Arriving home from years abroad, he has no idea of his own celebrity until his boat is met by mobs of screaming ladies. Alaric escapes to his father’s castle, but just as he grasps that he’s not only famous but notorious, he encounters the very private, very witty, Miss Willa Ffynche.
Willa presents the façade of a serene young lady to the world. Her love of books and bawdy jokes is purely for the delight of her intimate friends. She wants nothing to do with a man whose private life is splashed over every newspaper.
Alaric has never met a woman he wanted for his own…until he meets Willa. He’s never lost a battle.
But a spirited woman like Willa isn’t going to make it easy…
The first book in Eloisa James’s dazzling new series set in the Georgian period glows with her trademark wit and sexy charm—and introduces a large, eccentric family. Readers will love the Wildes of Lindow Castle!
I have a list of authors that I trust to get me to a happy ending. I wouldn’t call it an “I’d-one-click-that list,” but my ears do perk up every time they release a new book. Eloisa James is one of those authors. While I really wanted to read a sequel to Seven Minutes in Heaven, I sighed and went along for the ride with Wilde in Love. James writes bubbly dialogue, heroines who are capable of knocking your socks off mentally and literally, and great heroes, so I was not disappointed. We also get unexpectedly cute pets, which is a great bonus. Willa and Alaric were protagonists that I enjoyed getting to know separately and as a couple, they have support systems, and fame is dealt with in an interesting manner.
Willa is introduced to us while she’s reading an account by Pliny, a Roman historian. A few pages after that, she’s exclaiming over a new hat with her friend. I think that encapsulates Willa nicely. Willa and Lavinia’s relationship is as follows: “She and Lavinia had presented a resolutely ladylike front for months, saving all commentary, ribald and otherwise, for home. Or, if it couldn’t wait, for whispered conversations in the ladies’ retiring room.” Willa likes logic, while Lavinia is a little more fanciful, and observes people at an emotional level, which isn’t always clear to Willa.
Lavinia starts out the book by adoring Lord Alaric, but, as she tells Willa later on in the book, “I no longer want him for myself—thus my demolishment of his image—but I quite like him, which is far better than worshiping him.” And when Willa is stuck in the situation that you might expect would cause a gently-bred lady to panic, she does not. It’s glorious. (But I can’t tell you, because that would spoil the conflict.) Willa also acquires an unexpectedly cute pet, courtesy of Alaric. It’s a skunk, and I’ll leave it up to Eloisa James to convince you of its cuteness, because I’m not entirely sure how she convinced me. There is also a grumpy cat in this book, so all pet areas are covered. Here are Sweetpea the skunk, the grumpy cat, and Alaric so you can see the cuteness for yourselves.
The basket contained the blighted tomcat Parth had insisted on bringing back from the river. The cat fixed an eye on Alaric, and his single ear flattened against his head as he emitted a threatening rumble that sounded like a far-off thunderstorm.
Nestled in the center of a half-circle of matted orange fur was Sweetpea, her nose resting peacefully on one of the cat’s paws. Alaric took a step closer and the tom’s mangy tail rose in the air and thumped down once.
He emptied the contents of the handkerchief into the basket and stepped away.
Alaric, AKA Lord Wilde, or Lord Alaric, if we’re being correct, is not pleased about his fame. He is especially unhappy with the fame that has come about as a result of “Wilde in Love,” a play that catapulted him into notoriety, and caused many prints (pictures) of him to be produced. He didn’t even know he was famous until he returned to England. Alaric had to escape “…the crowd on the wharf by throwing on Captain Barsley’s hat. None of the women shrieking his name recognized him as he made his way through the crowd, which made the experience all the stranger.” The first meeting between Willa and Alaric is told from Willa’s perspective first, and it goes like this:
… Willa happened to be facing the door when the great explorer was announced, which meant she didn’t shame herself by spilling her tea as she swung about—as did almost every other woman in the room. Willa could hardly blame them. Lord Wilde’s image smoldered from bedchamber walls all over the country, and yet no one ever expected to meet him.
Confronted by the real man, the lady to her right clapped her hand to her bosom and looked as if she might faint.
What stands out most to Alaric on their first meeting is that his brother is hopelessly in love with his fiancée and that she is not. However, Alaric also realizes that he needs to do more to help out his family—not just travel around the world and write about it. He offers to take on more responsibilities multiple times, and eventually we see him working on the books for the estates. But it’s not all serious family helping. His younger siblings draw pictures of him, imitating the prints that are all over England, and put them up all over the castle. So merciless teasing by siblings—check.
This is a bit of a slow-burn book, because while Willa admits that he is handsome, she doesn’t fall in love with Alaric for a while, and she definitely doesn’t agree to marry him for a long time—by the book’s standards. All of this falling in love actually happens rather quickly because they’re at a house party—or castle party, as the case may be. James somehow stretched out the book so that we got to know Willa and Alaric individually and as a couple.
I already talked about Willa and her friend Lavinia, and about the merciless teasing Alaric gets from his younger siblings. Why is she talking about this, you may ask? Because these are signs that Willa and Alaric have support systems—they aren’t just waiting for their sole mate to appear to take care of all their needs as a human being. The nice thing about these support systems is that they mostly blend together once Willa and Alaric officially become a couple. Alaric gets along with Lavinia, and Willa gets along with Alaric’s adoptive brother/best friend Parth. You want evidence?
There was no need to feign interest in Parth’s conversation; after he told her about his purchase of the infamous lace factory, their topics of conversation ranged from the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau to exploration of the territory west of the Ohio River in America, to the war between Britain and the American colonies.
One of the reasons Willa doesn’t want to marry Alaric is because of his celebrity status. Yes, his siblings mock him for it, but it would be hard to marry someone who has pictures of himself all over the kingdom and who gets come on to him wherever he goes. Also, the second conflict that appears in the book drives home that fame can be dangerous. However, Alaric doesn’t stop writing his books, and Willa becomes more outwardly adventurous by the end of the book, which is an intriguing way of resolving the tension. I was also fascinated by how fame in the Georgian period was depicted and comparing it to today’s celebrity culture.
All of that being said, there were a couple of things that I did not like about this book. There is a small amount of slut-shaming going on in the book. Willa’s “rival” is a not very nice woman who really wants to have sex with Alaric. This tension isn’t very long-lived, which was kind of confusing. She was there, being mean to Willa and coming on to Alaric very strongly, and then poof! She was gone, never to be heard from again. Willa gets no shaming for having sex with Alaric before they get married, so I’m not sure why she and Lavinia disliked her, other than because she was mean and shallow. Which is enough of a reason to dislike someone, but maybe not enough to make a substantial conflict in a book.
There was awesome dialogue, cute pets, and friendships, but a little bit of slut-shaming.