Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Book Review 2022 #10 - Julia Quinn's When He Was Wicked

When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn
Published by: Avon
Publication Date: June 29th, 2004
Format: Paperback, 404 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Francesca Bridgerton made a perfect match. She and John Sterling, the Earl of Kilmartin, were made for each other. And Francesca got her dream come true, her own home, her own family. John's cousin Michael even became her best friend. Michael is a notorious rake and she loves to ask him about his wicked ways. Little does she know that he would give it all up for her. The second he set eyes on her he was lost. She was his everything, but he knew he could never have her. And when John dies suddenly he can't help thinking that some greater power is playing the world's cruelest trick on him because yes, he wants Francesca but not like this, never like this. He never wanted John's life or his title so bad to live in a world without John. So he leaves for India and doesn't look back, and in one fell swoop Francesca lost her husband and her best friend. Therefore she did what she had to do, she took up not only the mantel of Countess but that of Earl and runs Kilmartin for the husband and friend she lost. Four years later Francesca comes to a realization. She wants a baby. Of course for that to happen she needs a husband. She's not even sure she can have a baby, John and her were together for two years and she miscarried after his passing. It seems a hassle to go to the work of getting a husband when she just wants a baby, but she has made up her mind and therefore sets off from Scotland earlier than usual to London to go husband hunting. As it happens Michael arrives in London at the same time as Francesca and despite the years that have passed he still loves her as he ever did. Why did she have to come to London early? Why does she have to be on the marriage market? Why can't she be his? He searches his soul and the bottom of a lot of bottles but oddly it's Colin Bridgerton who breaks through when he explains that Michael has the right to be happy. What's more, doesn't Francesca? He could give her the child she wants and she wouldn't even have to love him just be his wife. But what if they could have it all?

With a long running series it's hard to keep it fresh. Just look to Lisa Kleypas's wallflower series. She started with a set four books in mind and by Scandal in Spring had obviously run out of ideas. Here Julia Quinn has set up a series double Kleypas's in length in order to make sure all the Bridgertons get their happily ever afters and yet with the sixth book she has created perhaps one of the strongest and most unique entries in the series so far. In the previous two volumes we have gotten hints about what has been going on in Francesca's life, perhaps the least discussed Bridgerton, and it was quite shocking to find out secondhand that she had not only gotten married by that she was already widowed. Where do we go from here? We go into perhaps the most relatable and affecting of the Bridgerton series. When He Was Wicked is about love and loss and guilt and it was a melancholy tale about taking a second chance at life and love. It was about coming to terms with what has passed and finding a way to forgive yourself for wanting to move on and find happiness. At times I was moved to tears by the way Francesca and Michael handled their grief over John and their desire to love again. Romance is usually just escapism and wish fulfillment, but here I found something more, something relatable. But of course no book is perfect so there was one aspect I really didn't relate to and that's Francesca's desperate need for a child. Children are a complicated issue, as Daphne saw with her Duke. There are people who want them, people who have them and don't want them, people who can't have them, people who choose not to have them, so many different kinds of people, and yet romance tends to lean very heavily to people wanting babies. I'm sorry, but I don't feel that my entire purpose on this planet is to breed and sometimes, just sometimes, it pisses me off that romance books think that I am wrong because it's not what I want. And I get Francesca and I are in different situations, she grew up in a large family and there's the familial bond and it makes sense that she wants a baby. I just want it acknowledged that not everyone wants one. Or can be talked around to wanting one, like the Duke.


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