by Julianne MacLean, historical (2004)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-052705-6
This book is one of the many very formulaic Regency historical novels out there that seems to star the same old whiney rake hero with women issues and the same old innocent virgin that does stupid things to make him love her. An Affair Most Wicked is a mundane story that is just one of many, with very little distinguishing feature or voice that suggest that this book is a Julianne MacLean book instead of merely another Avon romance novel.
The annoyingly perky Americans just keep coming, and in this case, Clara Wilson is here to snag a husband. Alas, one of the earliest things she does upon landing in England is to attend the Chakras Ball where orgies are held and loose women consort (and approximately twenty innocent virgins that stumble into these balls by mistake) with future romance heroes that would marry these virgins. Indeed, Clara is soon dancing with Seger, the Marquess of Rawdon, and reaches first base before he realizes that she is an innocent and gallantly sends her away. Clara, intoxicated by the Womanly Passions boiling in her virginal couldron even though she's not exactly sure why she is boiling, decides to return to the Chakras ball when she can't meet this handsome hot hunk. I'd have my doubts about a man that attends flesh parades if I were her, especially when all I want is true love, but that is why I am not a romance heroine, I guess.
Seger apparently finds Clara's empty canvas personality a refreshing kind of innocence that they are soon married. But what can Clara do to earn Seger's love? Seger has his heart broken when his love becomes shark food at sea and now he will never risk his heart again. Then there are evil family members and Jealous Ex-Mistresses wedging deep cracks in the shaky marriage, and Seger's obtuseness when it comes to communication only worsens matters. Silly conflicts come and go, culminating in an eyeball-rolling final conflict that makes me snort at the ridiculous extent these people take themselves so seriously that they make life so hard for themselves.
Along the way, the story fails to convince me as to why Seger would find the empty canvas Clara appealing. She's flat and dull. I don't understand why Clara tries so hard to make him love her when he doesn't seem worth it in the first place. Is lust to be taken so seriously that she has to marry the first person she finds attractive? Ms MacLean goes through the motions in An Affair So Wicked, but her characters' stereotypical personality and behavior don't have a solid foundation in their relationship to convince me that their relationship is worth saving and that they are worth my rooting for them.
All in all, An Affair So Wicked is a typical ho-hum Regency historical story. It's readable, it's familiar, and it's forgettable. It's one of those books that one can safely choose to read if one wants a quick and emotionally undemanding book, only to be cast aside when something better comes along.
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