When He was Wicked
Title: When he was Wicked
Author: Julia Quinn
Published: 29th June 2004
Genre: Romance, Historical, Fiction, Regency
Number of Pages: 384
Start Date: 10th March 2022
Finish Date: 25th March 2022
The book follows Francesca Bridgerton, who has been recently widowed and is left feeling depressed and lonely. She longs to start a family of her own but cannot bear to move on from her dead husband. However, a spark ignites within her with the return of her husband’s cousin, Michael Stirling, who has unrequitedly loved Francesca from afar for years. However, feelings of guilt and betrayal prevent Francesca and Michael from pursuing a relationship. The two struggle to come to terms with their conflicting feelings throughout the course of the novel, with many obstacles also being put in their way.
Francesca & Michael's love story is one that takes a while to develop. When we first meet Francesca she is married to Michael's cousin. Due to an unforeseen incident, her husband has passed away. Secretly, over the years Michael has been attracted to Francesca, and now that his cousin wasn't in the picture Michael wrestles with guilt on if it is okay to pursue her. What is happening begins to feel like a somewhat forbidden love since if Michael's cousin hadn't died there would be no acting on their feelings.
Carefree and rakish Michael Stirling has always enjoyed chasing and being pursued by women, but never allowed one into his heart. That all changed when he took one look at Francesca Bridgerton and fell head over heels in love with her. Unfortunately, the occasion of their meeting was a dinner celebrating her forthcoming wedding to John, the Earl of Kilmartin, Michael's cousin and best friend.
Now, four years later, Michael has become the Earl of Kilmartin and Francesca is a widow after John's death. Francesca still sees Michael as a dear friend and he is afraid to shatter that illusion by revealing his feelings. But when Francesca begins to speak of remarrying so that she might have children, Michael realises he cannot stand by and watch her marry another once again. He must woo her himself instead.
I loved the opening and setup of this book. It was bittersweet and rather poignant to see that closeness between Francesca, John and Michael and their grief at John's death was tough to read. Michael, despite his four year absence in India, made an excellent hero and his pining love for Francesca was adorable and so sincere. His running away is something I could understand as a way for him to come into his new identity as the earl and to deal with his grief and guilt at essentially taking his beloved cousin's place in many ways. Michael's interactions with Colin and Violet were lovely and his longing for Francesca was lovely and palpable.
What knocked off stars for me here was Francesca and her utter ridiculousness. In the first part of the book I thought she was great and I related to her quite a bit, but in the latter half it was as if she became a different character altogether in many ways. It made no sense to me that, even after she'd begun to see Michael in a different light than just friendship, she still ran away from him, quite literally and repeatedly, rather than having a conversation with him. She had a closer relationship with him than with anyone else and they shared grief over John so it didn't make sense to me for her character to feel like she couldn't speak honestly with him.
For me Francesca's reticence and withholding of her true feelings and love for Michael up until the last possible moment cheapened this story. All that drama felt like a stilted, artificial filler that didn't really fit the characters. Michael gave so much of himself and displayed such vulnerability and I don't think she ever really reciprocated that. He may have instigated her seduction, but she used him quite a bit to sate her own passions and exploited his emotions quite a bit. I love Michael as a hero and he carried this story for me, but I think he deserved more communication, care, and affection than he really got.
This book fits for the most unique Bridgerton, but it's definitely not my favourite. For me, this one was a little too slow. I didn't love it as much as the other books in the series. But that was bound to happen at some point. Just as we can love a record album but not every song on it is our favourite. The same is true for a book series. A reader can love a series but not every book in the series has to be their favourite.