exposing himself to them...naked. 

Anyway, Vivienne is engaged to a stiff-neck two-faced rich man who expects her to be socially acceptable and not a hoyden.  Which of course is what Vivienne is.  Vivienne had a tendency to irritate me…one moment she’s letting people walk all over her, the next moment she’s jumping into dangerous situations.  She’s naïve, but wants adventure.  She wants excitement, she’s stubborn…she has all the characteristics of a TSTL heroine.  Now, because this is a farce some latitude must be given her when she follows people down dark alleys and has conversations with the madam of the brothel she's wondered into...but it did get tiresome. 

Then there is Dashiell, a rascal.  He has a quick wit and he has some funny dialog.  He is, however, a rake.  How do we know he’s a rake?  Because he tells us he is…over and over and over.  He’s also has one of those “not good enough” attitudes.  However, all that doesn’t matter because his next door neighbor is Vivienne, who also happens to be his childhood friend.  Much to his chagrin his childhood friend has sprouted some spuds on her chest and his Mr. Toad is activated and he just cannot control him.  Dashiell had so many erect poles he could open up his own campground.  Yes, he wants her, but he can never have her...never, never, never.  So, he goes on these long journeys all over the place because he must resist...he must.  He's just not...good enough.  Yes! A hero who isn't good enough...

Then there is the blackmail plot.  Vivienne's aunt is being blackmailed by someone or at least that's what Vivienne thinks.  But who?  It's the guy who wears blue.  But who is he? Well, what would any self-respecting adventure craving TSTL heroine do to find out?  She'd follow the guy in blue.  She'd follow him through the dark, dank streets of London, through places where cut-throats hang out on street corners and prostitutes sale their wares.  Of course, Dashiell follows her...almost everywhere she goes.  Just to make sure she doesn't get into trouble and of course through all of this, Timothy Toad is talking to him, encouraging his rakish ways.  In fact this couple have a great deal of trouble keeping their hands off of each other.

Added into all this folderol is Vivienne's father, who we never meet; her horrible prig of a fiancée John; her aunt; her aunts bible study friends; Dashell's crazy uncle; his crazy cousin; the blackmailer; the prostitutes; the mistresses; art thefts; a lawyer who may be dirty; Frederick the bird; mysteries; twists and turns all over the place.  As I said earlier, there was a lot going on...maybe just a tad bit too much. 

Overall, parts of this story worked and parts didn't.  I liked when Vivienne and Dashell were engaged in dialog.  I didn’t like so much the chasing all over scenes and jumping from one disaster to another.  I was lost with some of the convoluted plots, especially the art thievery.  There was almost too much in the story to take in and that is where it failed for me.   This is an outrageous farcical tale, and that works, even if the farce starts to head into “Jerry-Lewis-never-knows-when-to-stop” territory.  Then, there were moments in the book that were wonderful and full of very vivid descriptions...I could tell that the author had to have toiled long and hard to create them.  One of the first of such scenes takes place in a brothel which Vivienne had just barged into.  That scene was a treat to read.  Finally, even though I thought there was just too much going on...too many tangled plot-threads, Wicked Little Secrets makes me want to check out the next book coming from Ms. Ives nimble fingers.

Time/Place: Late 1800s England
Sensuality: Hot Suggestions!

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