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I haven't read much of Duran's works, but when this novella was offered for free a while back, I got it. I read this while waiting for a flight home last Friday and finished it before the plane took off (note that our flight was delayed).
I liked the premise of the story: a stolen identity and a woman caught in the middle: a victim of one man's recklessness in assuming a Viscount's identity and said Viscount's ruthless need to exact revenge on the man who dared to take what wasn't his. It is a story that starts in Syra and then finds its way to Gibraltar before finally ending in London.
Duran explores several themes in the novella: trust, truth, social classes, and family. Amanda Taylor is far away from home -- brought to Syra by a new employer with the promise of adventure and excitement. Her hopes are dashed when her employer proves to be abusive and uncaring, which made Amanda all the more vulnerable to the advances of a "viscount" who flattered her and cared for her on a way no one did.
I was a bit annoyed with Amanda's type of innocence -- she was so wide-eyed and optimistic -- and I could imagine her voice in my head. That sort of breathless, naive, frantic, hapless and helpless voice. I could understand Spence's annoyance and wariness -- such innocence/ignorance could not possibly exist. Therefore, she must be a fraud and in cahoots with the man who is masquerading as him.
But their journey, chasing after the "viscount" proves to be an enlightening experience for Spence. It is by sheer necessity that Amanda clings to her optimism and hope. She has nothing and no one else -- and Spence comes to admire this woman who defies the lot that fate has given her. She dares to forge ahead with her dreams, despite her circumstances.
"All right," he said. "You wanted safety. Safety from whom?"
She frowned. "From nobody in particular. From the world. It's not so friendly a place. Sir."
- loc 438
And Amanda does something no one has ever done for Spence: she looks after him and cares for him. Being the head of a big extended family, Spence is used to taking care of everyone, of fixing everyone's mess (including this one) ... No one has ever bothered to check in on him or to help him. It touches Spence deeply to see Amanda care about his welfare.
"You came for me," she said. "So I came for you."
- loc 1396
The merit of this particular exercise for Duran, I think is that she alters the course of Amanda's story just a little bit. Usually, the innocent and the pure remain innocent and pure and overcome everything to emerge triumphant -- Duran chose to tarnish her heroine and disillusion her a bit by revealing to her the painful reason why Spence brought her along and what he thought of her initially. But, in doing so, the author allowed her heroine to make real and realistic decisions about her future. Amanda really could have remained with her head in the clouds and had her happy ever after, but the ending she got was much better, I think. With her feet firmly on the ground. With the rose-tinted glasses off.
"Recall your role. You're meant to be heartbroken."
"No, I never pretended that. And while I would very much like the leisure to be shattered by my fiancé's betrayal, what I would like even more would be to avoid starvation once I arrive in London."
- loc 549
Your Wicked Heart is the novella that introduces Meredith Duran's Rules for the Reckless series. To find out more about Meredith Duran and her books, click below: