Quinn, Julia. 2004. When He Was Wicked.
When He Was Wicked is the sixth in the Bridgerton series, a romance series set in Regency England. Francesca Bridgerton is not one of the more popular (or memorable) characters. She doesn't really appear in many of the other books--though her name is dropped in a few, she fails to have any (or many) lines in the others. So this is really our first glimpse into her character, her personality.
When He Was Wicked is a slightly odd romance novel. It is divided into two parts really. One short introductory section (a few chapters) set in 1822. And the second longer section (the rest of the novel) set in 1824. The second section coincides with the action of Romancing Mister Bridgerton and To Sir Phillip, With Love. But that necessarily isn't the reason (or the only reason) why it is slightly odd. (I'm not expressing myself well today.)
Michael Stirling fell in love with Francesca Bridgerton at first sight. The problem? He first saw her on the eve of her wedding to his cousin, John Stirling. (They're first cousins. They're fathers being twins which is neither here nor there just interesting twist in the story.) The two men have grown up as brothers. And Michael never thought he'd have such a dilemma. He's in love with his best friend's wife. She hasn't a clue of course. She doesn't know how she tortures him when she asks him to share with her what he does when he is wicked. For Michael Stirling is (you guessed it) a Rake.
After John's death--whether conveniently in the first chapter--the estate passes to Michael. Now, two years later both are on the marriage mart and looking for spouses. Michael is finally giving into the pressure to settle down and have an heir. And Francesca is ready to consider (eager to consider) another marriage. She longs to have a child of her own, children of her own. But the road to marriage won't be easy for either of them. Michael would marry her in a heart beat. He loves her. He's always loved her. But Francesca can't get past the fact that he's Michael. Michael. John's cousin. John's best friend. John's confidante. Her confidante in days gone by. He's too familiar to be her love interest, right???
The novel is enjoyable enough. But the pacing is odd for me. I think it's just a subjective thing. The story didn't quite mesh for me. But it's alright.
In every life there is a turning point. A moment so tremendous, so sharp and clear that one feels as if one's been hit in the chest, all the breath knocked out, and one knows, absolutely knows without the merest hint of a shadow of a doubt that one's life will never be the same.
For Michael Stirling, that moment came the first time he laid eyes on Francesca Bridgerton.
After a lifetime of chasing women, of smiling slyly as they chased him, of allowing himself to be caught and then turning the tables until he was the victor, of caressing and kissing and making love to them but never actually allowing his heart to become engaged, he took one look at Francesca Bridgerton and fell so fast and so hard into love it was a wonder he managed to remain standing.
Unfortunately for Michael, however, Francesca's surname was to remain Bridgerton a mere thirty-six hours longer; the occasion of their meeting was, lamentably, a supper celebrating her imminent wedding to his cousin.
Life was ironic that way, Michael liked to think in his more polite moods.
In his less polite moods, he used a different adjective entirely.
And his moods, since falling in love with his first cousin's wife, were not often polite.
Oh, he hid it well. It wouldn't do to be visibly out of sorts. Then some annoyingly perceptive soul might actually take notice, and --God forbid-- inquire as to his welfare. And while Michael Stirling held a not unsubstantiated pride in his ability to dissemble and deceive (he had, after all, seduced more women than anyone cared to count, and had somehow managed to do it all without ever once being challenged to a duel)-- Well, the sodding truth of it was that he'd never been in love before, and if ever there was a time that a man might lose his ability to maintain a façade under direct questioning, this was probably it.
And so he laughed, and was very merry, and he continued to seduce women, trying not to notice that he tended to close his eyes when he had them in bed, and he stopped going to church entirely, because there seemed no point now in even contemplating prayer for his soul. Besides, the parish church near Kilmartin dated to 1432, and the crumbling stones certainly couldn't take a direct strike of lightning.
And if God ever wanted to smite a sinner, he couldn't do better than Michael Stirling.
Michael Stirling, Sinner.
He could see it on a calling card. He'd have had it printed up, even --his was just that sort of black sense of humor-- if he weren't convinced it would kill his mother on the spot.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews