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Feuding families, star-crossed lovers...let the fireworks begin! Debonair and dynamic, millionaire Judd Harrington is back at Brockett Hall. With his socialite wife and family in tow, he's returned from LA a glittering success. But as he stares across the valley at Lochlin Maguire's beautiful country house, all he can think of is revenge. Meanwhile Judd's arch-rival has troubles of his own. Lochlin's record label is losing major talent to an unknown competitor, his wife Tavvy is distracted and he can't seem to see eye to eye with his son Shay. And, unbeknownst to Lochlin, his talented singer daughter Iris has fallen for irresistible racing driver Ace Harrington out in LA. Ace is under orders from Judd to break Iris's heart. What he hadn't bargained for was losing his own in the process. Can he go against his father's wishes? Or will Judd's wicked games ruin love's young dream?
I am a massive fan of a decent, sprawling summer bonkbuster such as those written by Jilly Cooper and Fiona Walker. I adore immersing myself in feuding families, glamorous locations, steamy sex scenes, pantomime villains... To me, it is a perfect way to break from all those serious novels I read. So, yeah, I love a good bonkbuster. Unfortunately this one wasn't. Not by a long way.
Don't get me wrong: the setting is perfect (the music industry, backed up by a little racing); there is enough double-crossing, spite and revenge to satisfy me; the men are gorgeous and the women irresistible. All the ingredients are in place for this to be a great piece of escapist ficton.
Yet I didn't like it. I didn't hate it either - I certainly read to the end, and wouldn't be completely put off trying another of Wagstaff's novels - but I just found it so lacking in excitement and intrigue. I'm not looking for massive twists in my bonkbusters - I generally know from the word go who will end up with who and (mostly) how it will play out as they get there - but Wicked Games plodded in a pedestrian manner from event to event without investing me in the characters.
In fact, this was one of the problems: despite the book being 450-odd pages, it is on the slim side for a bonkbuster novel (which usually stretch to 700 or 800 pages, if you think about the aforementioned Cooper and Walker), and Wagstaff packs in way too many characters to do justice to them all. The whole subplot dealing with Savannah - Judd's illegitimate daughter - is one that could have been the focus of the entire novel, yet it was rushed through in this book. Can you honestly say, having read the book, that you really cared about Caitie, Elliott and Jas? These three could have been stripped out of Wicked Games with no loss, allowing room to develop the subplots which were of interest. Add to that Jerry and Allegra and we'd be reaching a novel that didn't dart around so much like a gadfly, and could be enjoyed more thoroughly.
I will say that Wagstaff writes in a compulsive manner that I enjoyed, but I can see not being to the taste of everyone. It was rare that we stayed with any character POV for longer than a couple of pages, and this flitting backwards and forwards (with the requisite cliffhangers) kept me turning the pages feverishly, despite the fact that I didn't care too much for some of the characters. I knew that if I hit upon a character POV that didn't do anything for me, it would be a matter of moments before I moved onto one I would enjoy.
All in all, Wicked Games was not the best example of this genre that I've ever read. It was diverting enough during a bath, but I won't want to revisit these characters - unlike the iconic characters that bestride the work of Jilly Cooper. If you are looking for a tale of rogues and revenge, in the glittering world of media, then do yourself a favour and pick up Rivals by Jilly Cooper. I wouldn't really recommend this novel when there are better bonkbusters out there.
This review has appeared on Floor to Ceiling Books
Judd Harrington is back in England to cause a stir, and he's intent on succeeding. He brings along his wife Kitty who is petrified of Judd and his awful temper and his 2 sons, Elliot and Sebastian. None of Judd's family actually like him but live in fear of him. Ace, his third son, is the only one who is still in America and is still being controlled by him. Life for Judd's arch-enemy Lochlin isn't going too well either. His record company Shamrock is struggling against the newly formed Jett Corporation, run by none other than Judd. His relationship with his wife Tavvy and son Shay has seen better days, and he's trying to stall his talented singing daughter Iris from joining the ruthless showbiz world. Judd, however, has other plans. He's determined to sign Iris to his record label, and uses his son Ace to get her despite what Ace wants. Judd wants to make Lochlin suffer, and at any cost - he wants to ruin the Maguire family once and for all. Will the ruthless Judd Harrington succeed in destroying Lochlin and his family?
This is Sasha Wagstaff's second novel, but I hadn't actually picked up a copy of her debut Changing Grooms yet. When I was sent this by the publisher to review, I was drawn in by the eye-catching red, white and gold cover - it looks very elegant and certainly like a book I'd really enjoy. The book seems to be marked as a bit of a blockbuster, much in the vein of Tilly Bagshawe and Tasmina Perry, and having loved the formers books so far, I expected to enjoy this. Luckily, I wasn't at all let down and really liked the story - it travels around, has great characters and a thrilling story that keeps you guessing until the last page!
I very much enjoyed how Wagstaff doesn't tell us everything about the hatred between Judd Harrington and Lochlin Maguire at first. We're left guessing what happened in the past for a long while throughout the book and I didn't actually get it until it was revealed which was good. There are hints throughout but not enough to be obvious until Wagstaff intends for it to be told, and the puzzle along the way makes it very interesting reading. The book doesn't just focus on the rivalry between these two male characters though, we follow each of the men's children as their lives become entangled in each other, and I spent the book wondering how things were going to unravel and when!
There's quite a few characters in the book, and I have to admit that I did find it a little difficult at first to keep track of who was who, because some of them seemed to blend into each other in some respects! Once I got into the story however, it seemed much easier to tell them apart because of the storyline about them so it became less of a problem. At the beginning I struggled to differentiate between Tavvy and Kitty, Lochlin's and Judd's wives respectively. They seemed similar (although when you read the book they aren't really!) and I had to flick back and remind myself which was which. I also forgot at first which families the children belonged to but a quick flick back helped me out a bit.
I loved the characters, they really were well written. My favourites by a long way were Ace Harrington and Iris Maguire. They were the most realistic and believable of all the characters, you could imagine them both being like someone you know and they were easy to love in the context of their stories. The book did have its token villains though - Sebastian and Judd were nasty pieces of work, and a female character called Lexi was just calling to be hated, and I love how Wagstaff really draws out the readers emotions for these characters with her storyline for them. They all really come alive within the story, and even though they are all quite strong characters, they blend well together and make up a great cast.
Speaking of which, I really enjoyed the twists and turns that the book takes along the way. I have read something about this book that says the plot-twists are somewhat unbelievable, but as with this type of fiction, you have to suspend your reality for a bit and just enjoy the story as it goes! For me, there was nothing too ridiculous about this story, it was a great blockbuster of a book and I really enjoyed the whole thing. There were lots of things to shock, some things to laugh at and a few sweet love stories along the way too. I really enjoyed this book, and I think I'll be on the lookout for Wagstaff's debut novel now, and anything else she brings out too! A great read!
ISBN: 978-0755348916. Published by Headline Review in July 2010. Pages: 480 pages. RRP: £6.99.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com
Thank you for reading.