Guest Review: The Wicked Wyckerly by Patricia Rice

Posted March 4, 2011 by Book Binge Guest Blogger in Reviews | 0 Comments

Judith‘s review of The Wicked Wyckerly (The Rebellious Sons, Book 1) by Patricia Rice.
John Fitzhugh Wyckerly has never relied on his family for love or money.  Handsome, charming, and a genius with numbers, he wins enough money gambling to allow himself the pretense of luxury and indolence expected of an aristocrat’s younger son.  But when his brother’s death make him the 7th  Earl of Danecroft, he inherits a crumbling estate and massive debts.  Determined to do right, he reclaims his illegitimate daughter, Penelope, and heads to London in search of a very rich wife.
Abigail Merriweather’s rural farm has been maddeningly quiet since she lost custody of her four young half siblings.  At least the house bustles when a roguish gentleman named Fitz stops for a few days’ respite with his rebellious daughter in tow.  His etiquette is questionable, and his parenting deplorable–so why does Abby delight in his blunt flirtations?  And when she seeks a suitor to help her regain the children, why does Fitz keep popping up?  They’re an impossible match–yhet maybe a match made in heaven after all.
This is the first novel in a new series by Patricia Rice, an author that has quite a list of fine novels to her credit.  Set in the England of the early 1800’s, this historical romance has a sense of the unusual right from the first.  Of course, there are often aristocrats looking for wealthy marriageable women in order to solve their financial woes.  But few are as dead broke as Fitz.  And there are certainly titled aristocrats who are struggling to keep the titled line going by seeking a wife who will present him with heirs.  But few seem less concerned with that aspect of the responsibility that Fitz.  That he has finally taken his illegitimate daughter in hand is evidence that he is really trying to assume his responsibilities.  He had faithfully seen to her support and thought she was placed with a good caregiver after her actress mother married a German aristocract and abandoned her.  But when he stopped by her caregiver’s home and found her locked in a cage, hungry, dirty, ill-dressed (especially after what he was paying for her upkeep), he removed her from that locality, threatened her “nanny” with criminal charges, sent the erstwhile suitor of the “nanny” on her way, and claimed Penelope.  That his daughter has been kept like an animal and received almost no care or discipline became immediately evident.  Traveling with her was a nightmare.  And when his lack of funds necessitated that he and Penny debark from the public coach and landed in Miss Abigail Merriweather’s front yard, Fitz’s life undergoes a subtle but relentless change, one he for which he was unprepared but which began to make a serious difference in the relationship he had with his daughter and his outlook on his future.
This historical romance could really be styled as a “romp” as there are some truly witty characters who form the context and backdrop of this story.  Yet there are some serious things going on here.  First, Abigail’s half-siblings are removed from her custody because her stiff-necked, ultra conservative executor of her father’s will didn’t believe that a woman alone could raise boys properly.  This didn’t set very well with the independent minded Abigail.  Second, Fitz’s manner of earning a living ultimately came to be more of a problem than a problem-solver.  He was a genius with numbers and had perfected the method of “counting cards” so he won far more than he lost.  He was also not one of those persons who was tied to gambling for the thrill.  He just knew how to win and so he did.  However, his suitability as a parent figure because of his gambling created problems down the road.  Of course, this novel embraces the London Season–the English aristocratic marriage mart–as the backdrop for much of Fitz’s growing involvement with Abigail.  That they were friends was never in doubt.  That he could be a good husband and father?  Now there’s the rub.
I found this book to be a delightful reading experience.  Having begun my love affair with books many years ago with historical romance, it was like encountering a good friend.  That it was so well written and such a fun story just added to  my delight.  Ms Rice has demonstrated repeatedly that she knows how to tell a good story and ther reviewers have welcomed her literary offering over and over again.  This book is no exception.  Her characters are all so very interesting, so unique, each in their own way.  A number of persons who populate this story are like Fitz–living as aristocrats but really on the fringe of the ton.  Manny,m like Fitz, have little money but lots of influence.  Which goes to show that the old truism:  ” . . . it’s not what you know but who you know . . .” is based on experience of long standing.  That Fitz continued to be helpful to Abigail in her struggle to regain custody of her siblings proved to make him a growing presence in her life. 
This story really highlights the value of friendship in relationships of all kinds.  It was friendship that initially bound Fitz and Abigail together.  It was friendship which gave support to Fitz on a number of occasions, even though everyone knew he was bankrupt.  And it was the “sub story” of his growing friendship with his daughter that brought to light the true depths of a man who had been ignored and pushed aside by his father and brother, not to mention his mother, all of his life.  It is also a delight to watch Abigail and her persistent faith in him that helps him recognize value in himself that he had either been unable or unwilling to acknowledge.  He began this whole discouraging process of being an earl with a sure sense of his inability to be what was needed to meet the challenges.  Long before the novel was ended, Fitz began to believe he really could be the person needed to save the title and put the estate back together.  Abigail had a great hand in making that confidence a reality.
This is just one of those engaging novels that is a joy to read.  I had not encountered Ms Rice’s work previously.  I definitely will be on the prowl to find some of her other books now.  This is a historical romance fans of this genre shouldn’t miss.

I give this book a 4.5 out of 5 rating.

You can read more from Judith at Dr. J’s Book Place.

This book is available from Signet. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

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