Wicked Company

Wicked Company

by Ciji Ware


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402222719
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 10/01/2010
Pages: 624
Product dimensions: 5.28(w) x 7.84(h) x 1.35(d)

About the Author

Ciji Ware is an Emmy Award-winning journalist with tremendous media savvy and charisma in addition to being an author of historical fiction novels. She has appeared on the Today show to promote her books, and continues to be highly involved with her own projects in the television and film industries. She lives with her husband in San Francisco.

Read an Excerpt

Thro' all the drama-whether damned or not-
Love gilds the scene, and women guide the plot.
-Richard Brinsley Sheridan,
"Epilogue," The Rivals

Edinburgh, May 1761

"Sophie, lass! Quickly! Hide your book!" Daniel McGann urged his daughter, as he peered anxiously through the square windowpanes at the front of his small book shop. Outside, a group of dour, somberly attired men were striding like avenging angels along Edinburgh's High Street. "'Tis the kirk elders!" he confirmed, wringing his ink-stained hands. "They're coming this way!"

Sophie sprang from her stool in front of the diminutive hearth that was the shop's only source of heat. She quickly shoved her copy of Fielding's Tom Jones, along with Rousseau's novel La Nouvelle Heloise, beneath a pile of pungent chunks of peat stored in a wooden box next to the fire. Without further instructions, she grabbed several other books that she, even at the age of sixteen, knew would be judged "ungodly" by the gaggle of religious fanatics bearing down on her father's book-and-printing establishment. Swiftly she stashed the offending volumes behind a row of Bibles displayed prominently on one of the front shelves and reserved precisely for just such an emergency.

Daniel McGann, his gray periwig slightly askew and his upper lip sheened with sweat, was greatly alarmed that for the second time in scarcely a month his shop was the apparent target of the wrath of Calvinist churchmen from nearby St. Giles Cathedral. The local Presbyterian clergy had long voiced disapproval of the novels, plays, and engravings that had made McGann's one of the most popular gathering places for the literati in Edinburgh. From the angry looks on their faces today, the zealots seemed determined to drive McGann's out of business.

Somber bells in the church tower overhead tolled the noon hour as Daniel McGann reached beneath a counter and pushed several parcels wrapped in outdated theater playbills into Sophie's hands.

"Out the back portal with you!" he croaked over the tolling bells. "Deliver the thin packet to Lord Lemore and the thick one to the Canongate Playhouse." As his daughter bolted toward the rear exit, he called after her, "Hurry, now! And mind that you collect the siller for 'em! We've scarcely two Scots pennies in the till."

Making her escape, Sophie heard the sound of the front door opening as the imperious men in black once again invaded her father's domain. She sped through the back room that housed the small wooden hand press and a variety of implements that comprised their modest printing business. Several sheets from a recently completed order hung drying on lengths of cord stretched across the back of the low-ceilinged chamber. As she rushed through the squat door at the rear of the press room that was permeated with a perpetual smell of carbon black and linseed oil, she prayed-blasphemously, she supposed-that no offending political broadside, pamphlet, or chapbook would be inadvertently discovered by the raiding churchmen. Pausing to listen, she heard a chorus of angry voices fill the front chamber.

"Vile works! Abominations!" a voice thundered from inside the shop.

"You, sir, traffic in the Devil's commerce!"

Those squawking black vultures should leave us alone! Sophie thought defiantly as she darted down the narrow alleyway shadowed by St. Giles's bell tower looming overhead.

Inside her father's book shop, the churchmen were systematically pulling books from the shelves and flinging them onto the flagstones beneath their feet.

"We've given you ample warning, McGann," the Reverend Mr. Meeker pronounced, "yet still you trade in the works of Satan!"

Daniel McGann stared with growing dismay at the pile of volumes by the likes of Defoe, Molière, and the dramatist William Congreve, heaped on the floor next to his desk.

"Surely you don't consider Shakespeare-" Daniel began to protest, as he watched several of the bard's comedies join the pile.

"'Tis bawdry!" Reverend Meeker retorted. "Full of jesters and fools mouthing blasphemy. 'Tis intolerable!"

Briefly, Daniel imagined how his wife, Margaret, would have responded to such an invasion, such absurd pronouncements. When Margaret was alive, her dark head bent over her weekly correspondence with the best book agents in London, he had boldly challenged the arguments and actions of these kirk zealots and had been a leader in local efforts to beat back the meddling churchmen's attempts to dictate cultural and religious standards to the entire city.

But that was before the bleak winter when the tumor had first appeared on his wife's neck, the malignancy that had squeezed the breath and life out of the poor woman by the time nearby Whinny Hill was splashed with autumn heather. These days, he could barely summon the energy to peruse his stock of books, much less battle the fanatics holding forth from the pulpit next door. Many buyers had stayed away and sales were dwindling. When he was forced to sack his clerk, Sophie, bless her, had taken over minding the accounts? and had acquired a working knowledge of the shop's inventory. She had even learned the skills necessary to run the small printing press in the back chamber where broadsides, chapbooks, and playbills earned them much needed extra income.

"Have you been struck dumb, McGann?" demanded the rotund Reverend Meeker. "I'm asking you to forswear selling such ungodly texts in future, or stand ready to accept the dire consequences that God shall mete out! What say you?"

"I say you are blinded, bigoted fools," Daniel replied without rancor, "and ignorant ones as well, if you don't delight in Shakespeare," he added, staring sorrowfully at the books that Meeker's henchmen would probably burn to cinders.

Reverend Meeker glared at Daniel McGann with speechless indignation. At last he turned and strode toward the front door, followed by the others. Upon reaching the threshold, he turned to impart a final threat, his bulbous nose crimson with fury.

"If you persist in leading the public down such paths of wickedness, McGann, you shall find yourself brought up on charges of libel and blasphemy!"

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Wicked Company 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
AAR More than 1 year ago
WICKED COMPANY by Ciji Ware is an amazing historical romance set in 1761-1774 Scotland and Boston. It spans thirteen years, is well written, very detailed, has depth, the plot in very interesting. It has romance, deceit, betrayal, intrigue,passion, secrets, danger,misuse,playwrites, theatre, actresses, goverenment censor,actors, a true love story. This story is very detailed with vivid characters and plot. The characters are enchanting, determined, real life, strong, independent and will sweep you off your feet. The heroine, Sophie, is independent, beautiful, a petticoat playwright, strong willed,is misused, betrayed, determined to use her own name for her playwrights,and falling in love with her long time friend/protector Hunter.The hero, Hunter, is handsome, a jugglier, wants to be an actor,becomes Sophie's protector and falling in love with her. This story spans over a period of thirteen years, takes them into danger, adventure, Sophie's marriage to an evil, worthless, liar and drunk who uses her to know end. She learns everyone is not what they often seem. Befriends a actress, playwright, becomes with child by her husband, the child dies, she craves for love from her long time friend, Hunter. Hunter, thinks of her only as a friend/sister for years, but learns he is attracted to the woman she has become. Together they face the odds. Sophie, after a long estrangement with her drunken husband, becomes involved with Hunter. Has his child, becomes entangled with someone she believes to be her friend but soon learns he is only after her mind and will do anything to get her to writes plays for him. Sophie and Hunter suffer through years of trials but finally find true happiness, family, and true love. This is an intriguing story of love, betrayal, truth,and show the struggles female playwrights went through to get their work published in the 18th century. I would recommend this book, it is long with great details and a wonderful story. A keeper. This book was received for review from the publisher and details can be found at Sourcebooks Landmark an imprint of Sourcebooks and My Book Addiction and More.
WisteriaLeigh on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I was introduced to Ciji Ware¿s masterful storytelling in Island of the Swans and couldn¿t wait to read her other works. Cottage of the Sea was an equally engrossing story that reaffirmed my dream of one day living by the ocean. Wicked Company has made me a Ciji Ware devotee, this author not only rights beautiful stories, her text is a lyrical experience throughout. As the melodic plot unfolds she adds unique and charming characters who offer the perfect counterpoint.The setting is 18th century London centering on the Covent Garden District. Ware points out in her Author¿s Notes, that women dramatists were more common than most have come to believe between 1660 and 1800.  In her opinion they have been omitted in studies of British literature and her purpose in writing is to shine light on these remarkable women of the British and American theater.Sophie Hamilton McGann works for her father, Daniel McGann, a printer. She is a bold, intelligent, opinionated and often rash female heroine of fiction. However, many of the plays performed in the novel were based on actual historical events. Surrounding Sophie is at the center of Wicked Company, joined by a cast of historical and fictitious players. Regarded as key figures of the theater world at the time were, David Garrick, Richard Sheridan, George Coleman and several others.  What surprised me in this book was the practice during this time of the employment of a  government censor. Edward Capelli, lived at this time and he was the Deputy Examiner of Plays. He certainly gave Sophie a difficult time, slashing her dialogue and often refusing his approval entirely. From the beginning Ware establishes Sopie¿s independent spirit and often impulsive temper. She often dons man's attire to gain admittance and acceptance.  When she meets Hunter, a street juggler she is smitten, but it will be years before he realizes he too has a mad obsession for Sophie. Until then, they are good friends and the paths they follow are not always in sync. Their passion is precious but kismet interferes with a smooth journey for the two. Ware taunts the reader with an anxious love story that seems hopelessly doomed.I admire Sophie for her tenacious will and resolve as she insinuates herself into the theater world dominated by men. Sometimes I want to shake her silly for her impulsivity, but overall she is an 18th century spitfire who just wants her value as a writer acknowledged and live her life with the man she loves without personal sacrifice.To understand Sophie, perhaps this piece of dialogue will form an image in your mind. Throughout the centuries this or similar refrains, whether a whisper or a shout resonate around the world by women. Sophie could have been my twin.¿I¿ve had days lately when I¿m tired and discouraged, but why must a woman always put a man¿s wishes and desires first? Why must she invariably honor his dreams and ambitions above all else? Do you really think that¿s the only path to happiness for men and women?¿ (232)Wicked Company confirms that Ciji Ware is an exquisite writer of historical fiction and without a doubt one of my favorite authors.Disclosure: Wicked Company was sent to me by the publisher.
BrokenTeepee on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This is a tale of a young woman who finds herself without her father. A young woman who was brought up educated at a time when women were not thought to have brains. After her father is arrested for selling books the church finds offensive Sophie writes a tract against those that convicted him and finds herself in serious trouble. Helped out of town by her actor friend she runs to London to seek out her aunt and uncle only to find more problems. Being strong and smart Sophie uses her writing and print making skills to survive.Ms. Ware's writing style is such that you find yourself drawn into the time period. It was rather like watching a movie in my head. Her descriptions of place, attire and even persons are detailed but not so that you feel like you are reading a list. It's all drawn together so well in the whole of the story. The characters are well conceived and interesting. I did get a bit annoyed with Sophie though; as smart as she was portrayed to be it seemed she just never learned when it came to men. I also found it a touch hard to believe a young girl would survive so unscathed in this time period. But those minor niggling thoughts aside I thoroughly enjoyed this book.I was not aware that there were so many female playwrights in this time period. It did not surprise me that they were looked down upon and generally dismissed. The descriptions of the theatres and the backstage goings on were fascinating and added so much to the story. I am a theatre lover so it doesn't matter the time - a play is a play!The central love story was full of challenges. I truly wonder if two people would really survive what these two went through over the course of so many years. There was an appalling lack of communication although I suppose back in this time period women WERE supposed to be seen and not heard. heh.
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Izzie_reads_books More than 1 year ago
I liked the story--I was into it the whole time. I just didn't like how she forgave the guy (find out his name by reading it!) she was in love it (read it and you'll see what he called her and what he did).
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Read this book