When I wrote last week about reading a paperback and compared that experience to The Kindle-Ade, this is the book I was talking about. I grabbed this book as fast as I could because I had to complete the Act of Congress that it takes to move my posse around on the weekend and make sure I had something to read in the car.
Just Wicked Enough is a American heiress/impoverished lord historical, and I believe the second of a trilogy, or possibly a quartet, though according to Heath’s website the last two books are “on hold.” Michael Tremayne, Marquess of Falconridge (predatory animal + geographical feature FTW!), auctions himself to a pack of rich American men with eligible daughters, and wins the hand of Kate Rose, who is headstrong, rather bookish, addicted to chocolate, utterly unfamiliar with Mr. Falcon and his Ridge, and – surprise! – according to the terms of the marriage, in complete control of the purse strings of their union. The terms of the bid was in the multi-millions, so if Kate had her druthers, she probably could have bailed out Fannie and Freddie and gone back after Lehman. Kate’s financial acumen, it is fierce.
The problem with the book begins with the fact that Falcon and his Ridge are utterly emasculated by the circumstances of the marriage. And while he certainly had Teh Powerz of Seduction at his disposal to effect some balance in their relationship, Kate won’t have him in her bed until he wins her love. Right. Because a marriage based on layers of false pretense and plain out passionless purchase is destined to be a love match. For a sharp cookie, she sure was dim in her expectations of her husband. Even before she knew about the purchased part (Seriously, this book could have been a Harlequin: Presents novel: Purchased! A Wife! Because My Estate is Moldy!) she held him at such a disadvantage financially that he hocks one of his few pieces of jewelry to try to find gifts for her that might make her happy. What really puts the nail in the coffin of my respect for Kate is that the reason for FalconRidge’s poor financial straits are not at all because he has some sort of looney gambling problem, but because he’s trying to do something terrible and embarrassing and expensive and keep it a secret.
The upshot of their romance is that he’s tortured. What, with a name like FalconRidge? Of course he’s tortured! He’s mother is terribly ill with advancing and terrible dementia, and Kate is vanilla pudding in comparison to the hero. She’s not at all a Kate in the model of Taming of the Shrew. She’s far too reasonable – and far too in control of everything. Her development as a character happened, I suppose, in a previous book, but the additional elements of her scandalous backstory made her look foolish, deceitful, sneaky, and not sympathetic in the least. I felt sorry for Michael a lot of the time in his marriage because Kate never missed an opportunity to remind him that she made the decisions, and time and again little scenes seemed to cut off another inch of the Falcon in his Ridge.
Overall, Michael seemed to fall for Kate because he ought to do so, it being a romance after all. He seemed to notice her and eventually profess to love her because they were married and because the book said “Avon Romantic Treasure”, not because there was genuine emotional attachment between them. Like standing next to someone on a stalled subway train – it’s easier to be friends due to the circumstances for the moment, but with Kate and Michael, the train was their marriage and the stall was for the rest of their lives. “You’re there. I could probably love you. Might as well. We’re married and you have a shit ton of money after all, which I don’t get access to unless you are happy.” (Really, that’s what it says in the agreement).
But Michael’s story as pertains to his mother is just heartbreaking, and the parts of the narrative that involved his mother, Kate, and Michael were painful and bittersweet. The passionate emotions that I wish had been more present between the protagonists were knife sharp and agonizing between Michael and his mother in the form regret and pain, and eventual bits of love. The depth of genuine emotion Michael felt for his mother, and for the circumstances surrounding them both were shattering, particularly when compared to the flaccid pudding that was his emotional connection to Kate. Heath pulls some mighty emotional strings between Michael and the Dowager Marchioness of FalconRidge, but there wasn’t nearly enough emotional weight to tie up the happy ending between Kate and Michael.
It was a happy ending because they had some hot sex in the context of marriage, and their problems went far far away, and ultimately they got along. But because the relationship that ought to have been the centerpiece of the story was so secondary in quality to the relationship between Michael and his very ill mother, I was disappointed in the book’s narrative, though still determined to finish it – I had to know what happened to the Dowager, despite knowing it would be painful to read.