Review: Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran

Sunday, May 23

Title:  Wicked Becomes You*

Author:  Meredith Duran
Series:  N/A
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Pocket Books
Format:  mass market paperback
Date/Year:  April 2010

*This book was provided to me by the publisher for review

Summary from the publisher:

She’s been burned not once but twice by London’s so-call ed gentlemen . . .

Gwen Maudsley is pretty enough to be popular, and plenty wealthy, too. But what she’s best known and loved for is being so very, very nice. When a cad jilts her at the altar—again—the scandal has her outraged friends calling for blood. Only Gwen has a different plan. If nice no longer works for her, then it’s time to learn to be naughty. Happily, she knows the perfect tutor—Alexander Ramsey, her late brother’s best friend and a notorious rogue.

So why won’t a confirmed scoundrel let her be as bad as she wants to be?

Unbeknownst to Gwen, Alex’s aloof demeanor veils his deepest unspoken desire. He has no wish to see her change, nor to tempt himself with her presence when his own secrets make any future between them impossible. But on a wild romp from Paris to the Riviera, their friendship gives way to something hotter, darker, and altogether more dangerous. With Alex’s past and Gwen’s newly unleashed wildness on a collision course, Gwen must convince Alex that his wickedest intentions are exactly what she needs.

My Musings:

Gwen is a young woman with the pressure of the “ton” world on her shoulders…at least the small sphere of the world in which she lives.  Her family has set all of their hopes on her becoming a titled lady, so she strives to present the ton with the perfect image and personality.  Always the charming hostess, who says all the right things, has the right “look” and a large enough dowry to overcome any reticence over her common roots.  When she is jilted at the alter for the second time she begins to think that she is beyond scandal, and decides to live only for herself.  To shed the restrictions she has placed on herself and discover her “wicked” side.

Alexander Ramsey is a family friend, and was once Gwen’s brother’s best friend and reluctantly holds himself responsible for Gwen’s wellbeing and happiness.  He has harbored feelings of guilt several years for desiring Gwen as well as for the death of her brother.  A ruthless business man and admitted rake, he buries himself in his work, traveling the world to avoid his deepest desires.  He finds himself reluctantly escorting Gwen while they are both in Paris.  Constantly challenging her to return home and forget her formerly forbidden pursuits.  Yet at the same time revels in her personal discoveries in becoming her true self, not just the façade she thought she needed to present to others for approval and acceptance.

The first few chapters of Wicked Becomes You are mesmerizing, and I think that the very first line of the book is one of the best I’ve read in a long time (see below).  I was enchanted by Gwen, and was rooting for her to discover who she really was.  At first she surprises herself and everyone else by her daring, and I found her first few attempts to break free of societal restraints completely charming.  I couldn’t wait to see what she would do next, especially in her pursuit of Alex.  However, about halfway into the story the focus on the story shifted it’s focus to a man Alex believes has swindled property that belonged to Alex’s brother and is a mysterious and dangerous business rival of his.  

I felt that this part of the story was distracting, and unfortunately didn’t feel that it added anything significant to the plot.  Instead of scheming to infiltrate the home of his rival to do some reconnaissance, then a hasty flight to the Riviera to escape when there true identities are revealed, I wish the author would have focused on how Gwen re-entered the London “ton” after shedding her persona.  I wanted to know how “wicked” she would be when faced with the world in which she lived on a daily basis.  Would the pressure for perfection outweigh her need for rebellion?  I don’t think it would have, but I dearly would have loved to see Gwen return to London and interact and reveal her true self to her friends and acquaintances.  And it’s possible that if the author would have written an epilogue that I would have felt that Gwen’s journey was more complete, than I felt it was on the final page.  I craved those few scenes where she no longer smiled and pretended ignorance while being insulted, to show her core of strength and sense of worth not for how much money she had, but for the kind and beautiful person that she was.

There were also a few other things that didn’t quite work for me…almost but not quite.  Alex has been a wanderer for most of his adult life, partly to make his fortune as a younger son, partly to run away from his attraction to Gwen, but also because it’s in his blood.  At the end of the story Alex decides to give up this life in order to give Gwen the life he feels she wants in England.  I almost wish that Alex would have proposed to give Gwen the “world”…to show her the things she wanted to discover and explore, obviously not forever…but occasionally.  To show that she is the perfect match for him…a compromise of sorts.  To have him abandon what he so obviously loves, no matter how much he loves Gwen felt almost as if he was giving up a part of himself.

Overall, I did enjoy Wicked Becomes You, especially at the beginning of Gwen’s self discovery, but the last half of the book wasn’t as beguiling and lost some of its magic for me, as the focus drifted from Alex and Gwen, to the mystery surrounding his brother and his business rival.  This was my first book by Meredith Duran, and while it didn’t live up to the potential I thought it had at the beginning, I liked it enough that I will definitely be seeking out several of her previous releases.

First line:  “England was a wicked bitch who wished him ill”

Favorite pivotal moment: (a scene in which the heroine sings for the hero for the first time)
“Indeed, he had not needed to know what her voice sounded like either.  It seemed to wrap around him as sinuously as her arms had done, pressing like a palm against his throat, soft and hot, poised equally to caress or throttle him.  There was power in that voice—power too rich and dark for a sheltered, untested debutante.

But she was not untested of course.  How hard he had tried to forget this:  that she had lost and suffered, just as he had.  If her smiles came easily, that was not a testament to shallowness or inexperience.  It was a testament to her peculiar, unfaltering strength.”  p.169 Wicked Becomes You


Overall:  4.00 stars
Sensuality level:  3.00 (A few love scenes, that are pretty much the same heat level you get from many historical romances published today)

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