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Posted January 9, 2013
I received this book in exchange for an honest review.
It is a tricky thing, writing a historical romance novel where the heroine is a courtesan, it doesn't always work. The story has to be somewhat realistic. Society in 1814 wasn't terribly forgiving or accepting of courtesans as anything more than what they were. Much less in London, among people of rank and strict social rules. It takes more than just making the heroine likable, it takes some real thought and effort.
Emma Locke's novel The Trouble with Being Wicked gives readers two great characters who really shouldn't fall in love, but as all great characters often do, they find themselves yearning to be with each other while struggling to find a place in a society that doesn't fully welcome either one of them.
Ashlin Lancester is a good man, a little stuffy but he has his reasons and they're not as easy to dismiss as one might think. Ash's parents were involved in a scandal that has defined his life. Years ago, his mother murdered his father and then committed suicide in what appeared to be a fit of jealous rage. Because of that, Ash is determined to walk a straight and proper line, not just for his own sake but for the sake of his sisters Delilah and Lucy.
Celeste is a caring, intelligent woman who just happens to be a courtesan, masquerading as a lady's companion. Very poorly I might add. Celeste is used to being direct and not bowing down to anyone, which is what makes Ash suspicious of her and her friend Elizabeth from the beginning. Despite having been a courtesan for many years and acquiring vast wealth, Celeste still longs for the things money cannot buy: A family with a good man that she loves and who loves her in return.
The Trouble with Being Wicked mostly takes place in the country side, an unusual place to find courtesans and the drama that inevitably follows them but it works for this story. The setting allows for less outside interference and more time for Ash and Celeste to develop and nurture feelings for one another. The Trouble with Being Wicked has a slow pace that can become tedious at times, with too many descriptive phrases and interruptions from the issue at hand: Ash and Celeste's forbidden romance.
There's quite a supporting cast in The Trouble with Being Wicked as well. Ash's two younger sisters may at first seem like spoiled girls seeking attention but the truth is, they know what they want out of life and resent Ash treating them as if he knows what is best for them. Delilah and Lucy do take rather drastic measures to secure their goals though and don't give much of a thought as to how it would affect Ash's life or his marriage prospects. That was rather selfish that their brother would be so willing to give up what would make him happy in order to secure good matches for his sisters but his sisters do not have the same consideration for him.
There's also Celeste's friend Elizabeth who will get her chance at love in the second book in the series and Ashlin's friend Lord Montbourne who seems more like my kind of hero. The haunted kind that has lived a life he now regrets and has become a victim of his own reputation. He is the hero of the third book in this series and I honestly cannot wait until it is released.
The Trouble with Being Wicked is a passionate, angst filled story that adult fans of historical romance will appreciate and want to add to their TBR lists.
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Posted May 19, 2014
Posted June 27, 2013
Wow! What a story. I loved this book. I couldn't put it down yet there were parts so real I had to just walk away for awhile. The characters are real as well. Ash who must be perfect so as not to be like his father. Then there is Celeste who rose from nothing to the top yet couldn't be who she wants to be. This book was a rollercoaster ride with all the ups and downs delivered by this author. Emma you are an amazing author. This isn't the end. Now I must read the of this series for my HEA ending. This book is a bit deeper and darker than most romances. I believe this is what sets it apart from the others. Readers, please don't pass on this book. I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I have!
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Posted February 20, 2015
Every once in awhile, I discover a new author whose voice I just love, who has a way of telling a really good story in an elegant and believable way. And more often than not, they are not the blockbuster big name authors in the historical romance world. Emma Locke is one such writer. I first read her charming and quirky holiday novella, “The Cheer in Charming an Earl,” but this is the first full length novel I’ve read by her, and it’s wonderful.
Celeste Gray is a well-known, extremely rich, and very successful courtesan in London’s glittering demimonde. At the beginning of the novel, she has purchased a small but ramshackle cottage on Viscount Trenton’s estate in the quiet countryside of Devon, the same county where the Dashwood ladies’ make their new home in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. Along with her close friend, Elizabeth, a fellow courtesan, who is about to give birth, Celeste becomes Miss Smythe to Elizabeth’s Mrs. Inglewood to lend some respectability to their questionable appearance without male escort.
”Celeste Gray could think of three reasons the dilapidated cottage reminded her of a man: It didn’t meet her expectations. She couldn’t imagine spending the rest of her life with it. And it had cost her far more than it was worth.”
But when Ash, Lord Trestin, meets Miss Smythe, his radar alerts him that something is not quite right with his new neighbors. For one thing, they are both stunningly beautiful and very outspoken, far from the usual retiring nature of ladies. For another, Miss Smythe, who is supposed to be Mrs. Inglewood’s companion, is much too assertive and has a quality of command about her.
Both Celeste and Ash are drawn to each other but, besides the obvious fact that he is so far above her socially, she learns the devastating secret of his parents’ relationship and reasons that, once Ash learns about her sordid past, she will never have a chance with him.The romance between Celeste and Ash is both complex yet tender and experiences a great transformation and growth on both sides. It’s both endearing and sexy.
”’I thought you’d have it figured out by now. None of us are good enough. That’s what makes us human.’”
Ash has long held guardianship responsibilities for his younger sisters, Lucy and Delilah, two delightfully headstrong and precocious young women who don’t take their brother seriously at all and rather think him quite overbearing. They know he means well but are irked that he cannot see that Lucy has no desire to ever marry and that Delilah is deeply in love with a lowly blacksmith.
Of course, Ash’s sisters become fast friends with Celeste, especially when they notice Ash’s interest in her. They admire her independence and her ability to obsess their upright, uptight, and much-too-serious beloved brother. Their friendship is one of the highlights of the novel but it’s also very interesting to see the layers in the relationship between Ash and his siblings. He loves them dearly and only wants the best for them, especially after the scandalous history of their own parents’ tragic relationship and deaths.
”’Are you given to midnight strolls? Walking barefoot? Reading lurid novels? Staring at handsome men when you think no one is looking? Because I think we might make very good friends, then.’”
Roman, Lord Montborne, a close friend of Ash’s as well as Celeste’s in London, is a colorful and vibrant character here. He is both Ash’s dark side acknowledged in his attraction to beautiful and illicit women as well his conscience in trying to keep Ash from meeting the same fate as his parents. It’s an intricate and complicated characterization and Locke executes it brilliantly. In fact, all of the characters in this novel are not quite what they seem and I really enjoy getting to know each of them.
Locke writes with a clarity and astuteness of the human condition, with all its frailties and fears and, in this way, she reminds me of Jane Austen’s characters. A lovely story.
Posted June 7, 2013
After starting a bit slowly as we are getting to know Celeste and Elizabeth as they have set out to start a new life, free from notoriety in the country far from London. These two former courtesans to the ton of London society have chucked it all in and are looking to become the new doyennes of the social set in the Devon countryside.
Celeste is delightful with a sense of seeing things from a slightly jaded eye, although she still manages to, despite her past; keep a sense of hopefulness and belief in love and family. The revelations of the realities of those situations, far from rose-tinted and as perfect as she had dreamed provide many interesting asides from her point of view.
Of course, there has to be a man: and he arrives in all of his ‘stuffed shirt propriety’ in the form of Ashlin Lancester, Viscount. Ash is a good man, far less ‘stuffy’ than he appears, after being thrust into the role of master of the house and guardian of his two younger, marriageable aged sisters when his family was destroyed in a scandal caused by his father’s profligate and spendthrift ways.
From here, the story takes off to become a delicate waltz. Since it is set away from the flurry of action that accompany the London social scene, characters need to (and do) stand wholly on their own and drive the storyline forward as the relationship between Ash and Celeste grows.
With a cast of secondary characters that are delightfully different from the constraint one would expect, we are treated to the source of Ash’s worries: his sisters. One who refuses to attend the required season to find a husband, the other already professing love for a local boy, and refusing to take her brother’s no for an answer. Delilah and Lucy are treated like spoiled children without a clue by their brother and guardian, but both are solid and intelligent young women with clear plans for their own futures: with or without his permission and acceptance. This could, and does, jeopardize Ash’s chances for a happy union: and their lack of foresight into the difficulties their behavior could cause him was my only difficulty with the two.
While this is not a “grab you by the ears” and demand you read it in one sitting, this book is a great read with characters that both drive the story and infiltrate your senses. As the start of a series from a debut author, this is a good and fun read that will leave you curious for more. Described and detailed with care, incorporating the often ridiculous (to modern eyes) mores and restrictions of the age, and written with a sense that the author truly enjoyed each character – you will want to read this book and series.
I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Posted May 31, 2013
Celeste Gray is a courtesan who wishes to retire and leave her past behind her, so she buys a cottage in the country and intends to live there quietly . Then she meets the man she purchased the property from, Ashlin Lancester-Lord Trestin. Lord Trestin is trying to live down the sordid scandal his parents left in their wake and wants a bride who will fit his prim and proper ideal but his instant attraction to Celeste throws his plans off the track. I enjoyed the premise of a slightly tarnished heroine instead of the usual virginal perfection most romances seem to require. This damsel did not need a knight to ride to her rescue her as she was more wealthy than the hero. She did however need love and manages to find it with the adorably confused Ashlin. I like this one and look forward to more from Ms. Locke.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.