When He Was Wicked by Julia QuinnPublished June 29th 2004 by Avon
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency Romance
Reviewed on December 13, 2014
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In every life there is a turning point. A moment so tremendous, so sharp and breathtaking, that one knows one's life will never be the same. For Michael Stirling, London's most infamous rake, that moment came the first time he laid eyes on Francesca Bridgerton.
After a lifetime of chasing women, of smiling slyly as they chased him, of allowing himself to be caught but never permitting his heart to become engaged, he took one look at Francesca Bridgerton and fell so fast and hard into love it was a wonder he managed to remain standing. Unfortunately for Michael, however, Francesca's surname was to remain Bridgerton for only a mere thirty-six hours longer—the occasion of their meeting was, lamentably, a supper celebrating her imminent wedding to his cousin.
But that was then... Now Michael is the earl and Francesca is free, but still she thinks of him as nothing other than her dear friend and confidant. Michael dares not speak to her of his love... until one dangerous night, when she steps innocently into his arms, and passion proves stronger than even the most wicked of secrets...
The sudden and unexpected death of John Stirling was a tragedy and took its hold on all of his loved ones: his wife Francesca, his cousin Michael, his mother, his aunt, etc. It was simply a cruel end to a well-lived life and how could anyone imagine moving on from this?
Death didn't claim only John; it claimed Francesca's happiness, a chance to grow old with him, a life full of children, and her friend and close confidant, Michael Stirling, John's cousin. Although Francesca wasn't alone, she felt alone, especially when Michael up and left, leaving her to the duties of an earl. This greatly hurt her, but Michael was hurt too and was mourning in his own way, and sometimes Francesca easily forgot this . . . even four years later when Michael finally returned.
"Even while he'd been gone, she'd always know he was there, sharing the same planet with her, walking the same earth.”
After four years, Michael still never truly accepted his role as Earl of Kilmartin. He felt he didn't deserve anything that belonged to John: the title, the properties, and oh, yes— his widow. Michael had been in love with Francesca from the moment he had laid his eyes on her, but as fate would have it, she was getting married to John. So Michael's love remained a secret and he kept Francesca in the dark all these years. My heart ached for him in every possible way, not only because of his unrequited love for Francesca but because of his love and loyalty to John, who was more of a brother and a best friend than a cousin. Michael was lost and he was scared to come home, a home without John. He would soon realize that Francesca is home.
"“It was the one dream he'd never permitted himself to consider."
“There were only so many ways a man's heart could break, and he had a feeling his couldn't survive another puncture."
"He could live without her love, but not without her happiness."
(I'll consider this next part a spoiler because it's best if readers read the epilogue in the book, so think twice before going on.)
The book ended with a letter from Janet Stirling, John's mother, to Michael. A letter that hit me so hard, I couldn't breathe properly and had to burst into tears to release the tension in my chest. I was literally torn between sadness and joy after reading her letter and I keep going back to these exact words when I want to remember how hard-fought the struggles were for all of John's family to overcome.
Thank you, Michael for letting my son love her first.
The perfect line to end the story.
I thank you, Julia Quinn, for reminding me that love lives forever, that love should be encouraged and not withheld, that those who loved once has a chance to fall in love all over again.