AUDIO REVIEW: Tall, Dark and Wicked by Madeline Hunter, narrated by Lulu Russell

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Most women will give him anything he wants. She is not most women…

As a well-known barrister and the son of a duke, Ives confines his passionate impulses to discreet affairs with worldly mistresses. A twist of fate, however, has him looking for a new lover right when a fascinating woman shows up in his chambers, asking him to help save her father from the gallows. Unfortunately, he has already been asked to serve as the prosecutor in the case, but that only ensures close encounters with the rarity named Padua Belvoir. And every encounter increases his desire to tutor her in pleasure’s wicked ways…

Having always been too tall, too willful, and too smart to appeal to men, Padua Belvoir is shocked when Ives shows interest in her. Knowing his penchant for helping the wrongly accused, she had initially thought he might be her father’s best hope for salvation. Instead, he is her worst adversary—not least because every time he looks at her, she is tempted to give him anything he wants…

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Publisher and Release Date: Blackstone Audio, October2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London, 1819
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Wendy

This is the first time I have listened to or read a book by Madeline Hunter and I loved it! She has created a wonderfully sexy, delicious… barrister in Lord Ywain (Ives to family and friends) Hemingford, who is the younger brother of Lance, Duke of Aylesbury. Even though Tall, Dark and Wicked is the second book in a trilogy, it can be read or listened to as a stand-alone because Ms. Hunter does an excellent job of filling in the necessary background – and from the first chapter I was engrossed in this unconventional, intriguing tale.

Ives is in the process of searching for another mistress after being let down by his last one, and being the sort of man he is, legally trained, ordered and disciplined, he has compiled a list of necessary qualities, loyalty being at the top. At that ‘sliding door’ moment in his life, into his home strides Miss Padua Belvoir. She is tall, unexceptional to look at – at least on first sight – and judging by her shabby, plain dress, poor. On questioning, he discovers that she is a school teacher, intelligent, smart and unswervingly loyal, and discovers that he is inexplicably drawn to her. Padua’s scholarly father has been incarcerated in Newgate prison on charges of counterfeiting and sedition, and she has come to request that Ives takes his case and defends him in court. Vaguely recognising her father’s unusual name – Hadrian Belvoir, Ives searches through his correspondence and realises that he has already been instructed by the crown to prosecute the case.

The increasing attraction between this unlikely pair, which fairly quickly becomes physical, is very sensually developed. Ives likes to be dominant in the bedroom and Padua certainly doesn’t mind! But he’s not just gorgeous and good in bed, he’s also unfailingly kind and honourable. And Padua is no fool; as well as being tall, willowy and quietly attractive she is clever and educated in subjects that would have done a man of the time proud. But most of all, she has the quality that Ives admires most of all – loyalty. Her unerring support of her apparently uncaring Father is what makes Ives put his own integrity into question.

I have no idea regarding the rights and wrongs of the legal system, and I’m quite sure that two hundred years ago there were differences to the system we have now. For the purposes of this book, Ms. Hunter tells a very plausible story, with Ives sounding and acting much as I imagine a barrister would; although I did wonder whether a prosecutor would have had as much interaction with a defendant. This, I suppose is explained by his increasing interest and growing attraction to Padua.

Lulu Russell does a reasonable job in narrating this story, though she is no Rosalyn Landor. Her portrayal of Ives is good, it would have been easy to spoil this intriguing man without the right tone of voice but I felt she captured him really well. Her portrayal of Lance, on the other hand is not so good. It’s as though she tries too hard to differentiate between the brothers, and ends up making him sound like a drawling, foppish twit! If she narrates Lance’s story I hope she corrects this. Her interpretation of the third brother, Gareth (hero of His Wicked Reputation, the first book in the series) is better; he sounds slightly amused and laid back and Ms Russell handles the character parts decently, although her Scottish accent leaves a lot to be desired. To start with I wasn’t sure that her portrayal of Padua was going to be to my liking, but it grew on me and I ended up enjoying it. Ms. Russell affects a light, slightly teasing tone, which works well to convey the humour often to be found in her dialogue, as well as injecting just the right amount of intelligent argumentativeness.

Tall, Dark and Wicked is intelligently and well written, the historical research is excellent and the plot is well-drawn and plausible with just the right amount of drama. I loved listening to the descriptions of an area of London I’m familiar with and am very fond of – Lincoln’s Inn Fields, near to the legal quarter and close to the Courts of Justice and Temple church. I would love to have had a description of Ives in his wig and gown, but as we didn’t actually see him in action in court, it was not to be! Perhaps I’ll have a go at persuading Ms. Hunter to write a series around a barristers’ chambers, which would be a pleasant change from the usual round of bored aristocrats.

Breakdown of Grade: Content – 4.5 stars Narration – 3.5 stars

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