Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review: Wicked and Wonderful by Valerie King (e-book/ARC)



A dare finds Judith Lovington in the orchard of their most-current benefactor, the Earl of Kelthorne -- and, this being her first time to steal apples, she is inevitably caught by none other than the Earl.

Aubrey, Earl of Kelthorne is surprised to see that his young thief is, in fact, the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes on. He is instantly smitten and so is she.

But she lies about her identity, hoping to protect the acting troupe she is traveling with and who have pitched their tents and living on Kelthorne lands.

He finds her, at last, when he and his friend Laurence Doulting decide to attend one of the troupe's performances. Aubrey hears Judith sing and is lost to her voice forever.

Judith is wary of the attention -- she ran away from home 8 years ago when it was clear her beauty was attracting the wrong sort of interest. And, in the 8 years she has been with the troupe, there have been numerous occasions where they had to leave in the middle of the night, in order to escape another unwanted suitor.

But there is something about Aubrey that draws Judith.

Both know that there is no future to what they feel: she is an actress and he is a peer of the realm who is near-betrothed to a woman with an amazing fortune, Abigail Currivard.

She was a songstress, and, at times, an actress of the troupe. Lord Kelthorne, Miss Currivard, Mr. Doulting, Miss Banwell, Miss Upton and Mr. Emborough were as untouchable to her as the sky.
- p. 105

In many love triangles, there's always a clear favorite but, in this one, Abigail is just as amazing as Judith -- if not more so. In fact, I believe she steals the "show" --

Her character is the most fleshed-out and she has the best dialogue. I found her refreshing and honest and very clear-minded. Perhaps the only character in the story and the only guest who had a sense of the things that were happening around her.

"Did it ever occur to you that she and I might share something in common?"

...

"That neither of us belongs where we are on the Portislow estate. By birth, I do not belong in your company and she clearly does not belong with that acting troupe. Yet there we must both perform as required of us by the circumstances of our lives."
- p. 108

She is a formidable rival and I would have probably chosen her if I were the Earl of Kelthorne.

But Valerie King reminds us that love is not necessarily logical -- Aubrey loves Judith and Judith loves Aubrey -- and neither one can explain the feeling.

..."But why are you here?" she asked, wondering what he could possibly mean by coming to her in this odd fashion and so late at night ...

"I do not know;" he responded.

...

"I do not understand this hold you have over me. When I watch you perform, it is as though you reach inside me, take hold of my heart, and refuse to let go. I have been trying to mend my ways. I have intended to make a fresh start of things. But this, this power you exert is in no manner fair to me. I wish you would desist."
- p. 67-68

* * *

Was this love, her heart asked.
- p. 70

Judith's character felt a little off -- my first impression of her is that of innocence and wickedness. Kelthorne steals a kiss from her and the first thing she says is:

"I believe I should keep you chained to my bed."
- p. 15

-- but in the rest of the story, Judith suffers from over-analysis and always with internal arguments with herself on whether what she feels is right and whether she should pursue it. Eventually her character flattens and she is defined only by the past that she is running away from and her present situation as a genteel woman working with an acting troupe as a singer with an amazing voice.

Sadly, despite her history and her talent, I did not find her interesting or a character to sympathize with.

My favorite part had to be the acting troupe. I enjoyed the daily domestic scenes and I loved the performances -- how they innovate and improvise each time. It's a strange thing that I enjoyed reading about the minor characters more and felt they were more interesting than Aubrey and Judith.


*Wicked and Wonderful was previously published by Zebra in 2005 and was re-released by Valerie King this June 2012 through Spencerhill Associates.

To find out more about Valerie King, visit her website. She's also on Facebook.

Disclosure: I received the ARC through Netgalley. (Thank you to Spencerhill Associates for accepting my request.)

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