St Martin’s Press, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-250-01561-7
Historical Romance, 2014
Bronwyn Parrish, the heroine of Wicked Temptation, was a typical high society lady: she married to someone mostly because it’s practical and sensible to do so, played the role of the dutiful wife, and generally never entertained thoughts about her own wants and desires. When she became a widow, she learned that her husband left nothing behind, which meant she had nothing left to call her own as a result. Perhaps she can be some more fortunate lady’s companion? Bronwyn has always been very kind to her now former staff, however, so her maid decides to seek out the help of Nemesis, Unlimited – the secret organization that helps the poor and the downtrodden in England. While Bronwyn isn’t the usual type of person assisted by Nemesis, Unlimited, those folks decide that her kindness to her staff (such as taking them in or helping them out even when they are pregnant or if they come from the streets) earns her the right for some kind of representation. Hence, in comes Marco Black, the charming Nemesis, Unlimited agent who would help her track down what happened to her late husband’s money. Oh, and show her a good time in the process, because honey, it’s always about love.
Zoë Archer is one of those authors who can write a well balanced adventure romance tale and make the whole process seem effortlessly easy. There are some adventure-driven stories where the romance feels secondary, like something to pass the time while the main characters are taking a breather from saving the world and blowing up things. Other stories focus a little too much on the romance, making the plot seem like some ill-thought filler to pad the story when the characters need a break from their bedroom activities. Ms Archer however often maintains a great balance in her stories – the romance still feels solid and believable while the plot feels just as solid and important. Neither overshadows the other – everything feels like it has a part to play in the overall story.
However, my issue with Wicked Temptation is the same as that with the previous book in this series, Dangerous Seduction. The main characters are obviously way too competent compared to the bad guys, therefore robbing the story of its much-needed suspense. In fact, this story has a mostly amorphous threat – for a long time, Marco and Bronwyn are chasing after clues and the reader discovers stuff at the same time as them, not before. This results in a story that is pretty easy to put down due to the lack of genuine obstacles in our main characters’ way.
Marco can do everything, it seems. More unbelievable is Bronwyn, who has the heart and soul of a social justice crusader and an unflappable aptitude to do all the stuff Marco is initiating her in – and she does it well too. She’s way too capable and perfect, to the point that she’s actually creepy in a too-perfect too-amazing way. After a while, I get this feeling that the author has created two characters who are so all-around amazing that they end up being completely unbelievable as human beings. And, more importantly, they are not good for the story because it’s too obvious from the start that they are just going to steamroll their opponents without much difficulty.
Wicked Temptation is a story where the characters are literally just too good for their own good.