I absolutely loved Anne Barton’s When She Was Wicked. Her characters were well developed, believable and likeable. Annabelle Honeycote is a seamstress in a Bond Street dress shop where she barely earns enough money to make ends meet for herself. Working for the dress shop however does not earn her enough to support her sick mother and younger sister. By working in the dress shop Belle becomes privy to the sorts of gossip that the Ton would be willing to pay to keep a secret, these secrets all Belle to add to her small income via way of blackmail. Belle has rules though, only ask those who can afford to lose a small sum, only use a target once, and do not form a personal relationship with said targets.
When bell overheard the type of gossip that could ruin the Duke of Huntford’s sister, she develops full intentions to make Huntford pay to keep the gossip a secret. Owen Sherbourne, Duke of Huntford doesn’t take kindly to extortion of any kind. Following his father’s suicide and his mother’s desertion he is tasked with raising his headstrong younger sisters. When he catches Belle in the act, he decides to make her work off her debt versus sending her to Newgate. His sisters are coming out and each needs new wardrobes. Annabelle’s sweet personality helps the Huntford sisters to form a close knit bond with Belle. All Huntford wants is to do right by his family and right the wrongs from his parents mistakes. He has no intention of falling in love with Belle, but as Belle works her magic on fabric Huntford discovers a diamond in the rough. Huntford finds himself drawn to Belle’s sweetness and beauty.
Barton has written one of the sweetest romances I’ve read in a long time. The characters are well written and easily believable. The romance between Owen and Belle is natural and not forced. I found myself rooting for these two long before the end of the book. I can honestly say that I would highly recommend any romance reader to try Anne Barton’s debut. When She Was Wicked is the first in Barton’s Honeycote series and if the first one is any example I cannot wait for the follow up book.
Arc provided by Grand Central Publishing.