WICKED PLEASURES, the second offering by the queen of big-ass books Penny Vincenzi, should have been this great love story between the novel and I. Yes, should have been. After the international success of her first oeuvre OLD SINS, which I loved, you’d think the author would deliver the same page-turning experience, with unforgettable characters in very opulent settings. Well think again. Though she tries her best reaching this enthralling plateau, the end result feels more like a damp squib. And it pains me to say so, for I really enjoy her rich but accessible narrative, not to mention her thorough character development and her keen eye for research. No, the novel main problem revolves around the plot itself; a plot that is fine for a few hundred pages but becomes redundant in the long run.
Virginia is a fortunate child. She has wealthy loving parents and a husband who worships the ground she walks on. The only problem is that she gives birth to three illegitimate children while being married. Why is that? Simple: you’ll just have to read the whole 900+ page novel to find out. What I can say is that around the heroine orbits a cast of colorful characters: from a slutty co-worker who only has her eyes for Virginia’s handsome married brother, to Virginia’s privileged children who yearn to know more about their “floozy” alcoholic mum. Because mom drinks. She drinks a lot. I guess I would too if I’d ever been stuck in a loveless marriage. Oops, did I say too much? Not really, for the reason of her unhappiness is much more than a difficult marriage.
The story progresses slowly but surely to the many exchanges between the children and their fathers and to the many life-changing decisions made from those personal encounters. The book also goes back and forth in time to give you a pretty good idea of why the main character does what she does, and in insight I guess I can’t blame her. It must not have been a cup of tea living in that chateau...
Told this way, WICKED PLEASURES may sound peachy but trust me, the novel ends up suffering from an overstayed welcome. The thing I must insist upon, however, is that as much as disappointing WICKED PLEASURES ends up being it never made me want to quit. It just never really caught me like OLD SINS did. Maybe the third book will, for I plan on going through her backlist even if it kills me. I heard good things about them, especially the Spoils of Time trilogy. But to get there I’ll have to go over at least six other novels, I think, which means if each of them is about 900 page long, the grand total of pages read will be around… 5 thous— AHHHH! On second thought, I’d rather go with the flow and see what the next novel feels like instead.
Until next post—Martin