Thursday, February 23

Review: My Wicked Little Lies by Victoria Alexander

Another week, another buddy review! Yay! Hopefully, we'll be able to keep it up :)

Today, my buddy reviewer is Hilcia from Impressions of a Reader.  I was planning to write a review of My Wicked Little Lies when I found out that Hils was reading it. Immediately, I begged her to join me in this review LOL. The more the merrier right? :) This buddy review is probably the fastest one we've put together LOL. I hope our feelings come across well and that you will all enjoy it!

My Wicked Little Lies by Victoria Alexander
published by Kensington in January 2012

Evelyn Hadley-Attwater has it all--a genteel Victorian life replete with loving husband, ball gowns and elegant parties. No one, including the man she married, suspects that she was once "Eve," a spy for England's most enigmatic intelligence agency. Summoned for one final assignment, the excitement of her former life and memories of her mysterious, flirtatious boss "Sir" prove too tempting...

Adrian Hadley-Attwater is a respectable, dignified gentleman. But even the most proper gentlemen have secrets of their own. Secrets from the rest of the world, from their families, from their wives. Secrets that have a price. Now, as a veil of secrecy frays, a tantalizing game of cat and mouse will test the bounds of unfailing love...
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Sinful Family Secrets series, Book #2

The Story: Evelyn Hadley lost her parents at a young age and spent her formative years in a boarding school. Afterwards, she went on a grand tour with a schoolmate. Once she returned to London, she was recruited to become a spy for England, which suited her well as she was at loose ends. She spent 5 years in service to her queen and her country before retiring to marry Adrian Hadley-Attwater, the new Earl of Waterston.

It has been two years now and Evelyn has enjoyed married life. Everything is perfect... until she receives a summon from her handler - Sir Maxwell Osgood. A file containing documents revealing the structure of the organization and true identities of many spies has been stolen. Because her record has been completely wiped off, Eve becomes the perfect candidate to retrieve this file. Eve is none too happy about the situation, but she has no choice... plus, she owns ‘Sir,’ her superior who looked out for her and whose true identity is revealed in the file. However, she’ll have to proceed very carefully as she has no intention to jeopardize her marriage... and it won’t be easy as Adrian is very clever and observant.

Nath: Oh, I’m so happy I read My Wicked Little Lies! Ms Alexander is my go-to author when it comes to historical romances, but her last two releases were so-so. Thus, I was so happy to hear she started a new series, albeit connected to the other two releases. Anyway, My Wicked Little Lies was a gem! What did you think of it Hils? :)

Hilcia: Nath, I found My Wicked Little Lies to be an amusing, witty historical romance with lovely central and secondary characters. The main protagonists are a happy married couple very much in love with each other. Yet, their life together is also full of those little secrets that eventually lead to misunderstandings, lack of trust, impulsive actions and hurt feelings.

Nath: That's a really lovely way to describe the book, Hils, and definitively spot on! One of the reason I was looking forward to this book was because it featured a married couple - a loving couple that is not newly-weds - as main characters. I thought it was a refreshing premise :) And it worked out really well.

Hilcia: I agree, it’s a great premise! I enjoyed this book, and I loved this couple. I loved the way they loved each other and were willing to do those crazy things to keep each other. Lying included. I thought that Adrian was quite dashing and in all his glory when he was all jealous... even if it was all done because he was insecure. LOL! And I loved that Evie was willing to forgive him even when she was hurt because he didn't trust her. And let’s not forget that she was lying to him too. What a pair!

Nath: I loved them too! They made the book for me. Adrian and Eve matched each other very well, not just physically, but also intellectually and it made for some very witty and fun banter. What stood out for me was their chemistry and dynamics :) And I also really liked how Eve and Adrian knew each other so well and how attuned they were. They notice those little distractions and knew something was up. It's a sign that they paid attention to each other :)

Hilcia: Nath, you said it very well – “they paid attention to each other,” that’s very important for a married couple. It is lovely that the two never really question the fact that they love each other and would never let each other go, even while they work out their "misunderstanding." On the other hand, this deep believe by both of them take away a lot of the tension from the story. As a matter of fact, although there's definitely love and passion, there is no real sexual tension in this story at all, at least not from Evie and Adrian.

Nath: I like it the way Ms Alexander wrote it though. Yes, there was no tension between Evie and Adrian, but it was nice to see a married couple being so solid. Yes, there was a misunderstanding, but it wouldn't drive them apart like it would so many other couples in other books. That's the difference. Also, I thought that the chemistry and the witty banter between Eve and Adrian made up for the lack of sexual tension :)

What did you think of the characters? I really liked Eve and Adrian :) Although I admit that as individuals, I didn’t get much of a sense. But the little I got showed likable and genuine characters. On the outlook, Eve and Adrian are the ultimate aristocrats LOL. Dashing, smart; him fulfilling his duties as an earl and a member of the Parliament, her, her duties as countess and worrying about what to wear, and attending to balls :) However, you usually think of aristocrats as haughty, but Eve and Adrian weren’t. As I mentioned, they were genuine and warm, loved their family... they were normal, everyday people and that’s what I appreciated most. I like tortured, dark characters and angst as much as any other reader... but sometimes, it’s nice to have something different. Plus, writing normal characters and still delivering a great book is something really hard to do :)

Hilcia: I really liked the witty banter between Eve and Adrian. :) And, I think you hit the nail on the head about the characters in this story, Ms. Alexander did a wonderful job of portraying characters that are essentially happy, but working out issues to reach a better understanding.

What did you think about all those lies of “omission,” though? The lies are the central conflict here and the ones that get the ball rolling. They bothered me in the beginning, particularly coming from Evie, later on those niggles went away and that has a lot to do with how Alexander deals with this issue.

But I’m going to begin with Adrian whose actions can be looked from the point of view of being "unforgivable." Yet, for me, his actions reflect those of a man who has always been in control, and because of the love and passion he feels for his wife and some niggling questions about Eve's real reasons for marrying him, acts in a rash and impulsive way when unexpected jealousy strikes. I think the point here is that even the most sensible of men can be irrational when he loves and thinks he might lose.

Nath: I actually didn’t mind the lies of “omission.” I think that everyone - between married spouses, friends, family - have some kind of secrets. Plus, in this case, Eve and Adrian had agreed that the past was the past... and these lies of “omission” in the beginning were related to the past. Also, Adrian wasn’t innocent either :)

While I agree with you that Adrian's actions were "unforgivable," I felt that his actions didn't stem from his lack of faith in Eve... but more doubts in himself. They love each other, he knows that... but even after two years of marriage, Adrian wonders if he was Eve's second choice... And that's what pushed him to act rashly. Also, he was very repentant and so to me, it lessened the severity of his actions. However, have Eve really been unfaithful to him... I think Adrian would have fought for her. Don't you think?

Hilcia: Oh yes, agreed! Adrian would never let Eve go. Eve is lovely and also very much in love. No one blames her for her reaction to Adrian's behavior, but she keeps secrets too. She lies. They are lies of "omission" and she's very good at rationalizing those away. So is Adrian. They both keep secrets and fail to be honest with each other, making them equality guilty in what becomes a mutual "game" of love. A serious one. They are equally at fault for what happens to them.

In the beginning, Eve is deliberately misleading with Adrian, and I believe not a little insensitive. I mean, who tells their man that he is reliable, steady, steadfast, and... well... dull, and expects him to take it as a compliment? And Adrian is just downright devious with Eve.

Nath: No one blames her reaction and really, that's the way she should react. What Adrian has done was really "serious" and he needed to realize that it had consequences :) 

The game between them was actually fun for the readers :) So witty LOL. And you're right, no husband would think that dull is a compliment. Plus, knowing her penchant for adventure, it only furthered Adrian's doubts.

You know Hils, we’ve only talked of Eve and Adrian so far! While the storyline My Wicked Little Lies was very focused on our H/H, there were a lot of other characters and I thought they contributed to make this book better :)

Hilcia: I think the secondary characters are wonderful! Right? I love Max and Celeste and how they work slowly but surely to reach an understanding. This secondary romance is the one that I think provides a slight sexual tension and passion to this romance while Evie and Adrian work out their issues. I think this secondary romance is rather well done, and it doesn’t take away from the central characters.

Max is more than devious! I really like him. And Beryl certainly adds a bit of oomph to certain scenes with her floozy-like behavior and her mindset. Oh, and the Hadley-Attwater family is great! I love the interaction between the siblings and the way they indulge their interfering and very insightful mother.

Nath: Yes, they were wonderful! And I liked their dynamics with our H/H. LOL, it was fun that Celeste didn't want her best friend disturbing her whole and therefore pushed for Eve and Adrian’s reconciliation. And Max was indeed devious! But it was necessary and actually very cleverly done! Had he gone directly to Adrian, I don't think it would have worked. And I think it was well-done by Ms Alexander to introduce this couple to spice things up :)

I also loved the Hadley-Attwater family. They were boisterous, had great bonds between each other and I liked how they were really open to each other and all the in-laws have really been well accepted :) Oh and the mother! She’s really a force to be reckoned and I liked her insight and advices to Eve.

But really, it’s Beryl who stole the show when it came to secondary characters :) Ohhh how I liked her!! She's the type of character that you really dislike and that is too often mean and condescending and all... But once again, Ms Alexander turns the table on the readers and actually makes us love her! :) She was so funny and I think a great friend for Evie :)

Hilcia: Yes, yes, and yes on Beryl’s characterization. Ms. Alexander turns it all around on us and it is so very well done! The whole premise for this story got my attention, and I like the fact the "secret agent" thread is well integrated with the romance -- as a matter of fact it is flawlessly integrated with the romance.

Nath: You know, I wasn't sure how I'd like the “secret agent” aspect of the book. There are just so many spies and agents in historicals nowadays... and upon reading the blurb, I was imagining something like a historical version of Mr.& Mrs. Smith. However, it wasn’t the case - yay! - and it actually really worked well in My Wicked Little Lies. Like you said, it was well integrated with the romance... Also, it wasn't the focus of the book and had nothing to do with the Crown. By the way, what did you think of the twist concerning “Sir” identity? I wished it wasn’t hinted in the blurb... because I think Ms Alexander handled the first part “Lies of Omission” really well and it would have really been a shock :)

Did you have any issues with the book, Hils?

Hilcia: Well, that whole “Sir” identity twist and the “lies of omission” thread are both very well done, they really are. Those could have been a no-no for a lot of readers, but I think Ms. Alexander covers her bases there quite well. I agree with you. However I did have a couple of problems along the way. That lack of sexual tension I mentioned above, plus there is a time when Evie and Adrian are separated for a short period of time, and frankly in my opinion the story suffers and the pace slows down during this section -- it’s around the middle of book. I put the book down and it took me a while to pick it up again when I hit this spot. Thankfully after that it all goes rather quickly and ends up satisfactorily.

Nath: I actually liked the short period they were apart, because they yearn for each other and I thought it was so cute :)

For me, I didn’t really have issues with the book. As I said, it have been more fun if the blurb had given away less... And I also think some parts of the story could have been tighter and more interesting like the intrigue/mystery. But that’s about it for me :)

Hilcia: Well Nath, overall I found the book to be fun, and a bit of a different romance with a married couple that although they think they know everything about each other, find out there's always something new to learn, even after a few years of marriage. It’s a lovely historical romance that left a smile on my face.

Nath: Definitively. It was refreshing, witty and lovely :) I loved Adrian and Eve, their chemistry and banter, as well as all the secondary characters :)

Hilcia: Okay Nath, getting down to the tough part, grades. LOL! I dithered back and forth between a B and a B+ (because it left that smile on my face). However, I thought about it and in the end this is really a B read for me. It is a solid romance with a few problems here and there, but definitely not enough to dim my overall enjoyment of the characters or the story. I recommend it. How about you?

Nath: LOL, I grade with my feelings, so My Wicked Little Lies definitively deserved a B+ in my opinion. Yes, there were some minor flaws, but in the end, I had fun reading and it left me smiling as well :) Really, what can you ask more from a book? :)


Hilcia said...

Nath, thank you SO much for inviting me to buddy up with you for this review. As always, it was great fun!

Christine said...

Well aren't you two quite convincing? I'm very curious about this book now and happen to have a soft spot for "spy" romances so this one is going on the wish list. Thanks for the fun review. :)

Leslie said...

I'm planning on reading this so I skipped to the grades and was happy to see those Bs.

I'm glad you two did the buddy review since now I have two more reasons to read this one. :)

nath said...

Hilcia - No problem Hilcia!! I had fun writing this one too :) Even if it was a little bit tough LOL. I'm just happy to have reviewed this book, because it was really good!!

Christine - LOL, aren't we right? :P This isn't heavy on the spy aspect, but I hope you'll enjoy it :) I'm pretty sure you're going to be enjoying the H/H relationship :)

Leslie - Yay!! Let me know when you read it :) And happy to provide you with reasons :)