Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-24105-7
Historical Romance, 2003
A book by Mary Balogh calling itself Slightly Wicked is like Ann Coulter calling herself Slightly Leftist or Michael Moore calling himself Slightly Rightist. What wickedness? This book is an even more tedious “Woman, Be a Martyr and All Shall Be Revealed!” tract. Maybe cranking out three books as soon as possible is not something this author excels at. So, yes, people, do buy this book so that Mary Balogh can hit the NYT Bestseller lists forever, which is what her publisher is desperate for her to do so, and then she can go back to doing one book per year. Because if Slightly Wicked is any indication of the quality of work the Sweatshop Balogh version of this author is putting out, this mass manufacture of Baloghi Happy Meals is not good at all. Not when quality is sacrificed for uninspired and badly-crafted asinine plot devices in the search for gospel, gold, and glory.
Anyway, on with the story. Judith Law is our heroine, the Miss Insipid for today. She’s beautiful, but she will insist that she is ugly even when you threaten to remove her nails, because as she will tell you, she comes from a family of stereotypes: a “beautiful” younger sister, a baby of an even younger sister, and an eldest sister who apparently have the distinction of being superior to Judith by virtue of her being the eldest. There are also the useless absent-minded father and the even more useless wastrel brother, both who happily plunge the family into financial ruination before willingly selling one of the sisters to eternal slavery to unpleasant relatives in return for financial aid. Naturally, all the sisters can’t volunteer fast enough to be the lucky Cinderella, but Judith, who deems herself absolutely worthless as a human being (and this is supposed to be a virtue, people), gets chosen and now she is on her way to this unpleasant aunt’s house to be slave and martyr for her father and brother’s uselessness. Telling them all to go to Hades and treading the stage to support herself (Judith is also supposed to be a very good actress by default) means being proactive and hence “historically inaccurate”, so here she is, people.
She gets mistaken as an actress by our hunky hero Rannulf Bedwyn, so they have sex four times one night and two times the morning after. Apart from being beautiful and talented and yet imbecilic enough to depreciate her own value to a complete zero, Judith also is apparently a natural born coitus guru. Amazing. She’s the ultimate Mary Sue heroine – she is the purest, innocent-est, most talented, sexiest woman in this story yet all her abilities come to her not by effort but by default – Ms Balogh just puts these abilities in that woman. A Mary Sue heroine often learns of her “special gifts” by accident but she never uses these gifts to help herself – that’s the fanfiction definition. In this case, Judith is the perfect Mary Sue heroine.
Ranulf, besotted, offers her marriage. She turns it down. That’s the pattern of behavior from Judith. She keeps and actively resists any opportunities to get herself out of her predicament because she’s… er, I don’t know why. Mary Balogh is well aware of how much of a martyr Judith is making herself out to be, but self awareness is worthless when Judith ends up being a really frustrating martyr who has to be pushed, persuaded, or forcefully dragged into not putting herself up to more self-inflicted torments. Judith’s only active decision in this book is to have sex one time to cherish the memory forever when she is old and miserable and unloved, eek eek eek, and when she decides to run away from besotted Ranulf to live a life of exile so that she can… You know, I don’t know what she is thinking, only that she apparently cares that the end result will be her miserable and unhappy while being able to sob that it’s okay, she’s miserable so that someone else (Daddy, Brother, sisters, anybody) will be happy.
Even Cinderella knows when to ditch her useless stepsisters and stepmother and live happily ever after with a shallow prince who only cares about the shoe size of his girlfriends. If you ask me, any heroine who wants a memory to cherish could do well to use the hands the creator gave her instead of having sex with a guy and then moaning eternal misery over it. If Judith wants to be a martyr, she could come over to my place, clean the fridge, and at least then I will get something in return from following her non-stop self-flagellation.
This book would be only six chapters long if, in a better world, Judith uses the brain she is supposed to have and accepts Ranulf’s marriage proposal, ditches her useless parasitic family members who expect her to suffer so that they can continue living the way they do, and live happily ever after. But no, Judith is the first-class professional victim whose life isn’t complete unless she’s treated like everyone’s public toilet. So it is with her happiness in my mind that I flush this book down the metaphorical toilet.