Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

REVIEW: Simply Wicked by Kate Pearce

Dear Ms. Pearce,

0758232217.01.LZZZZZZZI wasn’t sure what to expect when I began your latest book, Simply Wicked, not having read you before and having only the vague idea that you write erotic romance, a term that has come to be applied a bit too broadly to provide much useful information for me as a reader. The fourth line from the opening was thus both a bit startling and edifying:

He licked his lips, tasting dried blood, brandy and the acrid tang of another man’s cum.

Ok-ay, then, that clears up the erotic romance part, I guess.

Anthony Sokorvsky is the 25-year-old younger son of an aristocratic family. Marguerite is a widow whose husband, Lord Lockwood, was killed in a duel under scandalous circumstances two years previously. They are brought together when her younger siblings decide that Marguerite needs to get out and circulate and choose Anthony to squire her (he seems an odd choice given that they know him from his frequent appearances at their mother’s brothel).

I felt rather at sea in the early chapters of Simply Wicked – though it is ostensibly set in 1819 London, at times it almost seems like an alternate history or alternate universe London, one where the daughter of a notorious madam can marry a lord and circulate in society with relative ease, and where the sexual pecadilloes of the hero – whose inclinations before meeting the heroine consist of playing the submissive in rough sexual encounters with other men – are openly known and discussed amongst his family, including his mother. I understand that perhaps some of the hyper-charged sexuality of the world you’ve created is due to Simply Wicked being an erotic romance, but when I think of the erotica I’ve read, even set in contemporary times (where attitudes might be expected to be looser), the sexual behavior of the characters tends to take place within a prescribed world.

I think the story would’ve been stronger if the hero and heroine were better developed. There are references to Marguerite’s upbringing in a strict convent orphanage and her desire for her own home and family, but I felt that I was missing some backstory that would’ve fleshed out her character. I had the same reaction to Anthony; it seemed that the book was written with the assumption that readers would have read previous books in the series, and would know how he came to crave punishing and degrading sex with other men.

And about that…as I am not a regular or avid reader of m/m or bdsm romances and/or erotica, I don’t feel qualified to definitively state that the presentation of the the relationship between Anthony and Lord Minshon (Anthony’s chief lover/tormentor/villain; apparently the hero of a future book in the series) was offensive. But it did feel a bit so to me. I will admit that I’ve read enough gay villains in straight romance (no pun intended) to be a little sensitive on the issue. But it does seem that their relationship was problematic in that it introduced a couple of hackneyed and unpleasant cliches: 1) the man who “turns” gay after being raped/sexually abused by another man and 2) the man who must be “saved” from his “perverted” behavior by the love of a good woman, a love that is sanctified only when he is able to dominate her in bed. On the second point, to be fair, it’s clear at the end that Anthony is still interested in kinky stuff (and Marguerite is okay with that herself, so it’s not a problem). I’m not trying to suggest that Marguerite turns Anthony straight. But there are those aspects to the story, and they did make me a little uncomfortable.

I appreciated that the story focused by and large on the emotional developments between Anthony and Marguerite, and each of their journeys to self-acceptance. Towards the end, I began to tire of the excessive self-flagellation that they each indulge in (I guess I should specify I mean emotional self-flagellation, given the subject matter presented in the book). Both of them repeatedly ponder how the other could ever love or forgive them for their misdeeds. It’s annoying when one of the lead characters does this; when they both do it’s just that much more aggravating. At least there were no extraneous suspense plots or mysteries to be solved; the heroine does attempt to discover the truth about her late husband and his death, but it’s a subplot that’s woven fairly skillfully into the story.

I thought the sex scenes were pretty hot, for the most part, and the story was well plotted and flowed smoothly. Ultimately, I wonder if Simply Wicked tried to straddle the line too much between erotica and romance. There is a slightly unbalanced feel in the way that the hero’s sexuality is depicted versus the heroine’s relative innocence (especially given her parentage). When the truth about the circumstances surrounding the death of Marguerite’s husband finally comes out, I rolled my eyes – even in a book as racy as this one, the heroine is expected to retain her essential “purity”? Really?

Despite my complaints, I found some aspects of this story compelling enough that I would be interested in reading one of your future books. The excerpt of Lord Minshon’s story at the end is intriguing, even though I kind of hated him in Simply Wicked. I am concerned that again we have a hero who solely has relationships with other men until the heroine appears (or reappears, in this case). I’m not sure how I feel about that. I would love it if the heroine is given a little more leave to indulge the same behavior as the hero.

My grade for Simply Wicked is a C+.

Best regards,

Jennie

This book can be purchased at Amazon or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers. (Note, the book hasn’t shown up yet in the Sony store because the book hasn’t been released but given that the other books in the series are digitized, it seems safe to say that this book will be available in ebook as well. This is a trade paperback thus the higher price point.

has been an avid if often frustrated romance reader for the past 15 years. In that time she's read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors (Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson) have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she's had to expand her horizons a bit. Newer authors she enjoys include Julie Ann Long, Megan Hart and J.R. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel. Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she's not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction.

19 Comments

  1. KMont
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 15:06:33

    *He licked his lips, tasting dried blood, brandy and the acrid tang of another man's cum.*

    Perhaps I will have forgotten this by dinner tonight. My stomach hopes so. Eh, what a patsy I am.

  2. Janine
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 16:03:52

    I felt rather at sea in the early chapters of Simply Wicked – though it is ostensibly set in 1819 London, at times it almost seems like an alternate history or alternate universe London, one where the daughter of a notorious madam can marry a lord and circulate in society with relative ease, and where the sexual pecadilloes of the hero – whose inclinations before meeting the heroine consist of playing the submissive in rough sexual encounters with other men – are openly known and discussed amongst his family, including his mother.

    I read another Kate Pearce book a while back (I think it was Simply Sexual), and I felt somewhat simiarly about the setting of that book — as though I’d entered an alternate Regency.

  3. Kate Pearce
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 16:25:30

    Thanks for the review and you raise some very interesting points.
    I’m not big on sexual labels, so I never try and paint any of my characters as definitely gay, straight or bi, they just are who they are, and hopefully, they’ll be loved for who they are regardless of their sexual orientation.
    Thanks again! :)

  4. Jennifer Leeland
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 17:18:46

    Mmmmm. There were two things that caught my attention. One was that you said
    And about that…as I am not a regular or avid reader of m/m or bdsm romances and/or erotica,
    and that you hadn’t read the previous books.
    Unfortunately, I think this is one story that would have been better appreciated if the previous one at least had been read.
    I’ve been lucky enough to read all of Kate’s books, and she took on a difficult hero to redeem, one who had been through a horrendous sexual experience that changed him.
    I’m afraid I don’t see the “turned gay” aspect as much as Anthony endured humiliating sexual abuse because he wouldn’t deal with his experience. In fact, I don’t think Anthony was turned “gay” at all but a bisexual submissive who went to extremes.
    But those are psychological aspects that were subtly played out throughout the series, so perhaps it wasn’t easy to catch as a “cold” read.
    And as far as entering an “alternate Regency”, people often feel that way about contemporary BDSM. (It IS another world).
    Believe me, I read “Simply Sinful” first and was a “reluctant” reader (since Regency historicals are NOT my thing AND I didn’t see how it could be erotic) but the story, the characters and the craft won me over.

  5. Miki
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 17:47:34

    Yikes! Not my style at all. Thanks so much for the review!

  6. Voirey Linger
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 18:15:21

    I have also had the pleasure of reading this book. I have to respectfully disagree with some of the comments of the reviewer.

    Anthony is not a man who ‘turns gay’ because of abuse. He is a young man who, because of rape, does not know what he does or does not like. The rape was his first sexual experience. Violence and pain at the hands of a man was all he knew of sex. Margurite shows him another side of sexuality and he must figure out what is pleasure, what he enjoys and what he doesn’t. In the end, he turns his back on the extreme sexuality in favor of a gentler hand.

    I also disagree with the implication he becomes dominant and therefor whole. I fail to see how tying him up is the act of a submissive woman, or how being tied is a dominant man. There is a certain give and take to Anthony and Margurite’s relationship, however it’s clear Anthony still prefers the role of a sub.

    Anthony’s journey is one of self-discovery. He has to set aside what he’d learned of pleasure and decide what truly satisfies him.

    This is a wonderful book. It contains some extreme sexual acts, including BDSM and M/M. Contrary to most erotica on the market, it is elegantly written without the vulgar crudeness which dominates the genre. Simply Wicked won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I quite enjoyed it.

  7. Jane
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 19:08:07

    @KMont It’s the dried blood that gets me. I think to myself, is this a paranormal?

    Also, there are overtones to the book (from the review) that made me think of Robin Schone’s books.

  8. Heidi
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 20:15:34

    I had read the series, and so had no trouble understanding this book. I liked it and was glad to see the hero redeemed. I will gladly buy the next :)

  9. Debra
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 20:47:13

    What Jennifer said.

    Having read all her books, I do not think you can go into this series without starting at the beginning and still be able to follow along.

    I stopped reading historicals a long time ago but was sucked into her books and have been hooked ever since. But she is the only writer of historicals I will read.

  10. Jennie
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 21:04:47

    I'm afraid I don't see the “turned gay” aspect as much as Anthony endured humiliating sexual abuse because he wouldn't deal with his experience. In fact, I don't think Anthony was turned “gay” at all but a bisexual submissive who went to extremes.
    But those are psychological aspects that were subtly played out throughout the series, so perhaps it wasn't easy to catch as a “cold” read.

    I really felt that it wasn’t. That was one of my complaints; I really thought Anthony’s character could’ve been better developed within the book itself. I would’ve perhaps understood him better, and it would’ve made for a richer reading experience.

    As for Anthony being bisexual, it’s my understanding that he hadn’t had sex with a woman before this book. I’m not sure if that’s an extreme example of the romance trope where the hero is promiscuous but the heroine is “different”. I didn’t get the sense that Anthony was particularly interested in women other than Marguerite.

    And as far as entering an “alternate Regency”, people often feel that way about contemporary BDSM. (It IS another world).

    I think on reflection it was the romance aspect of the book that didn’t really mesh with everyone and anyone knowing what Anthony was into (his mother! I still can’t get over that…), and talking about it pretty freely. If romances are fantasy to a degree, I think they are less so than erotica and/or porn where everyone is just getting it on indiscriminately (and not all erotica I’ve read is like that, either; it really varies). So I think the setting and to some degree the realism of the romance made the “other world” aspects of the story feel dissonant.

    I'm not big on sexual labels, so I never try and paint any of my characters as definitely gay, straight or bi, they just are who they are, and hopefully, they'll be loved for who they are regardless of their sexual orientation.

    Fair enough. Would you consider writing (or have you written?) a book with a heroine like Anthony? That would pique my interest!

    It's the dried blood that gets me. I think to myself, is this a paranormal?

    You know, I don’t recall that there was much (if any) detail after that about Anthony being like, actually hurt during sex. Which was fine with me.

    For all that it was a love story between Anthony and Marguerite, the m/m scenes felt a little hotter to me. Though in general the sex scenes were all well done.

  11. Kate Pearce
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 21:25:35

    Hi Jennie!,

    First off, I don’t think Anthony’s mother knew ‘exactly’ what he was up to sexually, just that he wasn’t doing the normal social stuff she would expect. She’s his mother and she worries about him :)

    And secondly, for a more liberated sexually confident female you should check out ‘Simply Shameless’, the previous book about Helene Delornay, Marguerite’s mother.

  12. kirsten saell
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 21:30:05

    Fair enough. Would you consider writing (or have you written?) a book with a heroine like Anthony? That would pique my interest!

    You mean a romance heroine who isn’t a 0 or a 6 on the Kinsey Scale? But…but they don’t exist! LOL

    I, for one, would looooove to see more sexually fluid heroines out there (and please don’t tell me to write some, because I have and I am). I’d guess true sexual fluidity is probably as common (if not more) in women as in men, so I find it odd that it isn’t as common in romance as male bisexuality seems to be.

  13. K. Z. Snow
    Sep 28, 2009 @ 21:42:12

    the m/m scenes felt a little hotter to me

    They always feel hotter. That’s why so many of us love ‘em. ;-)

    He licked his lips, tasting dried blood, brandy and the acrid tang of another man's cum.

    That is one fabulously descriptive, evocative line. I’m envious.

  14. Maili
    Sep 29, 2009 @ 02:37:05

    @Jane

    Also, there are overtones to the book (from the review) that made me think of Robin Schone's books.

    Yes. Some elements mentioned in the review does make me think of Robin Schone’s Gabriel’s Woman.

    @Debra

    Having read all her books, I do not think you can go into this series without starting at the beginning and still be able to follow along.

    That is a shame, but thank you for that note because I was thinking of picking this one up.

  15. Jennifer Leeland
    Sep 29, 2009 @ 06:41:46

    I really felt that it wasn't. That was one of my complaints; I really thought Anthony's character could've been better developed within the book itself. I would've perhaps understood him better, and it would've made for a richer reading experience.
    Perhaps this is why the book wasn’t a “romantic” experience for you. Anthony’s damage (and Valentine’s and Peter’s for that matter) are not easy to understand or relate to. His reaction to his experience is the foundation for the story. And the angst, the constant questioning of his worthiness, is part of the character development.
    As always, relating to the character’s pain, his/her fears, will change the way a story reads for me.
    Interestingly, I find I have the same difficulty with Valentine, the hero in “Simply Sexual”. His REACTION isn’t one I can relate to very well and his denial manifests in a completely different way. As a character, he grew on me, but not the first time I read the book.
    But I’m totally fascinated by how Kate will redeem Lord Minshom and I can’t wait for the next one.

  16. Kate Pearce
    Sep 29, 2009 @ 10:01:01

    @Maili:

    Yay Jane and Mali! Robin Schone is one of my writing heroes. I’ve heard myself compared to her several times over the years and when I finally went and read ‘The Lover’ and ‘Gabriel’s Woman’ I could see why.

  17. Sandy
    Sep 29, 2009 @ 10:45:29

    Since I won’t get my Kindle copy until Friday (guess I should have order the hard copy) I can’t comment on this book. I have read the previous 3 books in the series. I’ve enjoyed them all. The first (Simply Sexual) was my favorite. Anthony has been in all three books. I’ve found Ms. Peace’s characters to be very complex and interesting. When I first read Simply Sexual, I hoped we’d get a chance to see more of Anthony and the aftermath of what happened to him in that book.

    Reading a book that is in the middle of a series always comes with some issues. Back-story isn’t always included and in this case you probably miss out on Anthony growing up and spiraling out of control in the previous three books. I would guess it’s a delicate balancing act in writing a series to know how much back-story to include for an on going character and what to leave out. If you include too much, you risk boring the readers who have already read the previous books. If you leave too much out new readers don’t have a good access to the character. I’m sure this theme has been discussed to death on another thread here.

  18. Sayoko
    Oct 18, 2009 @ 04:57:30

    So far, my favorite in the series is “Simply Sinful” (I *love* Peter, LOL), while “Simply Sexual” comes in second.
    I had highly anticipated Anthony’s book, but I must say I was quite disappointed. It was a C- for me.
    I felt no connection with the characters, and especially the relationship bewteen Marguerite and Anthony didn’t feel very engaging or romantic. Also, the MM scenes with Captain Gray completely lacked the power that James and Peter’s scenes had in “Simply Sinful”… (yes, that book really did leave an impression on me XD)
    I’ve read the excerpt from Minshom’s story, and I didn’t find it very appealing. Still, printed romances that feature MMF and MM stories are quite rare, so I might give it a try.

  19. REVIEW: Simply Insatiable by Kate Pearce | Dear Author
    May 10, 2010 @ 13:01:05

    [...] read and reviewed your book Simply Wicked last year and gave it a C+. Since I mentioned in that review that I was interested in reading the [...]

%d bloggers like this: