Book: A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare
Age/Genre: Period Romance
Preferred Reading Environment: a secluded cove on the beach or in a cave!
Reading Accoutrements: A blanket and picnic with beachy foods and a towel in case you want to go for a swim.
Content Notes: Parental Death
I learned about A Week to Be Wicked, by Tessa Dare, from a link that Jeriann sent me. Knowing my love of all things science and of all things fiction, she sent me a list of books about females in science and mathematics. Some of the books are fiction and some are non-fiction, but all are about a woman working in a STEM field. Anyway, this book caught my eye because I haven’t read a lot of period romances recently…and also because the main character is a geologist, a subject which I was mildly obsessed with in high school.
Minerva Highwood is a confirmed spinster at the age of 21 in the unique town of Spindle Cove, where eccentrics are accepted and the women have a shooting club – very unusual for Victorian Era England. She has secretly been researching the fossils she found in a cave on the beach, while striving to be invisible at social gatherings and parties. Minerva has made a discovery, one that she wants to share with her colleagues in Scotland. But first, she has to get to Scotland…
Colin Sandhurst, Lord Payne, wants to get out of Spindle Cove. He has been heading the local militia because his cousin, who controls the trust his fortune is under until he marries or turns 25, won’t give him the money to leave the small town. Colin’s cousin firmly believes that the best way to stop his rakish behavior is to get him to settle down with a good woman, but Colin has secrets that he can’t hide from in Spindle Cove. When Minerva offers him a way out, he reluctantly agrees.
The two have one week to fake an elopement convincing enough that their families would believe it, get to Scotland where Minerva can present her findings, and win enough money for Colin to live off of until his 25th birthday so he won’t have to marry. Easy, right?
This is where that line, “the best laid plans of mice and men…” is really apropos. Why do the heroes and heroines of fake-engagement romances always think it’ll be easy? In Victorian England, one week to get to Scotland would be pushing it. Especially considering that these two don’t have their own carriage, horses, or staff to get them where they want to go. Needless to say, the two run into problem after problem on their trip, learn a lot about themselves, and, of course, do a little falling in love in the process.
Let’s start with the characters: Minerva is incredibly high strung. She has a ton of insecurities because her mother laments everything about her daughter – from her physical appearance to her brains – while simultaneously praising everything about Minerva’s sisters (who are physical opposites and much more meek, with more “socially acceptable” interests than digging in the dirt). Minerva works really hard to remain invisible in social settings so as not to draw attention to herself, so when she finds herself the center of attention for any reason other than academic, she panics. For a girl who lives and breathes the rationality of science, she is very irrational about her plan to go to Scotland – one week is hardly long enough, she hasn’t made any contingencies for emergencies, and she seriously underestimates Colin’s self-destructive tendencies. Additionally, Minerva is cavalier about a host of societal issues that could have dire consequences for her reputation and, therefore, her future.
Colin is a rake with issues left over from the traumatic deaths of his parents. He is, generally, self-destructive and purposeless, which is why his cousin left him in Spindle Cove to guide the local militia and “settle down.” Colin has resisted this edict from the beginning, but he has no way of leaving without access to his fortune, despite the charm he has used to get what he wants for his entire life. Colin’s charm is, in fact, what gets him in the most trouble. He becomes whatever people want from him, but that usually backfires in unexpected and uncontrollable ways. He is aware of the societal issues that Minerva is glossing over in her planning, but instead of convincing her that she could permanently be ruined, he winds up convincing himself to accompany her – to protect her.
The two set out for their destination to try to escape from their current situations and instead learn on the journey that they need to confront their demons to truly improve their lives. Minerva learns to step out of her comfort zone and be the center of attention while Colin learns to be honest with himself and other people.
I think my only problem with this book was the sheer number of obstacles that were thrown in this couple’s way as they trekked along the road to Scotland. They lost their possessions, they were robbed at gunpoint, Colin got into fist fights defending Minerva, they ran out of money and had to gamble for more, the people they won money from threatened to arrest them, their carriage crashed, and so on. Despite the fact that the book was a fast read, it started to drag on, especially because immediately after they hurtled one obstacle, another presented itself. I was happy to see the resolution of their trip, although the story was more open-ended than I expected, considering the fact that it’s a romance.
A Week to Be Wicked is worth a read for those of you who enjoy not-so-historical fiction, period romances, and improbable plotlines. It’s especially worth it if you’re looking for a book about a girl in the sciences. I’m looking forward to reading more books about women in a STEM field. Do you have a suggestion for a Women-in-Science-and-Technology book? Tell me in the comments! I might need to pick it up 🙂