SLIGHTLY WICKED
Mary Balogh


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Dell, May 2003
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

Rannulf Bedwyn is one of England's most eligible bachelors and under pressure from his grandmother, Lady Sarah Beamish, to marry. As a twenty eight year old aristocrat with idle time and sufficient wealth, Rannulf's main pursuits have largely been the over-indulgence of his carnal appetites.  As heir to Grandmaison Park, his grandmother's estate, Rannulf has avoided her many attempts at matchmaking but her failing health and the happy marriage of his older brother, Aidan, have finally turned his thoughts to marriage.  Lady Beamish has her eye on Miss Julianne Effingham, the granddaughter of her dearest friend and neighbor, Gertrude Law.

Judith Law, a clergyman's daughter, is on her way to Harewood Grange to live with her Aunt Louisa Effingham and serve as companion to her grandmother, Gertrude Law. Jude's extraordinary beauty and lively imagination have been often suppressed living in a clergyman's household. She fully understands that as a poor relation she will in all likelihood become a spinster, but before resigning herself completely to that prospect she dreams of having a little adventure. The opportunity presents itself when the stagecoach to Harewood Grange is overturned in rainy weather and an attractive young man comes to her rescue. Casting aside caution, Judith introduces herself as Claire Campbell, a theater actress on her way to perform in a small community production. Her rakish rescuer, Ralf Bedard, installs her at a nearby Inn and entices her to delay her departure while they explore the instant spark of attraction between them.

After a magical two-day adventure, Jude slips away from Ralf Bedard and resumes her journey with the memories of a secret love affaire to keep forever. However, when the circumspect clergyman's daughter, Miss Jude Law, is introduced to Lord Rannulf Bedwyn, come to court her cousin, her secret adventure turns into a sordid nightmare.

SLIGHTLY WICKED almost reads like a regency version of The Bachelor except with a slightly wicked twist. The two main characters have a wicked little secret. The premise of the story made me laugh and I really enjoyed reading this novel in spite of the minor contrivances to achieve the story setup. Mary Balogh has a gift for creating unique characters and she is masterful in the depth of the emotional journey she takes her characters through. This is another fine novel, second in this new series, kicked off in April with SLIGHTLY MARRIED and followed in June by SLIGHTLY SCANDALOUS.
 

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