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Thursday, May 2, 2013

REVIEW: "When She Was Wicked" by Anne Barton

When She Was Wicked (Honeycote, #1)
When She Was Wicked by Anne Barton
(Honeycote #1)

Goodreads -- Amazon -- Book Depository

For Ages 18+
Historical Romance
Forever -- January 29, 2013
Mass Market Paperback, 379 pages
Borrowed from library

SUMMARY
A dressmaker in London's busiest shop, Miss Anabelle Honeycote overhears the ton's steamiest secrets—and (occasionally) uses them to her advantage. It isn't something she's proud of, but the reluctant blackmailer needs the money to care for her gravely ill mother. To make up for her misdeeds, Anabelle keeps to a firm set of rules:

• Never request payment from someone who cannot afford it.
• Never reveal the secrets of a paying client.
• Never enter into any form of social interaction with a client.

Her list keeps her (somewhat) honest—until she encounters Owen Sherbourne, the Duke of Huntford. Not only does Owen nip Anabelle's extortion plans in the bud, the devilishly handsome Duke soon has the sexy seamstress dreaming of more than silks and satins. With Owen, Anabelle enjoys pleasures she never imagined . . . until a scandal from the past resurfaces. Now her rules could mean his family's ruin. Owen's searing kisses carry the promise of passion, but how will he react when Anabelle's most devastating secret is finally revealed?

FIRST LINES
Extortion was an ugly word.  It put one in mind of a villain who fleeced the pockets and slandered the name of hapless victims.

MY THOUGHTS

Well, this was a pleasant surprise!.  I am always excited to read something from a debut author, but I was blown away with how good Anne Barton's first book was.  For me, the mark of a good book is one that I think about long after finishing it and When She Was Wicked definitely accomplished that feat.

This is the first book in a series about the Honeycote family who have estranged ties with the British nobility, but are forced to survive on their own.  Anabelle, spends her days working as a seamstress for one of the premier dress shops in London in order to provide for her family.  Through her work, Anabelle learns many secrets about the lords and ladies of the ton and uses that knowledge by blackmailing them in order to gain a bit more money.

Everything goes pretty smoothly until she attempts to blackmail the Duke of Huntford (Owen) who discovers her plot.  In retaliation, Owen decides to "punish" Anabelle by keeping her as a live-in dressmaker for his two teenaged sisters for two months.  This, of course, forces Anabelle and Huntford to interact and discover that they have a definite attraction to one another.

As you can see above, The plot of When She Was Wicked is nothing completely out of the ordinary for historical romance.  It is a bit far-fetched if one tries to think about it too hard, but, for me, that is part of the charm of the genre.  Once you get past the initial introduction, the book really starts to shine with the development of the characters and the love story really takes off.  I think the biggest thing that helps this plot work for Anne Barton is her writing style and the way that it just flows off the page.  I never felt like reading this book was work and I had it done within two work days which is unusual nowadays.

Anabelle was a real joy to read about.  She is a sweet person who regrets what she is doing with the extortion attempts, but is determined to help her family survive in any way she can.  I think this is an admirable quality in a heroine especially because readers get to see the inner conflict that Anabelle deals with on a daily basis.  I also like her independent streak especially when the romance gets going.  She has spent much of her life taking care of others so it is a foreign concept for someone else to want to take care of her.

I also really enjoyed Owen's character.  He starts out acting like, what I would assume, most lords who inherited their title from an early age would, but he is also a genuinely nice person who cares deeply about his family.  Years of being duke have left him with a protective streak related to his younger sisters, but he often has issues trusting them with his own feelings.  Through his friendship and then later relationship with Anabelle, Owen learns how to be more comfortable with his sisters and show them how much he loves them.

Anabelle and Owen's relationship was very well-developed.  They started out in a pretty difficult situation with the whole blackmail thing though things quickly turned into friendship.  Both of them were not familiar with trusting others with inner thoughts and feelings, but found something in one another that they could connect with.  Some of the best scenes between these two are when they just sit and talk about random things.  Their friendship also quickly develops into something more over the course of Anabelle's time working for Owen and his sisters.  I thought it progressed naturally despite the shortened time period, mostly because they were in almost constant contact during the story.

I also liked the way Anne Barton developed her secondary characters especially Anabelle's sister, Daphne, and Owen's sisters, Olivia and Rose.  The book doesn't spend a lot of time on Daphne, but what I read really made me like her.  She was determined and protective of both Anabelle and her mother.  I can't wait to read her story and learn even more about her character.  Olivia and Rose were very prominent in the story due to Anabelle's working relationship, and, later, friendship with them.  They were young and their moments of immaturity, but I was impressed by their outlooks on life and society.  I could easily see how Anabelle could become friends with them in such a short amount of time and I hope Barton gives us their stories in the future as well.

Most of the plot of When She Was Wicked involved character interaction with little external drama.  There was a bit of conflict in the last third of the book involving Rose's refusal to speak, but it was resolved pretty quickly...almost too quickly for my taste.  I love character-centric romances so I did wish the later half wasn't as over-the-top with the drama since I felt like the story didn't need it.  But, Barton's writing style kept the story flowing and I easily finished within two days.    

In conclusion, this was a well-written and entertaining debut novel full of wonderful characters and almost sugary sweet romance.  I definitely plan on watching Anne Barton does next because I think she has a bright future in historical romance.

***4 STARS***


BOOKS IN THE SERIES
1. When She Was Wicked
1.5. To All The Rakes I've Loved Before (Coming 2013)
2. Once She Was Tempted (Coming 2013)

AUTHOR INFORMATION

2 comments:

  1. This sounds like exactly the kind of historical romance I'd enjoy. I love it when the heroine isn't all wishy-washy, and I'm pretty sure Annabelle is not that at all. And the blackmailing part is a new twist in this genre, especially when it's the female character who does it.

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    Replies
    1. There is very little wishy-washyness *made-up word* in Anabelle's character so I think you will be happy. The idea of a female blackmailer was what first grabbed my attention about this book. Hope you enjoy it!

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