In an author's note at the beginning of WICKED PLEASURES (which was originally published in the United Kingdom in 1992), Penny Vincenzi addresses readers who have written to her about her beloved Spoils of Time trilogy, how much they enjoyed reading it and how much they regretted its coming to an end. Although certainly not as all-encompassing as The Spoils of Time, WICKED PLEASURES seems in many ways to be an answer to these readers. With its expansive cast of characters united by family ties and business aspirations, with its time span that stretches from 1956 all the way to 1980, the book will certainly satisfy fans looking for a sensational, multi-generational saga.
"WICKED PLEASURES is sexy and satisfying, precisely the kind of guilty or not-so-guilty pleasure readers have come to expect from the master of the page-turner."
At the center of the novel is Virginia Praeger, a Wellesley College student when the story opens. She is part of a noted American banking family, but although she is interested in the family business, her father has made it abundantly clear that she will not play any sort of leadership role in the bank when (or if) he retires. Instead, management of the bank will be passed to Virginia's brother Fred, known to all as Baby. So what's an intelligent, ambitious young woman to do? Virginia decides to blaze her own trail, to try her hand at the relatively new (and slightly scandalous) business of interior design. She's good at it, it turns out --- and the business not only introduces her to career success but also to the man who will become her husband, Alexander, the British Earl of Caterham.
Alexander and Virginia appear to be the perfect match --- their courtship is classic and chaste, and Alexander seems eager to introduce Virginia to his country manor estate in England. Introducing Virginia to his reclusive mother, however, is more of a problem. The woman, who lives in an isolated house in Scotland, is apparently violently opposed to Alexander's marrying an American, and she refuses to meet Virginia, even at their wedding and even after their first child, Charlotte, is born. Virginia, paralyzed by fear and depression after Charlotte's birth, grows increasingly dependent on alcohol, jeopardizing her business, her family life, and even her children's lives. Meanwhile, her first and only employee, an extremely sexy and ruthlessly ambitious young woman named Angie, becomes entangled with her family.
Family secrets, betrayals, scandals, the rise and fall of the wealthy --- there is plenty here to satisfy Vincenzi's most avid fans. What's more, Vincenzi manages to build genuine suspense and surprise when she reveals these secrets and betrayals, even though every twist and turn makes sense within the complex narrative structure she's built for herself. As the title suggests, WICKED PLEASURES is sexy and satisfying, precisely the kind of guilty or not-so-guilty pleasure readers have come to expect from the master of the page-turner.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on September 28, 2012