Wicked All Day, by Liz Carlyle

>> Tuesday, November 29, 2011

TITLE: Wicked All Day
AUTHOR: Liz Carlyle

PAGES: 421

SETTING: 19th century England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Related to several of Carlyle's early books (see review for details)

New York Times bestselling author Liz Carlyle continues her enthralling historical series with the story of an impetuous, illegitimate beauty and the forbidding nobleman who protects her—while fighting an obsession to possess her...

Miss Zoë Armstrong is beautiful, charming, rich—and utterly unmarriageable. So, while she may be the ton's most sparkling diamond, her choice of husbands looks more like a list of London's most unsavory fortune hunters. Since a true-love marriage seems impossible, Zoë has accepted—no, embraced—her role as society’s most incomparable flirt and mischief-maker . . . until in one reckless, vulnerable moment, her future is shattered.

Stuart Rowland, the brooding Marquess of Mercer, has been part of Zoë’s extended family since she was a child. As dark and cynical as Zoë is lively, Mercer has always known they would be the worst possible match . . . until his scapegrace brother Robert does the unthinkable, and winds up betrothed to Zoë. Now, secluded on Mercer’s vast estate to escape a looming scandal and the ton’s prying eyes, Zoë and Mercer may find that a dark obsession has become a tempestuous passion that can no longer be denied...
Wicked All Day brings together the children from two of my favourite Carlyle books, and the result is some lovely, lovely angst!

We met Zoë Armstrong in the fantastic My False Heart, Carlyle's debut which landed her straight on my autobuy list. Zoë was the hero's young illegitmate daughter, massively spoilt, as her father was fulfiling her every wish out of guilt. The Zoë we meet at the beginning of this book has grown up in a loving family, but being society doesn't take female bastards very well, no matter how much they're loved by their father's wife and how much money and status their parents have. As a result, Zoë disdains society completely, and has become reckless, quite the risk-taker. If society will automatically think badly of her, then she'll give them something to resent her for!

We met Stuart, the Marquess of Mercer in the wonderful A Woman Scorned, where he and his brother, Robin, were the heroine's young sons. Stuart inherited the title very young, and has become a serious, responsible man, while Robin has taken on the role of the charming scoundrel. He and Zoë are so similar that they have become great friends, and quite close.

And then one night everything comes to a head. Zoë's bad behaviour has made her dad issue an unwise ultimatum. Upset about it, Zoë runs to her best friend. Robin is quite drunk, and the two end up being caught in a very compromising position, and summarily engaged.

Being such good friends, you would think that this would be no tragedy. But Robin soon realises that his feelings for his mistress are much deeper than he had thought, and Zoë that her previously antagonistic relationship with Stuart (her future brother-in-law, no less!) hid an attraction that they suddenly can't hide.

Did I say angst? Oh, yes! Stuart and Zoë's relationship borders on obsession. Once they realise that the attraction is there, they can barely keep their hands off each other, no matter how much they both care for Robin and don't want to hurt him. It's so well done that I really couldn't blame them for it, whenever they were together you could cut the sexual tension with a knife. And Carlyle also succeeded in showing us that it wasn't just lust going on there, these two were perfectly matched and needed the other to temper their more extreme traits.

This is a fully character-driven romance, and there's enough tension here that I couldn't stop turning the pages. This is vintage Carlyle, and one to reread.

MY GRADE: A strong B+.


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