How do you write a series of novels that are related, yet manage to keep each one distinct? Mary Balogh obviously has answered this question with her current “Slightly” series. While the content focuses on a particular character, the continuity of the series remains intact with the thoughtful addition of cast members whenever suitable. In Slightly Wicked, we rediscover Rannulf Bedwyn, the carefree third son of a duke, and his damsel in distress, Judith Law.
While the last book, Slightly Married, took a more serious tone, that would not work with Rannulf and Judith. Slightly Wicked is a tale of dreams and desires, often at odds with the public facade that people display. Rannulf is on his way to visit his grandmother, hoping to deflect her latest matchmaking scheme, when he meets Judith Law, along with the other passengers of an overturned stagecoach. One look at the lovely young woman, traveling unchaperoned, and he is smitten. Offering to give her a ride to the next village, Rannulf is hoping for some feminine companionship to break the monotony of his journey.
Judith Law is on her way to meet her fate. The second daughter of an impoverished minister, she has been sent to live on the charity of her aunt and grandmother as an unpaid, unappreciated companion. She is doomed to a life of invisibility and sobriety, her dreams of a family and love have been shattered. When the handsome man offers her transport, she grabs hold of the opportunity and never waivers. This may be the one time in her life that she can be herself, with no one the wiser.
What happens next is a series of fateful circumstances that continue to place Rannulf and Judith within each other’s company. The two grandmothers have been lifelong friends, and are eager for Rannulf and Judith’s cousin to wed. They have no idea that another match might be in the offing.
I enjoyed the characters in Slightly Wicked a little more than its predecessor. This may be because Rannulf is boyishly charming, especially when compared with his older brothers. Judith is such a contradiction that I can appreciate how he wants to reveal the “true” woman behind the public facade. I also appreciated the discussion about how our families can dampen our spirits, all with the best of intentions. Judith has to be strong enough to acknowledge her inner self before she can become a real heroine, and not just a victim.