WILDE CHILD - Eloisa James
Lindow Castle, Cheshire, England - 1784
Lady Joan Wilde wants, more than anything, to be an actress. She loves the excitement, the costumes, memorizing lines, and being on stage. Unfortunately, as a young lady in the household of the Duke of Lindow, acting would cause a huge scandal for the family. Truth be told, however, Joan cares little for the ton, or anything about being the lady it expects her to be. For, in reality, Joan is not a true daughter of the duke. Shortly after her birth, her mother, the then duchess, ran off with her lover, a Prussian count, Joan's father, never to be heard from again. The duke, being a man of honor and one who loves all of his children, including his new wife's child, has never thought of Joan as other than his own blood. The major problem, of course, is that Society knows the whole sordid story, so Joan will never be welcomed into any high ranking family. So, why not become an actress?
Thaddeus Erskine Shaw, Viscount Greywick, and his mother, the Duchess of Eversley, are visiting Lindow Castle. He is in need of a wife. Having already courted, and lost, two of Joan's older sisters, he is accompanying the duchess, who is close friends of his host's sister, but is irritated to be in the company of the rather annoying Joan. He'd never consider marriage to her due to her, well, illegitimacy. Yes, she's lovely, but today she is wearing, of all things, breeches! Not that it's any business of his, but Thaddeus is constantly shaking his head over Joan's flippant, and irreverent behavior. However, it seems Joan's father has allowed her this costume as she is playing Hamlet in the play for her family's enjoyment.
Joan is, herself, irritated by Greywick's obvious disdain over her costume, as well as the fact that she wants to be an actress. But somehow, during the course of the discussion about the play, Greywick agrees to teach her fencing, and even agrees to accompany her to meet the traveling acting company to play Hamlet in front of a public audience! What on earth has gotten into him? Joan is floored, but secretly delighted. As strait-laced and annoying as Greywick can be, he's still rather attractive.
Thaddeus has his own uncomfortable background. His father, the duke, left his mother after Thaddeus' birth to return to his mistress, the woman he truly loves. All of his life Thaddeus has struggled to understand this, and now his father is trying to get him to renounce his right to the dukedom in lieu of his illegitimate half-brother. Of course, English law doesn't allow such an atrocity of justice, but it's still hurtful.
How can two people who have grown up disliking each other possibly get to common ground? Well, as usual, Eloisa James manages to weave a sweet, funny, and poignant tale to get Joan and Thaddeus to at least be nice to each other eventually, and possibly overcome their past hurts. There are plenty of Wildes involved, as usual, and they're pretty good about seeing the light way before Joan and Thaddeus. You can count on them to rally around them, no matter what.
WILDE CHILD was such a fun story, and I don't think readers of the Wilde family antics will be disappointed.