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'Wicked Pleasures' is an 804 page romp through Vincenzi land. Teeming with the affluence and decadence that all her novels possess, 'Wicked Pleasures' is exactly that. These novels will never be high brow literary works, they are more along the lines of guilty pleasure. But guilty pleasures are always lots of fun.
The basic plot is tantalizing: Lady Virginia Caterham has three children, all with different fathers, & none of whom are her husband. As usual with Vincenzi, there is a bit of a spoiler in the prologue, as this premise is revealed. As is the fact that her husband, Alexander, is fully aware that he is not really the father of Charlotte, Georgina, or Max. The book then jumps backwards to before Virginia even met her husband, or indeed the fathers of her children. Back to when she is a teenager living in the shadow of her adored brother, Baby Praeger.
We see Virginia's life, and the lives of those around her, played out from 1956 onwards. The majority of the plot, however, occurs in the 1980s as the three children discover the true identities of their fathers. Events unfold in both London and New York, as the Praegers are based in New York, but Lord Caterham, Virginia's husband is very much British.
The other players in this story are not human ones. Regardless of the transAtlantic divide, this novel is set in two very different, but equally splendid worlds. The first being the financial world of Wall Street and the City, in the lead up to the Big Bang of the 1980's. Praegers is a New York bank, and the foundtations of Virginia's ancestry. The bank is a hugely important character in the plot, as the ownership and control of the bank, once hereditary, comes under question.
The second world is the archaic one of the landed British gentry. Virginia often feels that her husband, Lord Caterham, loves his house and estate, Hartest, much more than he loves her. Her children also love the house, and hope to inherit one day, despite their dubious parentage.
The book is divided into 67 chapters, each one marked with the year in which it takes place (there is some back and forth through time) and the character on which it largely focuses.
As well as Virginia and her children there are main characters in the form of Angie, who begins life as Virginia's assistant and comes very far, and also numerous bankers, in London and New York. The characters are interesting, including a lot of, admittedly stereotypical, financial types. We don't really get a great insight into any of them, but really they are just pawns in the game of scandal!
The book, as will all Penny Vincenzis, is written for the decadence and compelling qualities of the plot, rather than writing style. The way she writes is very sensational, but can be rather repetitive. If Penny Vincenzi wants to make a point she will really hammer it home. For instance, the family Nanny often comes out with strange nonsequiturs, and we are reminded of this nearly every time she is featured. Vincenzi will also often write things like "she would come to regret those words in the next 24 hours" making it too obvious that something is about to happen, and ruining the element of surprise.
That said, books, or indeed films, of this genre are often predictable but that is half the fun! 'Wicked Pleasures' is a compelling, fun, sensational journey through the lives of one very rich family. The book is indeed a doorstop, but lots happens in it. Vincenzi doesn't just give you one scandal, she gives you scores. I've read quite a few of her books and I think this one probably has the most sex in it too! So If this sounds like your sort of thing you won't be disappointed, and your appetite for the salacious will certainly be satisfied.
All families have secrets. This family hid a secret which would tear it apart. Sexy, glamorous and fun, WICKED PLEASURES is the story of a brother and two sisters who find out that they all have different fathers: none of them Alexander, Earl of Catherham, who was married to their mother for almost twenty years. It is the story of the power and the greed of the mega-rich, as the great family banking business upon which fortunes are won and lost comes to the brink of ruin, and family ties are tested to the utmost.