Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review: Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagements and The Importance of Being Wicked by Victoria Alexander

Hey there :) I'm still catching up on my reviews for 2012. I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever get to the 2013 books ^_^; However, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, so hopefully, very soon :)


Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagements by Victoria Alexander
published by Kensington in November 2012
Allow me to explain...

Some say I do not take my engagements seriously. Nonsense. What man with no interest in marriage would find himself proposing not once, but three times? And each time, I’ve felt certain that this, at last, is the absolutely, positively, perfect woman.

Miss Felicia Whitingdon, for instance, has youth, beauty, style, grace—and a handsome fortune. Lady Lucille Eustice is a widow of impeccable social standing, and a balm to my soul. Then there is Miss Caroline Hibbit, sweet and charming in every way. Any one of these intoxicating treasures could make a man happy. Any one of them could be an ideal wife. But which—if any of them—will it be?
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Prequel to The Importance of Being Wicked

The Story: In What Happens at Christmas, we were introduced to Winfield Elliott, Viscount Stillwell, and learned that he had three failed engagements under his belt. As you can guess from the title of this short novella, well in Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagements, we find out why these three engagements never resulted in weddings.

My Opinion: Oh my, did I enjoy this novella!! I thought that Winfield was one of the highlights of What Happens at Christmas, just such a fun character, and I was thrilled to find out he was getting his own book. And then, I found out about this novella and I just couldn't wait to get my hands on it. I thought this would give us a good glimpse of his personality... and guess what? I was right :)

All in all, I thought Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagements was a charming novella. I enjoyed getting to know Winfield, what kind of man he was. I liked that he was your typical historical hero: handsome, wealthy, a bit of a wicked reputation, witty and charming. So why three failed engagements?! What happened? It was also interesting to see the growth and the maturity Winfield gained after each failed engagement. It wasn't as if he was repeating the same mistake. Not at all. Each time, he took into account why it failed and tried to find a bride that suit him better... and still no wedding. Best of all is Winfield's behavior afterwards, each time, he was the perfect gentleman.

I also enjoyed the insights we got on the dynamics of the Elliotts: Winfield's relationships with his father, mother and cousin. His family was very tight and they supported him, his parents tried to steer him at times, but ultimately, it was always Winfield's decisions and choices. It's nice to see a non-dysfunctional family from time to time :)

Finally, I thought it was a very good idea on Ms Alexander's part to write this novella. I think it was clever of her, because readers got to know Winfield better, but also learned the details of each engagement. I'm not sure it would have been possible for Ms Alexander to include all these details in The Importance of Being Wicked without cluttering the storyline, making it too much.

My Grade: A. I simply really enjoyed Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagements - the writing, the characters and the story being told :) After reading this, all I could think was how lovely it would be to see Winfield finally fall in love and I just couldn't wait to get my hands on The Importance of Being Wicked. So mission accomplished for Ms Alexander with this novella :)

The Importance of Being Wicked by Victoria Alexander
published by Kensington in January 2013
For Winfield Elliott, Viscount Stillwell, finding a prospective bride always seemed easy. Perhaps too easy. With three broken engagements to his name, Win is the subject of endless gossip. Yet his current mission is quite noble: to hire a company to repair his family’s fire-damaged country house. Nothing disreputable in that—until the firm’s representative turns out to be a very desirable widow.

Lady Miranda Garrett expected a man of Win’s reputation to be flirtatious, even charming. But the awkward truth is that she finds him thoroughly irresistible. While Miranda resides at Millworth to oversee the work, Win occupies her days, her dreams…and soon, her bed. For the first time, the wicked Win has fallen in love. And what began as a scandalous proposition may yet become a very different proposal...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Millworth Manor, Book #1/Sinful Family Secrets, Book #3/connected to What Happens at Christmas

The Story: The blurb is fairly accurate. Winfield Elliott's country home estate, Fairborough Hall, was badly damaged during a fire and he wants to restore it to its glory. For such an important task, it is primordial for Winfield to select the best architectural firm. However, among his options, only Garret and Tempest would give him a guarantee that the ballroom would be ready by late June which would allow Winfield's family to host their annual ball made even more important by the Queen's presence.

Miranda, Lady Garret, is a widow and has been in charge of her late husband's architectural firm ever since his death. The truth though is that Miranda was involved with the firm even before her husband's death as she was responsible for the designs of the majority of the plans. However, this is a secret she intends to keep as she doesn't know how her proper aristocratic family, the Hadley-Attwaters, would react if they knew she was a business woman. Usually, she has an employee who would make the liaison between the client and herself; however, due to some circumstance, he wouldn't be available and Miranda would had to be the one overseeing the work at Fairborough Hall. Miranda is quite apprehensive at the idea of working with Winfield, after all, the disreputable lord has three broken engagements to his name, but the Fairborough Hall is an important project which could open many doors for her firm...

At first, Miranda and Winfield don't really hit it off, but as time goes, attraction grows... Will this woman be the right one for Winfield?

My Opinion: After reading Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagements, I just couldn't wait to get my hands on The Importance of Being Wicked and as such, the expectations were very high. So let see how the book worked out for me :)

As it turns out, there was a lot of elements in The Importance of Being Wicked that I enjoyed :)  Obviously, there was the main characters, Miranda and Winfield. It's interesting because in The Importance of Being Wicked, we were shown a different side of Winfield, one that I didn't really expect. Oh, he was still quite charming - but the thing is Miranda saw right through him LOL - and he was also conservative and a bit stodgy. That really surprised me because we hadn't seen that in What Happens at Christmas and Lord Stillwell's Excellent Engagements. Still, it made sense since he took his responsibilities quite seriously... and that's something I liked about Winfield. He embraced his responsibilities, it's where he took refuge after his first broken engagements. It never felt like he was forced into it because he was the heir or because it was expected of him... There was also quite some pride in his accomplishments and therefore, while this new side of him was unexpected, it fit. As for Miranda, I quite liked her... but her personality was a bit mute in comparison to Winfield. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that Miranda was finally finding herself. For years, she's lived a double life: the proper lady with her family and the savvy businesswoman, and she's kept those two lives very separate... but with Winfield, she finally could be the woman she's become. I also liked the fact that she acknowledged she's changed from whom she was when she first married. Anyway, all to say that I think Ms Alexander came up with good characters :)

I also quite enjoyed the romance. I liked it because Miranda and Winfield really took their time, got to know each other. This was very important given that Miranda and Winfield didn't hit it off immediately and it made the romance more believable. I also very much enjoyed Miranda and Winfield's interactions because it was interesting and witty. LOL, I gotta say, I loved how Miranda and Winfield each tried to get the upper hand and it was fun to see Miranda succeeds :) It was also a joy to see Winfield fall in love, just as I predicted it was going to be. Just because he didn't expect it to happen with Miranda and had to work hard at it LOL. I think  better in her review

Finally, what worked the best for me in The Importance of Being Wicked was the dynamics between all the characters and their relationships. I'm not just talking about the H/H, but everyone: Winfield with his cousin, with his parents, Miranda with her sister, with Winfield's mother, etc. The interactions were just fun and really set the tone of the book. They made the story more entertaining with all the LOL moments they provided :) Also, it's nice to have two normal families. Okay, not totally normal as I think some members were a bit quirky, but at least, functional families whose members all got along well and with no dark secrets. It was a very nice backdrop for Miranda and Winfield and allowed them to shine :)

However, as much as I enjoyed The Importance of Being Wicked, I can't help but feel something was missing. Perhaps it's because expectations were very high and I was sooo excited to read this book - anticipation can really kill a book ^_^; At this point though, it's still hard for me to pinpoint exactly what was missing. Maybe more scenes between Miranda and Winfield at the beginning of their relationship to show us how they overcame their first impressions... Maybe recognition from Miranda's part that Winfield wasn't such a scoundrel and was the wronged party in all three broken engagements. Even now, I still can't pinpoint what was missing, but I know it kept The Importance of Being Wicked from being a true wowzer.

My Grade: B. This grade is how I felt after reading The Importance of Being Wicked; however, as I mentioned above, anticipation can kill a book and that's what happened a little for me. It didn't ruin the book, but it took something away :( I suspect was I to re-read the book, I'd enjoy it a lot more, because all in all, The Importance of Being Wicked was a very good book :) It had good characters, a satisfying, slow-building romance and witty dialogues :) I'm definitively looking forward to the next book in the series!!