From the description of Engaged in Wickedness, it looked like Jade Lee’s introductory novella for her new Bridal Favors series would merely be a purely engaging frothy romance. But the desperate purpose behind Lady Gwen’s wickedness gives this historical romance a surprising depth.
The story does have what seems like a typical start. It could have been whipped out of the Regency, and with a few updates, taken place anywhere and anywhen.
A young woman tests, in fact over-reaches the rules of her station, seemingly out of a spirit of adventure. She seems adventurous to her tamer and more conventional peers, who listen avidly to the tales of her adventures, safely after the fact.
But Lady Gwen is the daughter of an Earl, and the rules she is flouting are the staid and unbreakable conventions of the haut ton. What rules are those? She likes to sneak off into darkened corners and shadowy gardens with men, and let them kiss her.
This is dangerous behavior. If she is caught, she will be ruined in the eyes of the ton. Her father’s station will not save her. And Lady Gwen simply does not care anymore. Flirting, and being caught, just a little, is the only thing that fills the emptiness of her life.
But one man is watching her. Sir Edward Murray has come to London to find a wife. And Lady Gwen is just the wife he wants. This slightly reformed bad boy has found his responsible side since the death of his father six years ago. Before he assumed his baronetcy, all of his plots and schemes were focused on getting into trouble. Since then, he’s been too busy successfully managing his estate.
Now, now he’s spent all his time in London crafting one plan after another to ensnare Lady Gwen. Little knowing that she is all too ready to be caught.
All he has to do is quit plotting and really, really see her. But by the time Edward finds Gwen’s true depths, she discovers all of his plots and schemes.
Can recklessness and deception lead to lasting love?
Escape Rating B: At the beginning of the story, Gwen seems to be a very shallow person, and the reader wonders why one would sympathize with her. She’s not just a flirt, she’s actively self-destructive, and for no particularly good reason. Gwen seems to be running around a ton ball looking for someone to compromise her reputation, and her family is nowhere in sight.
Lucky for Gwen, this part doesn’t last long. As we meet her family, it starts to be clear. Gwen’s family is clinically dysfunctional, and things are being concealed from the world. Gwen is acting out of stress, because she can’t cope anymore.
She needs to be rescued, but that risks exposure. So instead, she’s looking for ruin, because adventure makes her feel alive for a few minutes. She’s searching for danger. And it makes sense. Finding Edward is the best thing that could happen to her. Gwen needs a bad boy with a respectable facade. It just takes her a while to realize it.
Figuring out just how bad he can be is what makes the story fun.