Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-168-9
Historical Romance, 2016
Oh, the hero Cedric, Viscount Sheridan, is blind. Now he spends his time in his gardens, moping about how his world is now “forever trapped in darkness”. Of course, he still has his wealth, a house, a staff to wipe his rear end after he has used the potty, and more, but let’s all be nice and agree that Cedric is the most unfortunate bloke in the world now that his eyes have gone kaput. As you can imagine, he now has a chip the size of probably a few continents on his shoulders. He doesn’t want pity, he knows people all talk back around him, et cetera, so he will act like a boor to everyone but his buddies who have gotten or will get their own books.
Anne Chessley has inherited big bags of money from her late father, and this is a fate worse than death because it means that now she’d be hounded by fortune hunters. Oh no, she has no choice but to approach Cedric to marry her. She will have sex with him, of course, like all wives do, and he’d get her dowry and her family horses and such, but that’s okay, because every other man out there is, apparently, a fortune hunter so only Cedric will do. Let’s go along. people – she has wanted to have sex with Cedric since forever, so it’s only natural that she seizes on an excuse to do it with him without looking like a cheap skank who likes sex because sex is fun.
Anyway, Cedric is convinced that Anne is an ice queen because she doesn’t succumb to his advances the last time he can see. So he says some nasty things to her, but they get married anyway. Alas, Anne has a secret – can she mother and pamper Cedric while trying to desperately keep her secret and protect the people she loves from this secret? And when Cedric finds out about this secret, he naturally lashes out at her, calls her a whore, et cetera, before realizing that he’s been a cruel piece of crap. How? Because the secondary cast, who are not very subtle at all about being the author’s mouthpieces, tell him so and he’s like, oops.
Anne forgives him, of course, and they live happily ever after. Oh, and he gets his eyesight back in the end. Boring.
Her Wicked Proposal feels very staged and artificial from start to finish. A big reason for this is the author using the secondary characters as very obvious cheerleaders or conscience-prickler that monologue rather than talk naturally. A hero from a previous book, for example, is initially hostile towards Anne because, as he tells his wife, he has fallen in love so now he realizes that even an asshole like Cedric deserves a woman who will wipe his rear end with grace and pure love. Characters reveal secrets when it’s convenient (which means, they reveal stuff only after things have gone straight to the dogs). Meanwhile, the author contrives to have Anne depend on Cedric even when it doesn’t make much sense for Anne to do so, and she also labors under this belief that, just because Cedric is blind, he is automatically courageous and worthy in my eyes.
The author also adds in various played-out tropes and trappings, right down to the hero being part of a group that calls itself, without irony, the League of Rogues. That one, by the way, is especially lame even in a marketplace filled with guys all rushing to be a part of all these leagues, clubs, brotherhoods, circles, whatever.
As I turn the pages, I find myself wishing that the author would surprise me, do something unexpected. Why not have Cedric really, really, really work to win back the wife? How about we replace the half-baked “foreigners are evil” suspense plot with something that actually feels suspenseful? How about we let Cedric work things out instead of having his stupidity constantly spelled out by secondary characters? Why not let Cedric remain blind, instead of copping out and letting him see again?
In its current form, Her Wicked Proposal is a story that has ample obvious short cuts to make things simpler for the author and her main characters – secondary characters filling in blank spaces and telling the main characters what to do, convenient twists and turns, et cetera – and hence feels like a contrived kind of story. It’s readable, but it never flows organically and I don’t really buy the emotions that the author is selling me.