Elle's Reviews > Vice

Vice by Jane Feather
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May 31, 12

bookshelves: good-adventure, wanted-the-hero-to-suffer, what-are-they-thinking, illogical-at-times
Read from May 28 to 31, 2012

Juliana is the young bride of a grossly obese old man, who dies on their wedding night during an unsuccessful attempt to consummate the union. Thing is, when she was struggling to breathe beneath his weight, she also whacked him on the back with a hot bedwarmer, so she reckons she's going to be blamed for the death. Her erstwhile husband has an icky son who lusts after Juliana and objects to the settlement his father established for her, which he considers to be his rightful inheritance. She figures he's going to see that she burns at the stake as a murdering wife, so she runs for it.

An innocent in the rough part of London, Juliana is easily caught up in the trap of a nasty madam who gets her to spill her secret (the better to blackmail her with). The madam has her own agenda-the Duke of Redmayne has asked her to find him a virgin who can be bought. He intends to marry her off to his woman-hating, boy-loving, syphilitic cousin. The cousin is dying and as he has no issue his estate and title would go in an undesirable direction. Tarquin (the duke) plans to establish the bridal couple in his manse, where he will make the bride his mistress and sire an heir for his cousin.

Juliana wants no part of the madam's plans for her, and less part of Tarquin and his scheme, but they blackmail her into cooperation, using the prospect of being burned at the stake as leverage.

And here's where the logic falls apart. On one hand, Tarquin is adamant that, once Juliana is established as his cousin's wife, she can no longer associate with the women she befriended when she was prisoner in the whorehouse because of the associations. He wants her reputation to be above reproach. But while she was a prisoner, he had her forcibly brought to a party where she met other men of society as a whore. Trying to figure out why there was no concern that THIS would get out.

Moreover, did he not think that as the sudden bride of a man who was notoriously gay and notoriously dying of the pox, Juliana is not exactly going to be society's ideal young woman anyway? Especially when she sleeps in his house every night while her "husband" is off buggering altar boys--and she turns up pregnant? Just tryin' to sort it all out.

(view spoiler)

Meanwhile, Juliana's stepson finds surprising allies as he tries to bring her home to burn.
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