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A Mad, Wicked Folly

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Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

384 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 23, 2014

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About the author

Sharon Biggs Waller

8 books414 followers

Sharon Biggs Waller is the recipient of the Friends of American Writers award and the author of A Mad, Wicked Folly (Viking) and The Forbidden Orchid (Viking), both of which have garnered multiple starred reviews and awards. Her upcoming novel is a young adult contemporary called Girls on the Verge (Holt, April 2019). She's also a magazine journalist and has written several non-fiction books about horses—The Original Horse Bible (Fox Chapel Publishing), Advanced English Riding (Lumina Media), and In One Arena (Half Halt Press). Previously, she worked as a riding instructor at the Royal Mews in Buckingham Palace. In addition to writing, she is a dressage rider and trainer and Planned Parenthood volunteer. She lives on a ten-acre sustainable farm in the Midwest with her husband, Mark.
Visit her at www.sharonbiggswaller.com

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 852 reviews
January 28, 2014
I never set out to pose nude. I didn’t, honestly.
Oh, what was that? I'm sorry. Did your clothes accidentally fall off by themselves? Were you wearing the Emperor's New Clothes? Oh, wait, no. You took off your clothes to prove that you're the equal of all the male artists despite the fact that the thought of stripping naked makes you want to run away in terror. If they jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?

Oh, but Vicky does it voluntarily. So voluntarily that she fucking trembles as she walks to the front of the room.
“I’m not forced.” I wouldn’t say that I wasn’t afraid, because I would be lying. My legs were trembling so much I was surprised my knees didn’t clack together.
I started to undo my blouse, but my hands shook and my fingers slipped off the buttons.
This scene made me so completely uncomfortable.

There is defying standards, there is setting your own way, and then there is utter stupidity with reckless disregard for others and for yourself.

There is feminism, there are women involved in winning the votes in this book. Vicky is not one of them. The main character in this book uses the Women's Right Movement in England to further her own causes, she is not a suffragist, she is not a feminist. Vicky wants to draw the suffragettes, and she wanted a recommendation from one of their leaders to go to Art school.

What was meant to be a story about a charming, headstrong girl confined by the standards of early 20th century England took a dreadfully wrong turn. I like it when my heroines are flawed. I don't like it when there is nothing to my heroine but flaws. For me, this was the frustrating story of a spoiled little rich girl who is contrary, who is unthinking, who is oblivious to anyone but herself, who cannot look beyond her privileged nose, for whom everything is about ME ME ME. Fuck everyone else.

She cheats on the men who care for her. She is judgmental. She defies her family and almost ruins them. She is snobby and class-privileged while claiming equality. She steps over people to get what she wants. A feminist? Hardly. By the time she tries to grow up, I had had quite enough of her, thank you very much.

The Summary: Victoria (Vicky) Darling strips naked to pose for an atelier full of male artists in France. It wouldn't be such a big deal except for the fact THAT IT IS. This is 1909. Painting professionally is an unacceptable profession for a woman, and stripping yourself nude to pose for men? Unspeakable. Unforgiveable in the eyes of society.

Vicky is almost ruined by the scandal. She is sent home to England in disgrace. In order to save her from further embarrassment, and to save her family from the scandal, Vicky agrees to be married off to a comfortable, agreeable young lord, Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. After her marriage, she will be able to do what she pleases, like attend the Royal College of Arts (RCA).

In order to get acceptance to the RCA, Vicky needs to have a portfolio. Never mind the fact that she can't even paint in oil and she's barely had any instruction, Vicky sets out to establish herself and build her portfolio. She needs a subject. Vicky zooms in on the Suffragist movement in England. These are women and men fighting against Parliament and society in order to give women in England the right to vote. To Vicky, these women are art subjects.

Against her will, Vicky gets herself entangled in the world of the suffragists amidst her coming-out, while becoming embroiled in a cheating love triangle.


Where the Fuck are Her Chaperones? Seriously, where the fuck are they? As a high schooler with strict parents, I was more supervised than Vicky ever was, and lest we forget, VICKY IS A WEALTHY YOUNG WOMAN LIVING IN THE EARLY 20TH CENTURY. She is supposed to be watched at all times. She is supposed to have a lady's maid. She is supposed to have a chaperone with her at all times, when her mother is not there herself. WHERE THE FUCK ARE THEY? Nobody fucking notices when Vicky disappears. The very fucking second she gets home from her disgrace in France, she slips out the window.
My mother might have forbidden me to walk out the front door.
But she had said nothing about the window.
She gets in trouble. She gets arrested for a night. NOBODY FUCKING NOTICES. Vicky sneaks out to paint Will. Excuses, excuses, excuses. What chaperone? What tea parties? Vicky has more fucking freedom to do whatever the fuck she wants because it seems that nobody watches her at all. She has time to slip away for fucking day trip with lover boy Will. NOBODY NOTICES. She goes unchaperoned to chill with Will. NOBODY NOTICES. She slips off to kiss Will at his apartment. NOBODY NOTICES. It's the early 20th century, people!

Fucking Brazen Hussy Of a Cheater: Vicky cheats on her fiancé. Not only does she just walk into an amazing engagement (more of a business arrangement) with an agreeable, eligible young lord, but she also attracts the attention of other men, among whom is the handsome young police constable, Will.

And never the twain shall meet.
I realized that maybe the antidote lay in telling Will I was engaged. But how to begin? I would just say it: Will, I’m engaged. No, that was too blunt. How about: Actually, I forgot to tell you something. It’s so funny that I haven’t said anything before. I’m getting married in three months’ time. No, that was worse.
So much worse that she doesn't tell Will at all.

Edmund doesn't know about Will. Will doesn't know about Edmund. Vicky has the best of both fucking world. She gets to go to high society teas and balls and Oxford vs. Cambridge rowing parties with Lord Edmund while slumming it with Will and his low-rent ways, including a quaint fucking day out with his adorable farming family, in which she gets to play the gracious Lady of the Manor, distributing largesse to her people and making herself out to be an arrogant little prick while she's at it.

It is downright cheating. Vicky has been engaged since the beginning of the book to Edmund. She poses Will nude, in order to paint him. But oh, my, an objective artist, Vicky is not. She is fucking turned on by her own subject's nudity. Some fucking artist you are. Some fucking aspirations, when you can't paint your own subject without getting your fucking panties moist.
It felt different with Will. I had studied the other models with an artist’s scrutiny. But with Will, I longed to see him without his clothes. If I were honest, I’d admit I’d even imagined him without his clothes on before.

Vicky paints Will in the nude at her future home, the home that her fiancé purchased for their life together. That's just fucking disgusting. You would bring a man with whom you are falling in love to the sanctity of your future household? She even contemplates cheating on Edmund after their marriage.
And the more I thought about it, the longer the list of famous artists marrying or having affairs with their models grew. One didn’t have to act on that impulse. I certainly wouldn’t marry or have an affair with mine.
I thought I would feel better at that realization, but somehow I didn’t.
People are Merely Means To an End: Vicky uses people. She tramples over people. She does not have friends, she does not have lovers, people are merely objects to be used and discarded in order for her to get what she wants. She uses her fiancé, Edmund, for his money, for the fact that marriage to him will bring her freedom to do what she wants. Love does not come into the equation. Edmund is a walking tuition check to the Royal Academy of Arts.
We’ll announce your engagement after the king’s first court in June. You will have a wonderful life with Mr. Carrick-Humphrey. Just think of it.”
But all I could think about was my college tuition paid.

She uses her lady's maid, Sophie. Sophie has to do what she wants. Sophie has no choice. Sophie is in a precarious position as a servant, if she does not do what Vicky tells her to do, if she does not allow Vicky to do whatever she wants, Sophie will lose her job and her livelihood. In the early 20th century, a woman without a man to support her, and without a job and reference will end up in very, very bad places. Vicky is a fucking bitch for even thinking of blackmailing Sophie in her position.
“My mother employs you, and your loyalties must lie with her, after all. But know that if you tattle on me, then I’ll tattle on you."
She uses the young police constable with whom she is falling in love. She wants him for a muse. She wants to draw him naked. She never, ever tells him the truth---that she is engaged to another man. Vicky lets Will fall in love with her and uses him for her art, knowing she can never be his.

Fuck My Family's Reputation: Vicky's family is not blue-blooded. They are very, very wealthy, but they are working class. They made their money through plumbing. Her father, her strict, hardworking father is entirely self-made. He brought himself up from nothing, he works so hard to gain a reputation, and Vicky thinks nothing of dashing her family name to the ground and ruining her family's status in society. She cost her father the longed-for royal warrant for the business...
“Northbrook had been paving the way for Dad to gain a royal warrant. But now, because of your actions, he may have lost his chance.”
And then she keeps on pulling her stunts with reckless disregard for her family.
"...[it] means more than a scandal, Victoria. It means the end to Darling and Son. Father has much to lose."
For a Fucking Feminist, You Sure Are Snobby and Judgmental: Vicky is outraged at the cage around her. She is so upset at the fact that society is unfair that she is perfectly willing to look upon others as lower-class than herself. Are you fucking kidding me? Vicky has a lady's maid named Sophie. She is her one good friend. A confidante, one who completely understands her. Except that Sophie can't be her friend because they're not of the same social class!!
But as lonely as I felt, and as much as I liked her, Sophie was my lady’s maid. Even though I called her by her Christian name, she wasn’t my friend.
Oh, and Sophie, don't you dare act uppity to your fucking mistress!
“Sophie, you overstep yourself!” I hissed. “You’re my lady’s maid, not my confessor!”
And the man she loves? Oh, it's such a shame that he has no money. That he's working class. Give me a break. It is one thing to want a change for yourself, I admire a woman who will fight for injustice, but it is one thing to fight for yourself, it is another thing entirely to completely disregard others and to see your own battle as superior.

I'm the Only Real Artist EVAR Because I Can Paint. Fuck All Other Art Forms: "My mother had an artistic bent herself, but she turned her talents to the decorative, drawing her own patterns for needlework, painting the odd watercolor landscape for the hallway. She could never understand what it took to become a real artist."


Feminism? What's That? Can I Eat It?: Vicky? Feminist? HA! What kind of feminist would degrade other women? She hates her sister-in-law, Lucy, because Lucy is content with her position in life as wife and mother.
A painfully soppy person if there ever was one. How my fun, handsome brother got saddled with her I shall never know.
A feminist does not hate other women, a feminist does not disregard other women's choices as inferior to her own should another woman choose a more traditional path in life. Vicky looks down on her mother for the same choices, for the fact that she chooses not to pursue art, and instead chose the path of wife and motherhood.

A feminist does not look down on others. A feminist does not call a pregnant woman FAT.As much as I disliked Rose, she was not at fault for getting so fat.You shouldn't be thinking of her as SO fat in the first place. Her sister-in-law is fucking pregnant.

Everything She Farts is Magic: Even her MISTAKES are fucking adorable. Vicky gets presented at court. She almost trips on her heels. Isn't that so cute. The king of England loves it! Well, aren't you a fucking special snowflake!
“I shan’t forgive you,” he said in a gruff voice, “for you’ve done nothing wrong. You’ve quite made my evening. Makes a change from the usual parade of utterly proper debutantes that parade in front of me year after year. They all look the same, but you—you I shall remember! Who is your family?”
I Want Everything Handed to Me on a Fucking Silver Platter: Vicky cannot contemplate a lifestyle outside of her own privileged life. She wants everything. She wants a fabulous career in art, but she wants it to be financed. Her father, her husband, it doesn't matter. Someone has to support her extravagant lifestyle, and she doesn't want to be a starving artist. There are very, very limited options for a young well-born woman of her era. Something has to give, but that something is not Vicky. She wants it all.
I spent the day doing exactly what I wanted to do. This was the life I wanted. No crushingly boring social-etiquette classes to take or deadly dull tea parties or idiotic social functions to attend.
She wants the money, the life, the love, without the responsibilities. She is willing to marry for money, and fucking whines about having to marry for money because she can't get what she wants otherwise. That's fucking immature.

Vicky has limited options, I am aware of that. However, she is unrealistic about it. She holds herself to a different standard. She is immensely, intensely unlikeable.

Despite the book's premise of feminism and freeing oneself from society's boundaries, this book failed to execute the message. I did not like it, and I absolutely hated the main character.
Profile Image for Delee.
243 reviews1,106 followers
January 24, 2014

This is Sharon Biggs Waller's first fiction novel, and what a fantabulous debut it is!!

The title- perfect. The cover-stunning. I was hooked from the first page...

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Victoria Darling has wanted to be an artist ever since she set eyes on John William Waterhouse's painting- A Mermaid- and for awhile the naive seventeen year-old thinks her dream will be realized.

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Unbeknownst to her parents- while Vicky is supposed to be attending a finishing school in France- she is actually sneaking out in the afternoons to an art class. Everything is going smoothly until one day the female model doesn't arrive and Vicky decides to take her place-posing for the class- sans clothing. It doesn't take long for word to spread. She is quickly found out, and sent home to London where her parents give her an ultimatum. Enter into an arranged marriage, or be sent away to live with her aunt in the middle of nowhere. After careful consideration Victoria decides on the marriage option, but secretly she has plans of her own. One way or another she is going to art school with or without her parents consent.

Victoria just wants the same rights as her brother- Freddy- who was allowed to choose his own path, and on her journey to freedom of choice- she meets some like-minded women in The Suffragettes. A group of woman fighting for the right to vote- a group a women that will give Vicky hope, that as a woman she should, and can, have everything she has dreamed of.

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I adooooored Victoria Darling and her quest to find happiness. She starts off as a naive, somewhat spoiled child, and grows into a mature informed young woman right before your very eyes. A MAD, WICKED FOLLY is a breath of fresh air and sunshiny goodness- suitable for young and old!

First-read advanced copy giveaway.

Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
858 reviews3,756 followers
June 29, 2018
I don't remember why I marked this as want to read, but I ended up reading this because I asked for random numbers on Twitter to choose my TBR and this is one of the books chosen. I tend to have a hard time enjoying most historical fiction, but I really enjoyed this!

There is a case of the main character often saying she isn't like other girls, which is mostly turned around by the end. Women supporting women is a major theme. Though the story revolves around the suffragette movement in London, intersectionality is not explored in the book's feminism. I did enjoy the message of activism and showing up and how the character in that time period explored what this meant for her and her skill set.

The romance is typical of this genre: upper-class-lady-falls-for-working-class-guy. I have to say that the one thing audiobooks have always lacked for me is chemistry in romances. It just never gives me the flutters the same way as when I read it myself. UNTIL NOW. I could actually feel the tension through the narrative, so I'd have to say I felt the author did a good job writing the romance.

Not my usual choice of genre, not one I even remembered why I wanted to read it. But a very pleasant experience for what it was!

Content: Arranged marriages. Classism. Sexism. Cheating. A father slaps his child. Gambling.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,230 reviews1,651 followers
January 2, 2014
There’s a special place in my heart for the books that leave me with a huge, goofy grin on my face. Seriously, you should see me right now, because I look like a fool. And I am one hundred percent okay with that, because this book was so fluffy and feminist and wonderful. A Mad, Wicked Folly exceeded all of my expectations, managing to be both hilarious, romantic and to make more serious points all at once.

Read the full review at A Reader of Fictions.
Profile Image for Gillian.
458 reviews1,079 followers
January 24, 2014


Originally posted at Writer of Wrongs

Rating: A delightful and romantic historical novel. A must-read!

This book! Oh, I adored this book. It's everything I want in a historical novel. It focuses on characters and plot and never bogs you down with historical information. The information just seeps into your brain as you read, and you're never bored for a minute. I read most of this book on a plane, and I'll say it kept me quite entertained, and that I think I scared my seatmate a bit with all the squealing and clamping of the book to my heart.

We first meet Vicky, our plucky, artistic heroine in boarding school in France. She's got a lot of artistic talent, and what's more, she's got drive, determined not to let limitations imposed upon her gender inhibit her (that's my girl). So of course, she volunteers to pose nude for the all-male art class she's not supposed to be a part of, and of course there is une scandale magnifique, and Vicky is sent home to London in disgrace. It's all great fun, and the best part about it is that Vicky really is very honey badgerish about it. She don't give a shit. She just wants to draw, okay? She's a bit reckless and extremely stubborn, but she's also funny and brave and my God, I love this girl. She's not afraid to speak her mind, and she makes a hilarious accidental drunk. And I love that she's determined to take charge of her own life.

Her wealthy (and misogynistic) parents are determined to make a lady of her and have arranged to marry her off, but Vicky's set on getting into art college. As she tries to achieve her dreams in a world in which women are not meant to dream, she crosses paths with the suffragettes, aka the female protestors endeavoring to win the right to vote. That's right. Any time you watch a gorgeous period drama and get taken in my the lavish costumes and the courtesy and what not, and think you'd like to live in that time, read this book and realize that, if you're female, you'd basically be an object that gets passed around from man to man and has no say in... well, anything.

I loved the suffragists. Loved, loved, loved. There was so much fun and swoon (more on the swoon later), but this book also touched on serious issues affecting women in 1909. While British History is my most beloved nerd-topic, I'll admit to not knowing too much about Emmaline Pankhurst and her brethren besides the fact that they're Mrs. Banks' sisters.

Vicky becomes more and more drawn into their cause, and I fell more and more in love with her. Vicky, my GIRL. Also, the art bits. As someone who's also done art her entire life, I could relate completely to her artistic drive and the way she'd become absorbed in her sketches. Her desire to conquer paint, a medium, she's not yet comfortable with. The desire to be taught. The desire to draw certain subjects (she gets an overwhelming urge to draw the suffragettes, which starts this whole thing off). Vicky's artistic talent was incorporated very naturally and wonderfully into the plot and really helped round out her character.

Okay. Swoony swoons. All the swoony swoons. Vicky is engaged to be married to a wealthy young man, Edmund, and though she realizes he's not as wretched as he could be, she crosses paths with a handsome, working-class police constable named Will, who... well, I think I need a moment.

I really don't want to tell too much, because the wonder of this story is watching Vicky discover herself and find independence in a world that's determined not to let her. But you should know there is also a very cute boy who supports her dreams, and there's nothing more romantic to me than that. If you're anything like me (and you shouldn't be, I'm a bit insane when it comes to ships. You might have noticed), you will squeak and squeal and grin like a mad person basically whenever they make eye contact.

Obviously, I loved this book. Get thee to a bookstore, fool! You need this book in your life.

Profile Image for Meg.
209 reviews348 followers
January 9, 2014
4.5 stars

I’m sitting here trying to figure out what was my favorite bit of A Mad Wicked Folly. It’s quite difficult because this book is fantabulous from all angles and I can’t really pinpoint what, if anything, rises above the rest.

Vicky, the protagonist, is amazing. She’s stubborn, she’s sassy, she’s a tad naive and she’s brave as all hell. Seriously, she poses nude for her life drawing class in the first chapter. Not to be scandalous or anything like that, but because the model flakes, everyone but her has taken a turn at this point and dammit why shouldn’t she? She’s an artist first, woman second.

“There can’t be two sets of expectations, one for them and one for me, the only girl in class. How will I earn their esteem if I don’t pose?”

Full review on Cuddlebuggery.
182 reviews21 followers
July 11, 2019
Not just a Goodread, but a great read! This spoke to me in so many ways. When at university I took a Women's Studies course there and learned the basics. Also, Gloria Steinem came and spoke. This book will let you in and draw you out.
Profile Image for Giselle.
1,057 reviews906 followers
September 6, 2022
An Advanced Reader Copy was provided by the publisher for review. Quotes pulled from the ARC may be incorrect and may be subject to change.

The description on the back of A Mad, Wicked Folly doesn’t do this book any justice. It’s a must-read for any female who wants to educate themselves in the suffragette movement. A time in history where women were subjected to such inequality.

I can’t believe the way it was back then. How women were meant to such harsh conditions. To think that you needed a man to get by? It’s appalling! I can completely understand how Vicky would have felt. She was independent or wanted to be. I’m so glad she did what she wanted. Admirable in a character! I love the scene where Vicky realizes all these standards could change for her niece. That she wanted to do something about it to show her what could be done. After Vicky, I just loved Will. He was supportive, kind and such a gentleman. He’s another character that I truly loved.

The setting is perfect. The dialogue read just like the Edwardian era it was set in. I love that. Only because I didn’t find any modern words while they were talking. It’s very hard to keep the character and their dialogue set in an another time, I though Walker did a wonderful job expressing the character’s emotions and thoughts. Loved the vivid rich details of the clothing as well. It’s not every day you have to wear a corset. So well written and it might have been slow (only to gain more character development) in the beginning, but the pages fly by.

I loved everything about this book. The way you’re fully immersed in Vicky’s world. And how different everything is. I pictured all the dialogue in British accents even!

Even if you’re not a historical fiction fan, you will be after reading this.
Profile Image for Louisa.
497 reviews364 followers
January 26, 2014
“Why is it so absurd? I can illustrate as well as any man. These are modern times, and women are still treated as nothing but pretty dolls or lapdogs!”

(4.5 stars)

It's a mad, wicked folly how few people seem to know of this. Picture a wonderfully written historical YA with incredibly strong main and supporting characters, set in a time when women's rights were basically non-existent. The suffragette movement, the romance, the writing, the setting, Vicky (the MC)'s progress as both a character and a girl in an oppressive period, the loving way Waller describes Vicky's art… I just adored this so much (as evidenced by the fact that I finished this in a day)!

Have I mentioned the romance? OH PC FLETCHER/WILL. <3

What are you waiting for? Get this now! Read it and then tell all of your friends! If it helps, Leila Sales edited this book. Leila Sales is wonderful. This book is wonderful. WALLER, PLEASE WRITE MORE BECAUSE I WILL GOBBLE IT ALL UP.
Profile Image for Luisa.
60 reviews263 followers
October 10, 2015
Necesitaba leer algo así desde hace mucho tiempo.
''Y, por último, un humilde gracias a las sufragistas que tanto lucharon y se sacrificaron por los derechos de todas las mujeres''.
¡Pronto os hablaré de él!

511 reviews210 followers
January 23, 2014

Hello-YOLO, my Ford Cortinas, I hope you aren't rusting just yet! For my devotion to you runs deep as the Pacific Ocean, I usher you all in to another week of Stuti's Displayiosity of Fabulosity, wherein you'll be self-amazed to electrocution by the amounts fabulosity egressing from the orifices I like to call reviewing space! AND I shall be talking in exclamation marks! (With the more-than-occasional full stop.)

I could fit right in with the blokes, but I prefer not to.

THIS. This is what you get if you heed my advice, and go on to slurp and turp and read A Mad, Wicked Folly.

1909, suffragettes engaging in this mad, wicked folly of "Women's Rights," bending her poor feeble sex and forgetting every sense of womanly feelings and propriety! Rich, white dudes and their wives turning down noses and other assets at these wicked women! It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world. On one hand, the decadent and opulent are mastering the art of sucking up, following fashion and maintaining an upturned nose! On the other hand, women(with some men) are working in secret and rallying in public. ON THE OTHER foot, Vicky poses nude for a French art class she attends in sub rosa, gets caught and shipped back to England to fester in the captivity of her outright anti-feminist parents.

So she meets suffragettes, gets arrested, draws more naked people and is engaged to a fuck up. Your basic grounding.

And on a tiny eyelash(like mine! Seriously, I might as well have none, they're so tiny and invisible!), a sweet, cute romance going on and being put on pause with a writer/policeman.

While it's usually everyday I read a book and I pump my fists to heaven I know not, it's certainly not everyday that I read a book, grinning like a loony loon at a loon party, and pump my fists to heavens I mighta justa tasted. Especially when it comes to historical fiction. However my lotiony, creamy lotions, GIRL POWER!

And yes, there is some of this. Well not exactly, but there IS! THERE IS SO MUCH!

Vicky is a cute, adorable, willful girl who believes in the Suffragette Movement but doesn't want to join it for she believes as an artist, she can only focus on her art. Even after she's arrested. And sneaks out, and runs, and dances but she gets her head straight and I'll get to that- no, actually, I won't but you will, soon as you read ze book.(No eefs, not buts.(Sorry, French people!)) And at the end of the day, she's a protagonist to root for at every stroke of la brosse!

My one peeve is that for a major duration of the book, Victoria's character remains unchanged, unwavering. She wants what she wants, she believes she can get it, she has her moments of doubt and she's a well-rounded character but from start to finish, there's very little change in her. But she was fabulous the way she was, so what I'm grumbling about I know not.

Besides her, there are oozes and oozes of fabulosity- Sophie, the Americana Lucy, the real Sylvia Pankhurst(is this what they call love? Swoon!), Harry, Will. I have developed a healthy respect for all these characters- especially the ones who played a part in MY history as a woman, the ones I don't know, the ones who are real, the ones who suffered for me and us to such extents.

We modern women are fortunate to have had such brave souls fighting to give us the vote. -Sharon Biggs Walker

And the romance! Swoooooooooonnnnn encore! That's ALL I'm willing to say(he was so willing to help in the classes!).

Another lovely thing about A Mad, Wicked Folly was the atmosphere- never, ever was there a lack. If not the oppressive air of her home, it was the artist breaths she lived on. Or her zeal at doing what she loved and dancing with Sohpie and drawing- no more. Or it was the fervor and camaraderie and dedication of the suffragettes that made me want to join them.

A Mad, Wicked Folly sure as hell made me mad, angry and all the variants, but more than that, it had me grinning and loving and respectful to one and many.

I'm sorry but my little cousin is BUGGING me with her flying kisses so me has to go. Goodbye and don't forget to breathe in my dust, vacuum cleaners!

For opportunity is nothing if you don't grave it with both hands.

Love, love, love to them people at Viking Juvenile!
Profile Image for Debby.
583 reviews540 followers
April 17, 2021
5 stars

One of my goals for 2014 was to finally read some historical fiction. I don't know what held me back from the genre, to be honest. I eat up historical fiction movies and TV series and adore them, but it never really occurred to me that I could also read some. Anyway. Enter A Mad, Wicked Folly. It popped up on my radar because of the lovely Christina and Gillian. Their reviews got me extremely pumped, and the synopsis sounded awesome, so I was all for it. It went on my most anticipated 2014 debuts list, and I even pre-ordered a copy. When it got here, I started reading it the very same day. (It did help that this book is one of the most aesthetically beautiful books I've ever owned.) Nothing could stand in the way of me and this book, and nothing did. With all that excitement and those high expectations, how did the book fare? It is my favorite book of the year so far and will almost certainly remain on my 2014 favorites list.

First of all, probably my favorite part of A Mad, Wicked Folly is the writing. I absolutely love Sharon Biggs Waller's writing style. It is just amazing. Her prose felt extremely authentic for the time period. It felt British. It felt like it was from the early 1900s. I loved that. But not only that, she just finds the most beautiful combinations of words and phrases ("You look as though magic has taken hold of you." *melts*). I didn't want to stop reading this for a second. I actually grabbed post-its(!!) after 26 pages to start marking some beautiful quotes and passages, which, honestly, I have never done before. And this for a debut author! I can sense there will be author stalking in my future, and I regret nothing.


But anyway. The story focuses on Vicky, an aspiring artist from a well-off family, who gets expelled from her finishing school after posing nude in her art class. To mitigate the scandal this causes, her parents want to marry her off as soon as possible. Her only wish in life, however, is to go to art school and one day be able to exhibit her art. I absolutely loved the artistic part of this story. Vicky is very passionate about it, and when she describes techniques used in types of artworks, it gave me a better appreciation of art. I know nothing about art, to be honest, but I felt like I learned something here, and it really opened my eyes. But also the way she talks and thinks about her desires to work on nothing but her artwork was absolutely beautiful. (Again that also reflects this beautiful writing style. *gush*) I clearly need to find more books about artists, because between this and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, it's clearly an element that I love to read about.

Overall, Vicky is a character I loved straight off the bat. Not only was her love for art inspiring, but her personality is sassy, and she is strong and independent. It only took a couple of pages for me to know that I loved her. She fights for what she wants, she keeps a cool and logical head, and just all around yes!

"If I'm going to be a student here, treated on equal terms, then I have to be willing to do everything that they do," I said. "There can't be two sets of expectations, one for them and one for me, the only girl in the class. How will I earn their esteem if I don't pose?" - A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Obviously, her desire for rights, equality, and freedom clashes with the time period and with her family's status. She's expected to do nothing in life except get married, raise children, run the household and pay too many social visits to count. Well, that's not what she wants in life. This gets her caught up in the suffragette movement, which I honestly wasn't really expecting from the book beforehand (as per usual, I cast the synopsis out of my memory). But I absolutely loved it. It was a really well-researched and intriguing representation of a historical period that I honestly didn't know too much about. I felt really connected to the story and what all the suffragettes were going through, and I found myself cheering for them. I'm not a big feminist by any means, but hell yes to this story and to these characters. I think it's a very empowering story for women, so seriously, all of you, read this.

So while this story isn't romance-centric, there is romance, and may I just say that it is unbe-freaking-lievably amazing, adorable, attractive, addictive and awesome? Honestly when I was done with the book, the only remotely negative thing I could say was that I wished there was more romance. But that would have detracted from the rest of the story, so I don't even care. WOW, does Sharon Biggs Waller know how to write slow-burn beautiful chemistry. I am an addict and I need my fix. She used exactly the right tropes to get me to ship this from the first encounter. Will is just an awesome character right off the bat. He is the dream. That's it. Strong, silent, supportive... The further I read, the deeper I fell in love with him.

Without any warning, tears filled my eyes. No one had ever given me such a kind and thoughtful gift before. I pictured Will going into the shop, looking over the books, and then discovering the very one he knew I would love. I even pictured him watching as the clerk wrapped the volume in brown paper. I wondered if the clerk had tied the green bow on it or if Will had gone into a notion shop and chosen it himself. These were all small things, but kindness was built of small things. - A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

There's one chapter around the middle of the book that was just so beautiful regarding the romance that I honestly wanted to cry. I cannot help myself. I ship it like FEDEX. I am not okay.

Then I knew: this wasn't just a passion I felt for my model. My feelings about him had nothing to do with how his looks inspired me; he was far more than a muse. With every stroke of pencil and crayon, I had drawn Will into my heart.

I was in love with him. - A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller


Summing Up:

I could go on about all the different ways I love this book all day, but I think you get the point. This awesome and empowering story about art and women's rights, set in a wonderfully depicted London in 1909, boasts a powerful main character, beautiful supporting cast, and an addictive romance, which is all complimented by one of the most beautiful writing styles I've yet encountered. It evoked all of the feels: I laughed, I wanted to cry, I flailed, I cheered. I devoured this book and can hardly say anything but that I want more from this author. My heart demands it.

GIF it to me straight!

most wonderful story belle gif

Recommended To:

asdfjkl; I can't help but say EVERYONE.
Profile Image for Mel (Daily Prophecy).
1,079 reviews465 followers
July 8, 2015
4.5 starts.

It must have been so frustrating for women to feel so unappreciated. It's amazing how they kept fighting for their voice and place in life. Vicky's constant fight for her own future and dreams tugged at my heart and I admired her strength.



This book came highly recommended by one of my friends and book club members: Debby, so I was thrilled when I got a copy from Daisy last December. I always like historical fiction (and I don’t read enough of them!) and look at that pretty cover. This book didn’t disappoint with all it’s women power.

This book is pretty much everything I look for in a historical fiction. Sharon manages to create a setting that felt very authentic to me. Her descriptions made it easy to get swept away to a time period where women had no rights and their only prospects was getting children and taking care of the household. Every ambitious dream was immediately suppressed with the idea that their only talent should be: obedience to their husband. Her writing-style seemed to capture the essence really well and I felt the frustration from Victoria and the WSPU (suffragette movement).

But the best part for me was our main character. Victoria, also known was Vicky, has one goal and that’s becoming an artist. When word leaks out that she posed nude in front of her art class, Vicky is send home with a scandal. Her father has only one way to deal with the situation and that is marrying her off to the only guy who still shows interest in her. Let’s not talk about the fact that this guy has the personality of a paper sheet and the spine of an earthworm, all wrapped inside a gorgeous body and handsome face. I disliked everything he represented. Vicky is not enamoured by him, but more by the idea of the freedom he could give her during their marriage.

I was really charmed by Vicky and I love how she stood up for the life she wants. Vicky is strong, stubborn and intelligent. No matter how many times she gets told she’ll never be an artist, she isn’t going to back down. The way she fights for her dream is admirable and I also liked her clever tricks that will ensure a future at the University. Her struggle between the life she has and the life she want was nicely portrayed. This especially showed when she becomes more involved in the WSPU, where women do everything to gain their own rights. Her passion for art made me appreciate paintings more. The author had a fantastic way to show how it must feel like to create something beautiful.

The secondary characters we meet here were fleshed out and I instantly liked Lucy and her blunt way of speaking.

This book subtly touches some romance and I was shipping it so hard. I’m almost at a point where I’m going to say I wanted more. It’s slow-burn and it all started out with hate that slowly turned into appreciation, friendship and more. The forbidden aspect about their love made it even cuter and I don’t think anyone can dislike policeman Will. He showed respect and he had his own ways to support the demonstrating women. My heart instantly warmed to him and his soft personality.


The ending left me with a very satisfying, goofy smile. This is an author I’m going to keep an eye on.
Profile Image for Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries).
1,216 reviews391 followers
February 11, 2021
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten!

My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit. - Flavia Dzodan

What is A Mad, Wicked Folly? Well, it sure isn’t intersectional. I think you can figure it out from there. My friends have been in love with this novel with only a single exception, but the charm is lost on me. I can’t see past the self-serving white feminism that pervades the novel. It’s a mix between the overwhelming whiteness of the film Suffragette and the addition of a self-insert protagonist a la Stonewall, but this novel is as tone-deaf as both films and then some.

To give credit where it’s due, Waller clearly did her research on the setting and Vicky is a very complex character you could debate about until the cows come home. Her more dislikable traits such as her spoiled attitude and bratty moments are understandable considering her upbringing, but it’s hard to tell if she gets involved with the suffragettes because she believes in the cause or solely because it presents new artistic opportunities for her. That’s more than a little troubling for obvious reasons.

It’s also pleasant that the Pankhurst woman who makes the most prominent appearance is Sylvia, the decent one. Christabel Pankhurst was the definition of White Feminist who didn’t want the movement to have anything to do with the working class or women of color; Emmeline Pankhurst later became very pro-colonialism and was the source of the infamous “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave” quote. So yeah, they wouldn’t be great role models for Vicky.

What really grinds my gears is the erasure of Princess Sophia Duleep Singh, a major suffragette of the time. As an upper-class woman who funded many of the endeavors of suffragettes/the WSPU and goddaughter of Queen goddamn Victoria herself, she had a large role in the suffragette movement and was almost certainly active when the novel takes place, but she isn’t mentioned even once. I’ve ridden Suffragette‘s ass for erasing women of color from the movement and this novel isn’t going to get away with doing the same thing. As you can see above, there isn’t a single person of color in the entire novel. It’s a sea of old-fashioned white people.

The conflict Vicky faces is very weak and also rather typical for the genre and setting. By making her family so horrible and turning her initially-agreeable fiance into a disrespectful jerk, Vicky’s choice becomes obvious and lacks any nuance. Her decision should be much more difficult than it is! Say that Edmund stayed agreeable and had the money. It’s a much harder decision when you have the options of doing what you love, having money, and being miserable versus doing what you love, being poor, and being happy. I’ve seen Vicky’s story a thousand times and Waller doesn’t do anything unique with it.

I very rarely bother getting angry at negative reviews of books because they’re honestly very helpful when I’m trying to decide whether I want to read the book in question, but I looked at the negatives for A Mad, Wicked Folly and wanted to scream at most of them that there’s stuff wrong here and you’re focused on all the wrong things. Whatever. This book is white feminism at its “finest” in YA, so I would suggest you avoid it if intersectional feminism is the only kind you want in your life.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
1,202 reviews24 followers
December 20, 2013
Very Strong 5 Five Stars.

When I entered the giveaway, the reason I entered was the cover. Look at that cover! Seriously!

I was not expecting this book to be by far the best book I have read this year.

The plot is a simple, girl is born in a era where woman have zero rights and the wealthy are expected to marry well and support their ridiculously rich husbands.

Of course are main POV character is not having that and she wants to be an artist.

She is part of a scandal... and forced to come back home and comply with these so called societal rules... meanwhile the Women's Rights Movement is going on making this what FLIPPING Fantastic book.

The author did her research to the era. This book was beyond amazing and I found myself pulling for a character in a way I never expected to pull for a fictional character.

AS I am a strong willed female I found myself drawn to her, and counting my blessings I was not born in this era. Let's just say ladies, I am highly appreciative of those that fought HARD to earn our rights.

This is a MUST read for anyone that needs a wake up call for those who fought for freedom rights as a woman.

This book is spectacular and by far one of the BEST books I have read this year!!!!

Profile Image for Becki .
353 reviews111 followers
January 28, 2014
A heroine who claims to be a feminist, but really knows nothing about feminism or suffragettes.

Skip it.
Profile Image for Heather.
571 reviews
December 9, 2013
First a giant THANK YOU to Sharon Biggs Waller for providing me an early copy of A Mad, Wicked Folly to read and review:)

The short of it, I really, really liked this one! Ok--straight up--the amount of research that Sharon Biggs Waller did to write this book is IMPRESSIVE. And on TWO fronts. Not just all the Suffragist Movement research but also research into the role women played in the arts during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. The reason I wanted to read this book so badly is because both of these areas are of particular interest to me--I have my BA in Art History and my grad work centers around women's studies. So, yeah, basically this book was a DREAM to read:) I'll have many more thoughts and a full review soon:)


Opening Line

I never set out to pose nude.

My Take On It

I can't quite remember where I heard about Sharon Biggs Waller's A Mad, Wicked Folly, I think it might have been on the website Corsets, Cutlasses & Candlesticks. Have you visited this YA and MG website devoted to historical fiction? It's a fabulous site and some of the authors that contribute include Jessica Spotswood (The Cahill Witch Chronicles), Katherine Longshore (Gilt, Tarnish, Brazen), J. Anderson Coats (The Wicked and the Just), and Cat Winters (In the Shadow of Blackbirds) among others. Also contributing is Sharon Biggs Waller, author of A Mad, Wicked Folly. I knew when I read the synopsis of her book that it was a definite "Heather" book. Art themes. Feisty protagonist. Women's rights. Historical Fiction. It just doesn't get much better than that:) Well, actually, it does. So I present to you:

11 Things I loved about A Mad, Wicked Folly.

1. A headstrong protagonist

Victoria Darling, protagonist of A Mad, Wicked Folly, is an interesting character. She is definitely a study in contrasts. Stubborn yet generous. Naive and at times gullible, but also smart and skeptical. Likable but not TOO likable. There were times that I wanted to strangle Vicky or smack some sense into her at the very least. But there were many more times that I admired her passion and her big heart and cheered her on. In short, Vicky is the kind of character I love: someone you may not agree with with on very matter but someone who you can ultimately get behind and want to see get her happy ending.

2. Historical fiction

One of the reasons I love historical fiction is it entertains the reader while also teaching us something-sometimes in a subtle way, sometimes in a bolder fashion. Any good book can put the reader in the mind and heart of a character, but when you place that character in the past, it changes things up and presents an entirely new set of variables when asking "what would I have done in that situation?"

3. Edwardian period

I like reading books set in the Victorian period just fine--but I have to say I LOVE that A Mad, Wicked Folly was set in the brief time period that follows the Victorian, the Edwardian period, which fell between 1901 to 1910-12 and corresponds to the Belle Époque period in France. What's so great about this short period in British history? Again, it's a fascinating study in contrasts. So many Victorian sensibilities are still present--the rampant classism, patriarchal rule in families-- but there is a feel of change in the air as the modern age pressed in. Not only did fashion change--but there were huge shifts in politics as well as a change in societal customs and values. You know I love that certain periods in history are beginning to be explored more in YA fiction--like the trend I have been seeing in the late Cold War/ Soviet era of the 1980s--I am hoping with the popularity of television shows like Downton Abbey (which is a late or post Edwardian period drama) and Sharon's book that more writers will think about the Edwardian period as a setting for their novels.

4. Women's rights

"Suffragettes!" I said. "In the flesh!"

I was born during the 1970's to a baby boomer mother who was all about women's lib, equal pay for equal work, and ending reproductive rights restrictions. I was raised to believe that I should work hard in school, go to college and get a good job so that I could support myself and not be dependent on anyone. Today this is the norm in our country and most countries in the Western Hemisphere, but it wasn't so long ago that the world was a very different place for girls. I know now that my mom was a second-wave feminist--which technically occurred from the 1960s to the late 1980s. But A Mad, Wicked Folly pays homage to those first-wave feminists-- the women who worked so hard and sacrificed so much to ensure the rest of us--the future generation -- would have all the civil liberties that men are entitled to.

What is fabulous about a book like A Mad, Wicked Folly is that it has the power to introduce the Women's Right movement to a new generation of YA readers--a generation who may not be fully aware of the lengths that their ancestors went to earn the right to vote. Because of the Suffragettes in Britain, and later in America, not only did change come in the area of politics, but eventually in societal customs as well. I think this book would be fabulous taught in a classroom setting.

5. Art themes

If you follow this blog or read my reviews you might be aware that I have a degree in Art History. So obviously books with art themes are favorites of mine. Protagonist Vicky is an artist (which helps to explain the context of that opening line!) and she is totally focused on her work. When the book begins we see just how determined she is to be taken seriously as an artist as she attends art classes in France. As we soon learn, the political arena is not the only place where women are treated as second class citizens--it most definitely carried over into the art world as well. While it's true that there were women artists during this period in history, they were often relegated to painting family and domestic scenes--Impressionist artists like Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot, while just as talented, were never bestowed the same professional courtesies as their male counterparts. More than anything Vicky wants to study alongside her peers--and this includes painting from the nude model. As Vicky herself states, no woman of good breeding would ever be allowed to do such a thing. Yet for a visual artist, life drawing (painting from a live model, in this case a live, nude model) is extremely important in order to accurately portray anatomical features. So in addition to the struggles that women faced during this time in earning the right to vote--A Mad, Wicked Folly also chronicles Vicky's struggles to achieve her goal of becoming a professional artist. In fact, what I love so much about this book is how both these issues--women's rights and Vicky's struggles within the male dominated art world-- coincide with each other--both in the book and in real life. But more on that in a bit:)

Read the review
Profile Image for Krystle.
893 reviews337 followers
June 27, 2014
I love art and period fiction. So when these two appeared together in a book I was drooling with lust. I had to read it! This sounded like everything I would ever want and I could not be more excited when I had my hands on it.

Until I read it.

This book was a crushing disappoint. More so than that, it was terrible.

Let me tell you about the worst part about this story – Victoria. The main character is just atrocious. Although it’s been mentioned in Khanh’s review, she really is awful. Victoria is a spoiled brat with a huge sense of entitlement. Whatever she wants, she gets, and if she doesn’t she throws a huge tantrum. She uses her money and status in society to push those of a lower position into getting what she wants. Victoria feels that she’s owed these things because she��s so special, talented, and if people get in her way of what she wants they’re denying and oppressing her dreams. Shut up, woman! How about you earn it like real people!

Okay, so there are two guys in here. Both of them are quite nice actually and she doesn’t deserve any of them. She uses both of them to serve her own selfish needs. Edmund, her arranged suitor, has money, clout, and an open mind (at first) and she sees him as a way to get out from under her father to attend art school and use his money to pay for the tuition. Victoria even pretends to like him and joins him on outings, smiling, and what not for the intent purpose of leading Edmund to believe that they’re a good match.

Will, on the other hand, is of lower status in society but earns a living as a police constable. However, Victoria decides it’s a great idea to lead him on that she was interested in him because he’s a) good looking and b) her muse. She uses him as her model (even getting him to pose nude for her!) because she needed to build a portfolio for art college. However, she’s so ridiculous as to let her feelings get in the way of her work while she’s with him! Because she’s oh so attracted to him and can’t control her hormones while watching him pose for her. Of course he was hurt and upset with you Vicky because you lead him on and let him think he had a chance when he had none! He should’ve hightailed it off with another woman immediately when that was revealed!

The real reason I read this book was for the art aspect. I love reading about art in fiction after taking a course in it and I was expecting something, actually I don’t know what I was expecting. Victoria’s love for art is merely an attachment. She doesn’t feel it with her whole being and I don’t particularly feel her passion for it either. There is no loving devotion, spirit, or soul in her artwork as it’s merely addressed in technical terms. I wanted to feel her connection with her work and her feelings and how she was bringing this to life.

For someone who loves art so much, there wasn’t much thinking or ruminating about it at all. Only when her next opportunity was to draw and that was about it. She didn’t think much about the sorts of things she wanted to draw, what she’s drawn to, what inspires her, and how she wants to put brush to paper or easel or whatever. Frankly, Victoria knows her skills aren’t up to par as she is only adept at watercolor paintings but there are no scenes of her trying to take action and further her skills. Especially considering when she says she’s Pre-Raphaelite inspired and can’t even draw with oils!

Not to mention the total lack of art mentioned in this novel. For a main character that wants to have her work exhibited in the future and classifies herself as an artist, she rarely remarks on other works in the field. Sure she maybe name drops a few times some paintings and artist names but never brings out the true beauty of these works, or describes them much if at all. Terrible.

Artist? Most definitely not.

The amount of historical inaccuracies in this book makes me want to gnash my teeth. For all the “sneaking around” and “hiding” Victoria must do, she sure gets to do a lot of what she wants! Victoria gets to walk around the neighborhood unchaperoned ALL the time. This is simply not done! For someone of her position in society she is never left alone, never. The impropriety of this would blacken her name in society to irreparable measures.

And visiting men alone and going to their apartments?! NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. She would not be allowed ten feet within a man without a chaperone! Good God! This is not how Edwardian society worked back then! Not to mention the way Victoria talked and addressed others was so modern, it made me cringe. Her flippant behavior, inelegant speech, and paying no heed to speech customs made me want to scream. Really!

The only good part of the book was the inclusion of the women’s movement to vote and her work with the suffragettes. I thought that was a good way to work on Victoria’s sense of character growth and a way to inform the reader but sadly, it was not utilized at all. Victoria isn’t even fully invested with the suffragettes unless they offered something she could gain from it – like drawing photos that could be published. Terrible! Some character standout she is. At least she finally gained a measure of common sense and a dose of reality at the end but it was for too little, too late.

No. This book was definitely not for me. I would not recommend this for art lovers. If you wanted something evocative then read Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper, and if you were a historical fiction buff then I’d tell you to stay far the heck away. The amount of historical inaccuracies in this book would make you wanna scream.

This entire book comes off as someone on the outside writing about art as if she knows what it is to be an artist but doesn’t understand it at all. No thanks.
Profile Image for Megan.
520 reviews343 followers
May 9, 2014

Friends, it's time for an admission. It's a rather big one, one that I am hesitant to make because of the connotations it might bring. It's not an admission that many readers, much less bloggers, are willing to outwardly make. Ready?

I am not a big fan of historical books.

Gasp! Okay, there, I said it. And really, it's not that big of a deal, but it did make me wonder - what was I doing being so attracted to A MAD WICKED FOLLY by debut young adult author Sharon Biggs Waller? It's cover has the one big gaping issue that makes me so wary of historical books - incorrect period attire, or just anachronisms in general. It's so hard to get a period correct, at least in my eyes. That giant, poofy anachronous yellow dress on the cover was screaming, "Megan, don't read this book! It'll be all wrong! Look at this ugly yellow polyester gown!"

Thank the heavens I did not listen to my instinct about the cover, because this book is simply amazing, beautiful, powerful, and unique in a sea of dystopian and whiny contemporary novels. It's dystopian of a historical sort, and while the main character does whine, this book made me fall in love with historical novels for the first time in a very, very long time.

Following Vicky, a young artist exiled from her French finishing school for posing nude in her art class (secretly attending with the help of her best friend until discovered by a jealous classmate), we are thrown into a world where women are expected to be mothers and wives and not their own person, where scandal follows you for life, where your worth is determined based on your marriage prospects, and where being outside the box will get you sent away to the darkest parts of England. This is really how things used to be for young women a hundred years ago, mind you. And with Vicky, we are able to see how one girl wakes up from the cloud of being upper middle class and raised with everything she could hope for except freedom and how she bursts forth and realizes that money cannot buy you happiness like freedom can.

It's hard to believe that in 1909, posing nude for an art class of respectful men would risk your entire future. It's hard to believe that your family would disown you for wanting to draw and go to college. Waller navigates this world with graceful prose and tension that by the end left me visibly nervous, shaking where I sat and timid to turn the page and see what happened as Vicky fell further down the rabbit hole of suffragettes, drawing nude policemen, entanglements with a fiance forced upon her as a business arrangement, and above all, applying for art school against the supreme will of her father.

“This is why we all fight so hard. Not just for the vote, but for an equal opportunity in the world. A vote is a voice. I think you underestimate yourself, Queenie. This is your fight, same as it is mine.”

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

This book is feminism for beginners, dropping us into a world where that word is as much a curse word as fuck is today. Going into this you have to put yourself back in time and remember the past before women can vote, before marriage for love was true and universal in the west. And Waller has done amazingly thorough research that puts you right into the time period and refuses to let you go until you've read the last page and left you desperate for more.

Thank you, Ms. Waller, for making me a fan once more of historical fiction, and I hope more people find this book and love it as much as I did. Truly wonderful.
Profile Image for Alexa.
2,145 reviews11.3k followers
December 11, 2015
FIRST THOUGHTS: It's really cool how this novel combines one girl's desire to be free to pursue an art career, Victorian sensibilities, Edwardian sensibilities and the suffragette movement. I thought Vicky was quite delightful, and though I was often frustrated by her, I couldn't help seeing her actions in light of her circumstances. All in all, a rather unique story and quite well told!
Profile Image for Rissa.
1,395 reviews48 followers
April 16, 2018
A mad, wicked folly 4.5⭐️

All Vicky wanted was to be artist. To draw anything and everything. But being the only girl wanting to go to school to learn to advance her career is difficult.
During a drawing class of the human anatomy their model didnt show up and all the other male students had already volunteered to be models in the past it was Vickys turn. So she striped down and posed and they drew.
After her modeling she knew more then ever that she wanted to draw but she couldnt do it in her own town. Not after her sitting nude in front of her class.
College, far away and under her brother, Freddies name. That was the only way she would ever be treated equal as an artist. But her plan is stopped before it is even started when she is for ed to find a husband and her art is put on a slight hold.
She finds a suitor and finds her voice through her work and through her art she finds a friend a handsome friend.

Life, love, pleasing her father and doing her art.

Vicky is brave and freeless and I love her personality. She is an excellent protagonist!
Profile Image for Laura.
723 reviews103 followers
February 10, 2016
This book was one of those ones that you want to love and give five stars because it was really good but then, when you start thinking about it, it just doesn't feel like a five star book. It may seem like a horrible reason, but that's why I rated this 4 stars instead of 5. Onward!

1. The time period. This book takes place during the women's suffrage movement in England and slightly after the same movement in the US. It really centers around that turning point of society where some people are still in the old way and some are adopting the new way with open arms. That dynamic made this book really interesting and different to me. I've never really read about the women's suffrage movement before and I loved seeing Vicky's role in it! I also loved seeing how Vicky struggled to tell herself that she is worth something and is relevant. That's really what the whole book was about - finding worth in yourself. That theme is so, so relevant in today's society and this book couldn't have come at a better time.

2. The two men/love interests. I'm really torn about how I feel about this. The way the story is structured is that there are two sides of Vicky's life: the proper, old side, and the newer, revolutionary side. To go along with that, there are two men that represent those sides of her life and they're her love interests. William is the revolutionary side and Edmund is the reserved side. This turns into a love triangle which isn't the same as all other love triangles but it is still a love triangle. Also, the whole point of this book is finding worth within yourself so I found it really sad that Vicky wasn't just choosing between the two sides of her life, she was choosing between two guys and who she felt was better for her. So maybe that's what prompted the loss of a star.

3. The cover. A quick word about the cover: GORGEOUS! I'm a sucker for pretty dresses on covers and I have to say, the colors all go together so well and the yellow dress is the perfect contrast!

4. The plot. The plot really kept me engrossed until the final page. I read the whole book in one night! I did actually like the ending. Without saying anything spoilery, it really shows how important family is.

The Final Verdict:
This book has such a good setting and plot but the two men as love interests annoyed me a bit. The cover is beautiful though!
4 stars

“I felt accepted for who I was. I didn't have to sort the words in my head first, making sure they were socially acceptable before I said them. I groped around for a word that fit. Peace. I felt peaceful.”

“Not at all. You look as though magic has taken hold of you. It must be magic because I don't know how you can draw like that. I can barely manage a stick figure.”

“Without any warning, tears filled my eyes. No one had ever given me such a kind and thoughtful gift before. I pictured Will going into the shop, looking over the books, and then discovering the very one he knew I would love. I even pictured him watching as the clerk wrapped the volume in brown paper. I wondered if the clerk had tied the green bow on it or if Will had gone into a notion shop and chosen it himself. These were all small things, but kindness was built of small things.”

“I've decided that I'm going to collect as many spiders in a jar as I can and then pour them all over you, William Flecter. Seeing as how it's good to face your fears.”

“This is why we all fight so hard. Not just for the vote, but for an equal opportunity in the world. A vote is a voice. I think you underestimate yourself, Queenie. This is your fight, same as it is mine.”

“A strange thing, words. Once they're said, it's hard to imagine they're untrue.”

“For opportunity is nothing if you don't grab it by both hands.”
Profile Image for Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner).
382 reviews1,714 followers
January 19, 2015
Originally posted on my blog The Perpetual Page-Turner -- come hang out for some book talk and more!

Historical fiction used to be my one true love, friends. In the past couple years I haven’t read as much of it but this book reminds me why I LOVE it so much. The truly excellent historical novels, like this one, transport me so flawlessly into this sliver of the past and leave me with this insatiable thirst to research that time period or event or find more fiction set in that time.

So what was so great about A Mad, Wicked Folly?

1. The setting: London in 1909 = Edwardian era goodness! The height of the suffragette movement there! Plus Vicky’s world is high society and balls and pretty dresses. I was just so immersed as Sharon just so perfectly and with detail painted the setting for the reader to feel instantly transported to that time. I could feel the tension in the social structure and in the women’s rights movement as well.

2. Vicky is such a dynamic character: Girl is FEISTY and incredibly passionate about her art and I loved it. She’s not a perfect character and that’s what I loved about her. She only really seems to be interested in the suffragette’s works at first because it can further her dreams of going to art school. She has her prejudices, due to her upbringing, that will make you cringe. But it all felt so realistic. How her eyes were opened to the things that the suffragette’s were fighting for. How she looked differently at the social constructs after the things she experienced. I loved watching her growth SO MUCH as she fights to be able to create the art she so desires, asks the hard questions and questions

3. It made me just feel so thankful for these suffragettes: Reading this book and watching what the suffragette’s are doing in this time just made me so grateful for all these women who did so much to give me all the right’s I have. They were laughed at and jailed and treated AWFULLY and still they fought. It was so incredibly inspiring and I just love reading about strong, passionate women. Made me not want to take forget how far we’ve come but also so sad for the ways that as women we still are not looked at as equal to men.
Profile Image for Olivia (Stories For Coffee).
593 reviews5,608 followers
November 13, 2017

i enjoyed the novel, but it didn't necessarily blow me away. I wish it was centered more around the Suffrage movement rather than one girl who wanted to get into an art school by marrying rich and drawing for the Suffragettes.
192 reviews98 followers
June 26, 2015
This was a book that immediately grabbed my attention, but I had no hopes of finishing it any time soon since my test week was going on. However, by some miracle this turned out to be the perfect quick read I was in search of to save me from - behold - the terrors of studying. So there, if you're looking for a quick read, then you might want to try this out.

It succeeds as a historical fiction. It captures the feminism, and ugly aspects of the early 20th century, along with the better aspects such as art. It also focuses on the suffragette movement and provides accurate information without making it seem like I was going through a history lesson.

The story was a bit dull at first what with all the pointless events and Vicky's naive actions. I admit that a few things like said heroine's attitude remained otherwise unchanged but the plot, and even the romance improved in a rather drastic manner. In fact, this would have earned a higher rating if the first portion was nonexistent.

Even when the overall book took a turn for the better, Vicky's character lacked much growth. It's very hard to like a book when the main character themselves is the fault. Vicky was not only naive, but had a voice that pretty much spoke volumes about her annoying personality. The fact that she posed nude "without thinking" didn't bother me as much as her overflowing bucket of 'flaws', all her silly mistakes she just couldn't put an end to and her self-obsessed attitude did.

There is a rather obvious, and even more pointless love triangle in the book. Edmund, the rich guy and Will, the poor guy. I must say I rooted a bit for Edmund and then wanted to stab him when his true colors were shown. As for Will, he was all the types of nice. A poor police constable doesn't exactly make it into Vicky's parent's list of guys she could marry so there's a lot of drama too.

It was a fairly decent love triangle, only because the (rather obvious) Will's side was winning. But of course, Vicky just had to go ahead and be a little heart breaker and ruin everything. I suppose it's not entirely fair to blame it all on her. But due to lack of anyone to blame, I place it upon Vicky's head.

All in all, this is not a perfect book or one that makes to my list of favorites but I enjoyed it very much. It could have been better with less dragging, and more of getting straight to the point. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this if you're looking for both a quick read and something that revolves around a topic such as feminism.
Profile Image for Aoi.
773 reviews74 followers
January 1, 2014
I confess this is the first time I've read a book set in Edwardian England- the twin themes of women artists and Suffragist Movement were an instant wow factor..

I loved the protagonist, Victoria Darling. Bull-headed yet generous, unsentimentally practical yet idealistic and rather gullible. There were times when I grew frustrated, there were times I despaired along with her for all the bad times. And yet, I admired her pluck and all-consuming passion, and cheered her on..

Sharon Biggs Walker made the whole time-period come alive. The Victorian sensibilities were still palpably felt-- the social rift between the classes, the patriarchal attitudes; yet you could see the change ushering in. Social customs changed amongst the working classes, and there was a little upward mobility. The sense of the times was clearly captured through the way the twin struggles- Victoria's fight to be accepted in the male dominated artist circles, and the Suffragist Movement to give women citizens equal status- tied together.

Despite Victoria's talent, art was treated as a dabbling hobby for her gender. Her quest to elevate her art- to be able to train in drawing classical nudes (training in accurately depicting human anatomy), was unacceptable for a lady of her status.

The book touched a chord in me when it paid homage to the first wave of women rights activists. I was slightly familiar with their story through the movie Iron Jawed Angels - it was the way their cause resonated with an outsider, in this case, Victoria that made its point felt. The sacrifices of those determined women, the harsh (and often inhuman) treatment meted out to them by law, their skilful maneuvering around the political and social mindsets of the time, their slightly mad capers protesting and gathering support- it was a skillful rendering and I was swept along for the ride...

A truly fabulous way to start the new year!

(ARC Review)
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