Wicked Becomes You - Meredith Duran 3.5 stars

I would have given Wicked Becomes You 4 stars if not for the heroine's unfortunate encounter getting smacked silly by the Stupid Stick and acting like an asshat for about 50 pages. Sure, I'm a grumpy jerk for letting a character get to me, but it would serve romance writers well to understand that they can create conflict without turning otherwise rational and likable heroines into dithering morons out of the blue. I mean, we have reached a point in modern times when women aren't characterized as irrational harpies, right? RIGHT? Bueller?

So there's this sweet, perfectly nice Victorian girl named Gwen Maudsley who's super rich but untitled. She's been jilted not once, but twice at the altar and has had it UP TO HERE with all of this motherf--ing society and it's motherf--ing rules. (Self censorship is a hallmark of Victorian times.) So she decides to enlist the help of Alex Ramsey, a seriously dreamy rascal who was best friends with her late brother. Alex is apprehensive at first, considering that he promised said late brother that he would keep Gwen out of trouble. But by the time they meet up in Paris, sparks have already flown, and Gwen embarks on a reckless journey toward all things wicked. She breaks a few societal rules, convinces him to take her to the Moulin Rouge, and SHOCKER! They totally end up shagging. But will Alex's dark, sad past keep him from being a man worthy of Gwen? And will the lobatomy Gwen presumably inflicted on herself during one of the chapter breaks in the middle of the book ruin their chances of being delightfully wicked together?

I really like Duran's writing. Sometimes it gets a little too flowery for my tastes (literally, she references flowers A LOT), but the dialogue flows well and the character interactions are entertaining. Although Gwen's plunge into the more scandalous side of Paris isn't all that wicked, it is entertaining. I enjoyed the way Gwen savors every step of her new-found freedom. The setting also gives Gwen and Alex time to build up some pretty hot chemistry.

Alex is cool for the most part. He's jaded and glib most of the time, but I believed in his soft teddy-bear interior. I'll admit I laughed out loud SO HARD when his dark and wounded past centered around a childhood battle with asthma. Like, sure, that would suck, but I don't believe for a second it would leave him emotionally damaged because his family coddled him to keep him from having another attack. Sorry, no. Not buying that. Alex is open about his feelings and genuinely enjoys Gwen's quest to break out of her shell.

Gwen is a good time at first. Unfortunately, she slowly devolves into a woman with just a little less sense than I can handle. She takes off with a man she doesn't even know a couple of times. Wicked or not, that behavior's just stupid. Even real wicked women know better. At the end, she falls into the abominable "He says he loves me, and I don't believe him. Poor me! I'll be alone forever! But that's okay because I don't want him to leave me!" wangst fest. I HATE it when heroines act like that, especially when the hero's a cool guy like Alex.

Overall, the story was a quick read and definitely amused me in parts. It's a good candidate for lazy, easy reading. Just don't put too much merit in Gwen's misleading intelligence. You'll only be disappointed.