The Importance of Being Wicked by Miranda Neville
Lady Caroline Townsend shocked society, and her very uptight family, when she eloped with the notorious Robert Townsend. Their marriage was full of adventure and laughter and friends, but was marred by Robert's addiction to gambling and booze and his passion for expensive art- even when they could ill afford it. Caro is now barely scraping by, trying to pay off Robert's debts, and still finding a way to feed and house various starving artists and friends at fabulous parties. Thomas, the Duke of Castleton, is stuffy and pretentious; the complete opposite of the carefree Caro, nonetheless the two are smitten with each other at first sight. He originally plans to court her cousin, the very wealthy Anne, because it is a family tradition and his own parents love match ended poorly. But he cannot contemplate marrying anyone else when the only thing he can think about is Caro. Caro wants to get underneath "Lord Stuffy's" stuffy exterior, but he is far too noble to engage in the affair that she desires. When he proposes she is initially reluctant, but agrees because she does like him and because she imagines a life where she no longer has to worry about money.
Their marriage is founded on lies as Thomas is actually having money problems of his own because of some poor investments his father made. Caro is hiding a very valuable Titian painting that Robert bought and continues to go around with her wild friends, whom Thomas disapproves of, and who relentlessly make fun of her new husband. Thomas is remarkably good natured about everything because he quickly finds himself in love with the vibrant woman he has married. Caro is more reserved, because she cannot trust anyone after her marriage even while refusing to admit how truly awful her marriage was. She takes Thomas in hand, helping him learn how to please a lady in bed, but refuses to give up her wild lifestyle. A tragic accident has Thomas taking Caro to his estate to recooperates and in the glow of family and love they find a way to make their relationship with as Caro realizes she truly loves the amazing man she has married and lets go of her past.
Caro was a heroine who brought up a lot of contradictory feelings from me. I admired her carefree and lively spirit, her independence, and her refusal to conform to society's norms or her husbands orders. However, I feel like so much of what she did was just beyond stupid, was rude to the man who pledged his love and life to her, and was done purely to cause a stir. She continued to flirt and support people who were rude to her husband and who openly tried to seduce her. She refused to admit to herself for the longest time that her marriage to Robert had been unhappy and focused on the things about him she had liked and the reasons she had run away with him in the first place. She was drowning in debt and continued supporting random people and held onto a valuable painting that could have solved her problems. Her inability to admit her feelings for Thomas were bewildering because she simultaneously didn't want to make herself vulnerable to hurt like she had with Robert, but she also refused to admit that Robert had ever really hurt her (even though he SO obviously had).
I liked Thomas, pretty much except for his relationship with Caro because he was such a wet blanket. He just nodded and took her to bed when her friends mocked him and she laughed. He had a modicum of anger when he found out she'd gone horseback riding without him (she wasn't good and it was dangerous) and with a notorious rake who hid in their closet and listened to them have sex. I feel like they were so mismatched that there was no way their relationship could ever survive. There were a few sex scenes between them, mostly just kisses and then fade to next scene. I liked that Caro was the more experienced of the two and had to help him learn, but unfortunately she didn't shy away from talking about her deceased husband while with Thomas. How did he not just walk out? And why did she harbor this mythical love for the horrible Robert? I feel like so much of what she did was to get back at her overly controlling parents, which makes sense for a teenage, but when you're a grown woman still pulling that gimmic it's just ridiculous.
Rating: I could not stand Caro and thought that Thomas was a fool for imagining himself in love with her and I can't believe two such mismatched people could ever be happy.