Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-056078-9
Historical Romance, 2004
The kindest thing I can say about Eloisa James’s Your Wicked Ways is that it is very interesting. I don’t mean that facetiously – this book has Regency characters that display enough quirks to make them stand out from the usual template heroes and heroines plaguing the Regency historical subgenre. Ultimately, too many loopholes in the premise and inconsistent characters sink this story of a second chance at love.
Readers unfamiliar with Helene Holland should read A Wild Pursuit first as Helene’s self-discovery of sorts unfurls in that book and readers will have a better appreciation of Helene as a result. In Your Wicked Ways, Helene decides to divorce her husband Rees, whom she hasn’t lived with for ten years, but Rees refuses to grant her a divorce. Enraged, she decides to create a scandal so that he has no choice but to divorce her. Because she also wants a child of her own, she decides that the best way she can go about killing two birds with one stone is by finding someone to knock her up. I am not joking. You know what, forget my recommendation about reading A Wild Pursuit first – anyone who is charmed by that Helene will most likely weep when she encounters this Helene.
Through a painful contrivance, these two actually end up in bed the first time Helene decides to search for her stud. Rees retaliates by forcing her to stay with him – in the same house where he sleeps with his mistress in the main bedroom – in return for him giving her the baby she wants so much. Also, he has been carrying a torch for her these ten years. “Huh?” is exactly my reaction to this revelation. If you love someone, won’t you kick out the mistress and start wining and dining this someone instead? It is very frustrating how Rees and Helene assume that the other person hates him or her so all they can do is to nurse their true feelings forever secretly while playing passive aggressive games with each other. It sure looks as if Eloisa James has reverted back to her old habits of creating ultra-contrived big misunderstanding scenarios that result in her characters behaving stupidly and in the case of the hero, badly and shamefully.
It doesn’t help that she makes a decent foil for Rees a villain in a perversely ironic way: none of the things this guy does to Helene can compare to the ten years of nonsense Rees put her through, but Rees is portrayed as a misunderstood “Oh, he has a sad past, he can’t help himself!” hero while this poor clod is dragged through the muds when it comes to his character.
Your Wicked Ways could have been a good and original story in that the reason behind the break-up of Rees and Helene’s love affair ten years ago is very real. I also like how Rees’s mistress gets a dignified and even happy ending. But oh, Rees and Helene! The contrived misunderstanding drama! The abnormally obtuse and stupid things they do and say! The big headache I get as a result! And Helene turning into a meek doormat after all that self-awareness she displayed in the last book! Oh my GOD!
And don’t ask me about Esme. Seriously, she has been on an IQ downward spiral since Duchess in Love and she is dead to me now.
A very big disappointment and a truly unwelcome return of the author’s bad habits that made her Dell books such as Potent Pleasures excruciating reads, Your Wicked Ways is a complete regression in Eloisa James’s attempt to make her mark as an author that is different and unique in the romance genre. She has the voice, wit, sardonic sense of humor, and style to do so. But any progress or even the self-awareness towards her characters’ nonsense, displayed in the author’s first two books for Avon, is markedly missing here. Is there any way I can get the new and improved Eloisa James back?