Jove, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-515-15516-7
Historical Romance, 2015
It’s been a while since I’ve read anything by Madeline Hunter, and since I’m a bit OCD about reading books in chronological order sometimes, this one – the start of a new series – seems like the ideal book to catch up. His Wicked Reputation is a very lopsided book – it is as if the author and her editor made themselves so giddy with delight at the thought of creating a series with some brothers that swoosh it at every swooning woman, only to deflate when the author eventually realized that, yikes, she actually had to write a bloody story around those three penises in the series.
On the hero’s part, we have a lavish back story, tied to that of his half-brothers. Understandably so, as Gareth Fitzallen is created to be the guy who is so dreamy and hot that it is to be a hard struggle for the reader to resist dry humping this book every two pages. He is the bastard son of a very married, now dead duke who loved his mistress (Gareth’s mother) tad too much for his own good. Now, the eldest half-brother has kicked the bucket too, and finally, there is no bitter eldest son to deny Gareth access to his inheritance: a lovely country house in Birmingham. The house has fallen to ruins due to the now dead dude’s deliberate neglect, but Gareth is confident that he can restore it. But first, he has a strange art theft mystery to look into (our hero has a job of procuring and selling art works, so he knows his stuff), and there is also a lovely distraction in the form of Eva Russell.
Okay, now we have to talk about Eva. The thing is, she’s a vaguely annoying, often contradictory bag of played out, overused personality traits. She is very poor, of course, and she has a younger, prettier sister whom she appoints herself the guardian and savior of. She devotes her time creating artwork forgeries to support them and, hopefully, finance Rebecca’s debut in London one of these days. She also infantilizes her sister to a nearly criminal degree, telling the nineteen-year old girl that she is only a baby so STFU be quiet and sit in a corner, thanks. Okay, she says that in a more genteel, polite way, in no doubt a long-suffering tone.
Oh, and the house they are living in is huge, and the two ladies are in no position to maintain it. There are offers to buy the house, but of course Eva will never sell, because, as she puts it, she’d starve before she does that. Naturally, someone has to save her before she starves, ugh. The author tries to justify this by stating that once a house is lost, it will never be gotten back (well, duh), but come on, Eva is doing something shady but at the same time barely able to keep herself and her sister from eating the grass by the street. Eva isn’t being honorable or respectful of her heritage, she is just an excuse for the author to come up with a heroine in distress – a self-inflicted one, in this case – for the hero to slap that salami at and coming off as heroic in the process.
And the story, like the heroine, is made up of very familiar stuff. Yes, the hero brings the heroine to a ball and she immediately becomes a man-magnet because she is naturally hot and sexy underneath all that dowdiness. The heroine insists that Rebecca must remain chaste and oblivious of things like the cabbage patch between their legs, but at the same time Eva acts insulted when people think that she is innocent. So which is which? Eva wants Rebecca to remain pure and virginal, but she herself would have thrown her legs up in the air and let Gareth boink her barely pages into their first meeting, and that doesn’t happen only because they are interrupted. I’d think a supposedly practical, streetwise woman would know that a single woman with a reputation for slutdom may have a harder time finding respectable jobs during her time, but that’s Eva for you. She’d sleep with Gareth left and right, up and down, even as she is convinced that those two will never be.
Therefore, much of this book is made up of familiar, overused, clichéd scenes with people displaying equally clichéd personality traits, and the story makes sense only if I am to accept that it’s okay that these people (especially Eva) are inconsistent and often illogical because they are going through the same motions done by countless too-similar characters in other books. My final impression of His Wicked Reputation is that it is just things and stuff I can find in many historical romances cobbled together in a completely forgettable, vaguely obnoxious way.