REVIEW: Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran

Safely landed in the UK! London Heathrow is a lot smaller than I remember it being – perhaps because of the stretches and stretches of walkway leading from the terminal. Once I got down to the arrivals lounge it seemed like there wasn't enough room for everyone just from my plane.

I'm adopting a review structure – new to me, but not new overall. My darling mother uses a WIN/FAIL review structure, and considering that that's pretty much how I think of the books I read, and we speak like that to each other all the time, I've decided to steal it. You can read her reviews at her VOX blog.

I managed to read Wicked Becomes You on the airplane after having a freakout attack when I realized I'd left my packet of information at school (I have a friend coming to the rescue and bringing it with her – yay for being the first one to arrive and having friends to save your ass). After absorbing myself entirely in her world, and not getting much sleep because of it, my status as a Meredith fangirl remains solid.

While this book takes a turn away from Meredith's usual dark, thought-provoking fare, I was really impressed with her versatility. She handles her hero and heroine, Alex and Gwen, with a dexterity that reminds me of Julia Quinn, only as I imagine her to be after a couple of martinis.

Gwen is the darling of London. She makes an effort to be extra polite to everyone, even when they give her the cut direct. She is stood up at the alter – not once, but twice – despite having quite an impressive fortune of her own left to her by her dead parents and brother.

Alex, our hero, was her brother's best friend and made a deathbed promise to look after Gwen and make sure she was settled properly. We see that he is intrigued by her and on the way to falling in love with her even before she is jilted. Only, once she decides she's sick of being nice after her second fiance leaves her and wants to be bad for a while, Alex is even more intrigued to the point of whisking her away on some pretty fantastic adventures . . . in bed.

Corny fortune cookie references aside, I loved that Gwen was more than just the “good girl gone bad”. She obviously has depth to her, a brain, and a sense of street smarts from trying to survive in the upper class. Her parents were nouveau riche, so she has something to prove for most of her life. And certain things were practically beaten out of her – I won't ruin it for you by telling you what.

The soul-revealing scenes, particularly on Alex's side, made me weep and my heart flutter. I'm one of those persons who doesn't really need the three magic words to believe an HEA; this scene was amazing for Alex's honesty and his obvious devotion to Gwen's happiness. If I had to say one thing that I didn't like as much about this book, it would be that I thought Alex's acceptance of his love for Gwen was just too damn easy. Boy had a lot of baggage, and we didn't really see him struggle with it. Gwen was the one to resist for far longer than was really necessary. Alex was also pretty demanding and insistent towards the end. But the words he uttered were sincere, and Gwen really does have him wrapped around her finger . . . she just doesn't know how to use it yet. We do see that he is completely gaga over her and devoted to her happiness. Just a stubborn ass.

And the sex? Duran's voice is one of my favorites. Steamy, powerful, and heart-rending.

Overall, I'd say this book was a definite WIN.

London Bound!

Well, here I am at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, about to embark on what is sure to be one of the grandest adventures of my life. I remembered almost everything I intended to pack, and will have to live without my Gorillapod (a shame..). I've just had my last Chicago Dog until I return. And I've been browsing my pamphlets to see what exactly I plan to see in my free time.

We have three weeks kind of planned out for us, but after that our time is our own. I was planning on visiting Scotland, North Wales, Liverpool and Dublin for sure. But I'm done in Dublin with oodles of time left.. so I've decided I get to explore on my own for a bit, because I have so much I want to see!

Next year in our program we are developing one-person shows based on one character from a Shakespeare play. I've chosen Margaret of Anjou from the Henry VI plays as well as Richard III. It means I have to memorize three plays' worth of lines, but Margaret will be a good challenge for me. While I'm in the UK I'm hoping to connect to several locations mentioned in the scripts. I'm still making my list because I haven't yet re-read through all of the text, but I'm hoping to have that done by the end of the flight.

Speaking of the flight, besides "homework", I'm planning on at least reading Wicked Becomes You by Meredith Duran. I love Meredith's writing, and I've purposefully been saving her new book for this flight.

I might sleep also. I even have a fancy new neck pillow for just that purpose.

Here's hoping the volcano doesn't keep me down. Next time you hear from me, I'll be in London!

In all seriousness..

Y'all, Nashville is flooding.

My first reaction, as a horrid, selfish human being, was to non-so-gently place my face in my palm and realize that this is what happens when I try to do something cool like go to Romance conferences.

My second reaction was how horrid the damage to this beautiful city is. Now, I've never visited Nashville, but I was really looking forward to it. It is a city of music, and I love music. It has a rich history and a vibrant community. @rwitherell over on Twitter posted this picture of the damage. It's awful, folks.

I've heard that now the Gaylord hotel, where the RWA Conference was to be held, is sending out cancellation notices for reservations for the Conference. While this is an inconvenience, I'm more concerned that the people of Nashville stay safe, and that the city gets back on its feet. If you're able to help, Nashville's public radio station, WPLN, has a post up on their website on ways to do so.

In the meantime, let's hope for some dry weather. And to all of my friends out there - stay safe. Please.

On London and Venice

Let's start with Venice..

Heidenkind over at Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books has announced her Venice Challenge! The challenge is to read six books, of whatever genre you wish, that take place in Venice, Italy. The challenge runs from today (May 1, 2010) to a year from today (May 1, 2011).

I have a preliminary list set up. Some of them may not be specifically in Venice, but I will find that out as I dig into them. They all came highly recommended, so they won't be a waste even if I have to add one later.

Your Scandalous Ways - Loretta Chase
Lord of the Night - Susan Wiggs
The Glassblower of Murano - Marina Fiorato
Wings of the Falcon - Barbara Michaels
The Music of the Night - Lydia Joyce
Veiled Passions - Tracy MacNish
A Notorious Woman - Amanda McCabe
The Defiant Mistress - Claire Thornton
The Venetian Mask - Rosalind Laker

These were recommended on various blogs and websites that I visited. If you're interested, you should first sign up at Heidenkind's Blog, and check out her recommendations. I also found this website, which has a good, long list of fiction set in Venice.

Now, on to London!

My MFA program is the bomb-dizzy. Our first summer, we will be going to London to study for two weeks at Shakespeare's Globe, as well as a workshop at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford. Three weeks total for our program, and then I am going to do a bit of traveling around the island on my own, including a visit to my wonderful family in Scotland. I read voraciously when I travel, and I hope to be able to keep you updated and entertained with photos and reviews while I'm over there. We have some required reading, we will be seeing some productions, and, best of all, we will be working working working.

Also coming up this summer, I will be making an appearance at the RWA Literacy signing in Nashville, and hanging out for the duration of the conference, though I won't be attending panels or anything. I will, however, be attending "unofficial" events as much as possible and exploring Nashville in all its bluegrass glory. I'm also going to the Lilth Fair, and helping a friend out at GenCon, so all-in-all, I will be a very busy traveler this summer.

The rest of my life has some big shoes to fill.