Aug 28, 2014

Wicked by Cheryl Holt (Reluctant Brides Trilogy #1)

Wicked by Cheryl Holt
Genre: Historical Romance
Bottom Line: I struggled to get past the fact that there was not a single character in this story that I liked.

Reluctant Brides Trilogy
1.  Wicked
2.  Wanton
3.  Wonderful

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Rose Ralston has spent her life at Miss Peabody’s School for Girls—first as a student, then as a teacher. But with Miss Peabody’s passing, the school has been closed, the students sent away, and Rose is facing an uncertain future. As Miss Peabody’s will is read, Rose had been told to expect a small bequest, but she’s stunned to discover that her inheritance is a dowry that’s already been paid to an elderly widower. The man is in quick need of an heir, and Rose can agree to wed or she’ll get nothing and will have no money and nowhere to go. She’s never lived on her own, and without family or friends to assist her, she’s out of options. Reluctantly, she agrees to the marriage and heads off to the man’s Summerfield estate.

James Talbot grew up at Summerfield. But as an orphan, his position was never exactly clear. The owner, Stanley Oswald, constantly tormented James with the secrets of his parentage. Rumors abound that he’s Stanley’s natural-born son, but the truth has been impossible to unravel. Needing to escape Stanley’s manipulations, James has spent the past decade in the army. But Stanley has lured him home, and when James learns of Stanley’s pending marriage, he can’t help but be intrigued. He’s eager to engage in a little mischief, and nothing would give him greater pleasure than to ruin the match before it begins. 

Rose is fascinated by handsome, virile James, but bound to wed elderly, decrepit Stanley. As Stanley woos her and James interferes, any wild ending seems possible. For Rose—who only ever wanted a home of her own—she just might end up with more than she ever dreamed. 

RELUCTANT BRIDES… When love is the key and dowry the bait, who can predict what a woman might do?

My Thoughts:

I am still struggling to determine if this was actually a romance novel, or an exercise in writing horrid characters. There was not a single character in this book that did not piss me off. The premise of the story was good; penniless Rose is practically sold to an old, wealthy man who needs an heir before he dies, but the handsome, young James catches her eye instead. Who can blame her when her future husband is almost 50 years her senior? Unfortunately, Rose's fiance has further plans for her that depend on her getting to know James more intimately.

I was not able to get attached to any of the characters in this book. Rose's naivete was actually ridiculous. It's sometimes enjoyable to read about the innocent virgin, but Rose took this too a new level. The dialogue between her and James made me cringe. James, for his part, was manipulative and selfish until the very end, and I never found the relationship between him and Rose believable in the least. I could rant about Stanley Oswald's perversions and Veronica's neurotic obsession with finding a husband, but I'll just say that the secondary characters did nothing to redeem the book and leave it at that. Aside from the characters, I found the cliche dialogue a little obnoxious and out of place in a historical novel. I was also disappointed that we never learned any further reasoning behind Miss Peabody setting Rose up with Mr. Oswald. I was hoping Miss Peabody would end up being a wise and creative matchmaker, but it seems that she really just sucked at judging people.

I am actually considering giving Holt's second novel in this trilogy a shot. I can't imagine there could be any worse characters, so I am anxious to see if Wanton will redeem this series. I feel like the premise of a few penniless orphans being shipped off to their awaiting husbands has a lot of potential, so hopefully Lucas and Amelia's story will be a bit more bearable.

Rating: 4

Find it on: Amazon | Goodreads | Cheryl Holt  

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