Tuesday, March 06, 2007

When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn

Everything was so much simpler…
When he was wicked.

In every life there is a turning point.

A moment so tremendous, so sharp and breathtaking, that one knows one's life will never be the same. For Michael Stirling, London's most infamous rake, 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 but never permitting his heart to become engaged, he took one look at Francesca Bridgerton and fell so fast and hard into love it was a wonder he managed to remain standing. Unfortunately for Michael, however, Francesca's surname was to remain Bridgerton for only a mere thirty-six hours longer — the occasion of their meeting was, lamentably, a supper celebrating her imminent wedding to his cousin.

But that was then…Now Michael is the earl and Francesca is free, but still she thinks of him as nothing other than her dear friend and confidant. Michael dares not speak to her of his love…until one dangerous night, when she steps innocently into his arms, and passion proves stronger than even the most wicked of secrets…

After being somewhat disappointed with To Sir Phillip With Love, I have to admit to being slightly apprehensive about reading this one. Could it be that 8 books really is too many to have in a series. Fortunately this book (number 6) was a return to the strong romances that Quinn writes so well...thank goodness!

This book was basically written in two parts. The first part of the book focused on the friendship between Michael and Francesca in the context of her marriage to his cousin John. When he dies unexpectedly, instead of being bought together in grief, they are torn apart, and Michael finds himself leaving the country instead of facing his new responsibilities as Earl of Kilmartin.

Whilst he is away, Francesca assumes the responsibility for the stewardship of the lands connected to the title, but after 4 years of looking after things, Francesca has decided that it is time - time for her to remarry. Just as she reemerges from mourning, Michael returns to London, ready to take on his responsibilities, and he too has decided that it is time to marry, however, he is suffering from malaria, and needs Francesca's assistance to keep that secret from both his family and society.

Gradually as they spend more time together, Francesca gradually starts feeling an attraction towards Michael, and they both need to come to terms with what that means in terms of their previous friendship, and also with how that fits in with their feelings about Francesca's previous husband.

I cannot tell you how many times I cried whilst reading this story. Yes prior to going away, Michael was a notorious rake, but really his heart had been true to Francesca for such a long time, that he had decided that the only way to keep his love for her from overwhelming him and his relationship with his cousin was to play the field. Upon his return, and once his feelings for her were revealed, we see that the love that

And Francesca was not the virgin widow that is so common in romances. She and John had had a loving and healthy relationship which was lovely to see, although she was a inexperienced in comparison to Michael. I loved that he bought her to new levels of sexual fulfilment without there being any sense of ignoring the experiences that she had had previously. The new sexual experiences that she had were built on the satisfactory, if not spectacular, life she had had with John instead of the more common "I hated sex with my previous husband" that we normally see in romance novels.

The fact that we got to see Francesca with John, and then in her grief, and then finally finding happiness again was really nicely done, and the way that their doubts were portrayed over John were beautiful.

One interesting thing about this entry in the Bridgerton series is that this novel was very much about Francesca and Michael and John. There were some mentions of parents, and aunts and the like, but there were hardly any appearances by her brothers and sisters, or their myriad children! I'm sure that they will be back, particularly in the last book in the series, but in this book, with it's much more serious tone and issues, it would have been too much to have all of the Bridgerton's stomping through the book all the time!

Another fantastic read in the Bridgerton series! Now I am looking forward to the next one!

Rating 4.5/5

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Stacy's Place on Earth


  1. I haven't read all the Bridgerton books but so far this book is my fave from all the ones I've read--by a mile! I love Michael...and I was actually glad that this was the first book by JQ that I read 'cause it really got me into her work. Wonderful stuff!

  2. I was torn by this novel. Torn! I think maybe because I was expecting a different *voice* from the author (based on her previous books). I was expecting farce and hilarity, but I got drama and angst. That said, I really, really admired her for taking a risk with this book. As you mentioned (great review, by the way!), Quinn doesn't resort to taking the easy way out (e.g. the virgin/sexually traumatised widow). I totally respected her for that. But part of my problem was that Francesca's first marriage seemed so happy, I couldn't figure out if Michael was just second best. Which I know is really more realistic but it took away a bit of that goosebumpy goodness I love and expect. I did like the way she wrote the love scenes, making them seem new and just different from Francesca's first marriage.

    Torn! I was so torn. I think maybe I need to read this one again.

  3. I think that that dilemma about whether Michael was second best was part of Francesca's problem as well, but there had been sufficient gap between the two different relationships. I have to believe that he wasn't second best...just different!

  4. I have to ask, can this book stand alone or do I need to read all the series in order to understand what's going on? I'm looking for a widow book and this might just be the one :D

    Nice review Marg :D you've made me want to read the book, but I don't want to read the whole series ^^;

  5. I think you could read this one standalone.

  6. This was the first Julia Quinn that I read and I really enjoyed it. I was surprised by the angst because I had heard she was light and this book was not light in the least.

    Nath - I haven't read this series in any kind of order so I don't think it would matter.


  7. I petered out reading her Bridgerton books somewhere around #4 - but I do have this one. I should read it since it seems to be much deeper and emotional than her other ones.

  8. This was one of my favorite Bridgerton books, too. I do think the series was a bit too long, but I liked this one.

  9. I really didn't like this book the first time I read it. After several re-reads, I now understand why.

    This shouldn't have been part of the Bridgerton series. All of the Bridgertons (both before and after this novel) were light and sweet and fun. I think to have JQ take such a vastly different turn with this one was too much.

    Now, I can say it's an amazing book. But if I'm judging it in comparison to the rest of the series? Didn't care for it.

    Hmm, did that make a lick of sense? LOL