Helene, the Countess Godwin, knows there is nothing more unbearably tedious than a virtuous woman. After all, she's been one for ten long years while her scoundrel of a husband lives with strumpets and causes scandal after scandal. So she decides it's time for a change -- she styles her hair in the newest, daring mode, puts on a shockingly transparent gown, and goes to a ball like Cinderella, hoping to find a prince charming to sweep her off her feet...and into his bed. But instead of a prince, she finds only her own volatile, infuriatingly handsome...husband, Rees, the Earl Godwin. They'd eloped to Gretna Green in a fiery passion, but passion can sometimes burn too hot to last. But now, Rees makes her a brazen offer, and Helene decides to become his wife again...but not in name only. No, this time she decides to be very, very wicked indeed.
Rounding out her quartet of Regency-era romances (A Wild Pursuit, etc.), James delivers the story of Helene, long estranged from her husband, Rees, who pens comic operas and thrives on scandal. The very proper Helene enjoys the solicitude of the rest of Society until she decides that she wants a child and will have one even if she has to go outside her marriage. Shaken out of his self-involvement by Helene's determination, Rees offers a bargain: he'll father Helene's child, making it legitimate, if she agrees to move into his house for a month and help him with his opera. The catch his current mistress will remain in the house. Rees has a secret, however; he's keeping his mistress there only for her skilled voice, not out of love or even interest in the woman. Bit by bit, Helene and Rees come to terms with the disastrous first year of their marriage, including Rees's lack of skill in the marital bed (which is refreshing for a romance hero), and they begin to wonder if their love can be rekindled. James's zingers aren't as plentiful here as in past novels, but she still fires off a quiver full and solidifies her reputation as a top talent in the crowded field of humorous romances. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 31, 2004
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Excerpt from Your Wicked Ways by Eloisa James
In Strictest Confidence
18 March 1816
The Countess Pandross to Lady Patricia Hamilton
... my dearest, as to what you tell me of the exploits of Earl Godwin, I can only say that nothing will ever surprise me. The former Countess Godwin (who was, as you know, one of my very dearest friends) would turn in her grave if she knew that her son was entertaining opera singers in her house! And I shudder to think that one of these infamous women may actually be living with him. How his poor wife is able to hold her head high, I shall never know. Helene has always showed edifying composure, although I did hear a whisper -- just a whisper -- suggesting that she may request a divorce. I can't imagine how much that would cost, but Godwin must have at least fifteen thousand pounds a year and can probably afford it. At any rate, my dear, what I am truly longing to hear about are your plans for sweet Patricia's debut. Didn't you tell me that you were planning a ball for the weekend of the fifth? Mrs. Elizabeth Fremable tells me ...
21 April 1816
Helene Godwin, Countess Godwin, to her mother, currently residing in Bath
I am most sympathetic to your distress over the continuing debacle of my marriage. I fully recognize that my decision to elope with Rees brought scandal into the family, but I would remind you that the elopement was years ago. I am equally aware that a divorce would be far more grievous. But I beg of you, please accept my decision. I simply cannot continue in this fashion. I am heartsick when I think of my life.
Your loving daughter,
Helene, Countess Godwin
22 April 1816
Rees Holland, Earl Godwin, to his brother, a vicar in the North Country
Things are all right here. Yes, I know that you are fretting over my infamous reputation, but you will simply have to overlook my slurs on the family name. I assure you that my sins are even more plenteous than your pious correspondents have told you. Women dance on top of the table in the dining room daily.
Yours with all proper sentiment,