Fairy Tale

The Husband Hunt

The Seduction of an English Scoundrel
Wicked As Sin

A Wicked Lord at the Wedding
by Jillian Hunter
(Ballantine, $6.99, PG-13)  ISBN 978-0-345-50394-7
Jillian Hunter brings readers another in her “Wicked” series featuring members of the Boscastle family. This time it’s Sebastien Boscastle, whose six-year neglect of his wife forms the basis for the plot. Unfortunately, it’s a plot that has to be forced into place with a number of annoying contrivances, and the book never really recovers.

Sebastien Boscastle met Eleanor Prescott, a surgeon’s daughter, six years earlier when he was a soldier and she was working in an army hospital, assisting her widowed father. They quickly fell in love. Then Sebastien was shot several times in a battle, and this caused him to experience memory loss and a personality change. (Puzzling, since he was shot in the shoulder, thigh, and back.)  He and Eleanor returned to London and married anyway, and after a short, passionate honeymoon, he disappeared to do War Work. Sebastien returned home infrequently during the first three years, and then disappeared for the next three years and never sent a word to Eleanor.

As the story opens, Sebastien has returned to London with the intention of winning his wife back. If he’d been gone for some really good reason and unable to contact his wife, such as, oh, kidnapped to China rather than just working across the Channel in France, I might have been more patient with this plot. And I would have forgiven a lot if he’d simply sat down with Eleanor had had a heart-to-heart with her. Instead, the author relies on lame devices such as ”Unfortunately, in the few months since he’d been home, he hadn’t found the words to explain why he’d abandoned her, either.” Possibly because he had no reason, he just sort of forgot to write to her for three years. Instead, Sebastien figures he’ll seduce Eleanor and she’ll fall in love with him again. Instead of expending his energies on treating his wife like an adult and forcing himself to explain his actions, he focuses on getting her naked.

Eleanor still enjoys having sex with Sebastien – lots of sex - but vows not to love him again. And anyway, she has a job of sorts as the Mayfair Masquer; she dresses up as a man and breaks into people’s townhomes, looking for a series of twelve letters written by an extortioner who intends to harm her friend the Duchess of Wellington and her children. All the ladies of the ton are a-twitter about the mysterious Masquer.

Honestly, I had no patience or particular liking for either of these characters. Sebastien, for all that he acknowledges to himself that his wife has every reason to hate him, never acknowledges it to the one person who most needs to hear it – Eleanor. His belief that she’ll fall in love with him if he sticks close by and they have enough sex struck me as juvenile. Eleanor tells herself she won’t fall in love with Sebastien again, but she takes every opportunity to hit the sheets with him, even chasing him around London to seduce him on a boat. But she won’t tell him why she’s dressing up in men’s clothes and breaking into people’s houses. They have lots of hot sex. And Eleanor is friends with an artist who may or may not be her lover – she’s not really saying, driving Sebastien into jealousy.

There are several secondary Boscastles in this story, presumable there to wave hello for future books. One of them, Will, is a bit of a bumbler but rather charming in his own right. The extortionist plot is a means to an end, providing Eleanor with a reason to keep dressing up and potentially getting into situations where Sebastien needs to come to her rescue.

All in all, A Wicked Lord at the Wedding is a forced effort with a hero and heroine who spend the book trying to manipulate each other rather than face their problems. By the end of the story, I wasn’t at all confident that they’d even stay married. Readers who have been following the Boscastles might have more patience with this book than I did.  

--Cathy Sova

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