Too Wicked to Kiss
Zebra, Mar. 2010
Miss Evangeline Pemberton can see the Future. Sometimes. The Past, too, although that tends to be less useful, as she can't change what's already happened. One might think the most irksome characteristic of her alleged "gift" is that said visions are followed by debilitating headaches. Or that they've got her running for her life. But no. By far the most vexing quirk is that these fantasies accompany all skin-to-skin contact. Which means she can't touch anyone. Not even the tall, dark, and brooding recluse in her Present.
Gavin Lioncroft is a wealthy committed bachelor with nothing but time on his hands. Well, and blood. (But he's not telling how that got there.) And an impromptu house party. (He hasn't the slightest idea how that happened.)
His very first night back in the bosom of High Society and the man he threatens to kill turns up dead. Good. The cad had it coming. But just because he's dodged the hangman's noose before, doesn't mean Gavin will get away with murder again. And this time, there's no fading into the shadows. The only chance of saving his neck is by risking his heart--to the one woman from whom he can hide nothing.
I’m going to be honest and tell you that after reading so many first person urban fantasy and near-futuristics for my IT Factor posts, I had a hard time getting back into a 3rd person historical (yes, this time we get to see things from the hero's point of view). Weird really, since that’s what I usually read and not at all this author’s fault. It just took me a few chapters to shift gears. Anyway...
Description – The author starts off right away deftly weaving the trademark Gothic mood into the story, allowing it to creep in and swallow up our unsuspecting heroine like a heavy fog off the moors. Ridley’s way with description and setting create an ominous atmosphere, perfect for a dark, brooding hero with a penchant for wandering along secret passageways in a rambling, bleak manor.
Mystery and Murder – From the get go, I felt like I stepped into a Gothic Regency version of Clue. It was a game of who killed Colonel Mustard in the parlor with the candlestick and everyone is pointing fingers at someone else. OK, so there wasn’t a Colonel Mustard, he didn’t get knocked off in the parlor and the murder weapon wasn’t a candlestick, but you get the picture. And any one of the other guests, including the mysterious master of the manor, could be the killer. Suspicion and motive abounds.
A Dark and Dangerous (and yummy) Hero – Gavin Lioncroft manages to be both sexy and dangerous at the same time. He has the taint of a past murder hanging over his head (which he was acquitted but is still suspected of) and we never know what the actual events from his past are until they’re revealed at the end, leaving both the heroine and the reader in the dark.
Bending Reality to the Breaking Point – As engaging as this story was, it stretched the believability factor in many areas. Not the paranormal element, which the reader accepts as a given in a paranormal novel, but in historical accuracies of the time. Such as . . .
The Murder – A guest is dead and it’s obviously by foul play – and nobody calls in the authorities? True, several of the characters either have something to hide or think they are protecting some else, but someone should’ve called the constabulary. If not, they could fall under suspicion of the authorities by not reporting the crime right away. I don’t think it would have hurt the story in any way to have an investigator poking his nose into everybody’s business.
The Mourning – The victim’s widow stays at the manor to celebrate her daughter’s 13th birthday two days after her husband dies? Didn’t buy it. Mourning, especially for the widow and immediate family, had strict rules in Regency society. To be historically accurate, the family would have immediately returned to their estate to prepare for the funeral and are expected to go into seclusion for the month following the death and then forgo all social engagements of any kind for 6 months to a year after that. The tweener could stomp and pout all she wanted but she wouldn’t have gotten her party.
The Villain Confesses All – The heroine spends the entire novel attempting to use her 'gift' to discover the killer and in the end, the killer just blurts it out to her in passing? Say what? I felt gypped. Gypped, I tell you!
The ‘IT’ Factor:
Probably a combination of two things really: The author’s deft use of description and imagery to create a spooky Gothic atmosphere, then she segues into a fun who-done-it game of Clue. If Regency purists can overlook the obvious rule breaking, this is an enjoyable read.