Your Wicked Ways (Duchess Quartet Series #4)

Your Wicked Ways - Eloisa James Last book in this particular series... I wasn't thinking about how these books interacted with the Essex sisters series. The names of some of the characters seemed familiar to me, and now I know why - duh!The Earl of Mayne (Garret Langham) figures in this book; Lucius Felton in the novellette in this series. I'd forgotten that Mayne is half-French, and I was a bit thrown by his characterization as having a slight French accent for a bit. I had to re-read the 1st and last in the Essex sisters books to satisfy my "craving" for Mayne, after reading this book.POTENTIAL SPOILERS BELOW!!! (Interspersed with my opinions and not necessarily labeled as spoilers)Helene Godwin... she seemed to be the one friend in the duchess quartet whose marriage and love-life was simply doomed. Her husband, Rees, composes comic opera and is known for being a wild child, careless in his appearance and manner and scandalous in his open behavior -- he had a troupe of Russian dancers in his house after Helene left him, just months after their marriage. Rees has had an opera singer in residence in Helene's bed chamber for the past 2 years or so.Helene is very thin, very pale, and very upright... one might even say, uptight. She is the moral compass of the duchess friends: Esme is the Infamous Esme - the Sensual One who knows how to keep mens' attentions; Gina is the Sensible, but Compassionate friend; Carola is the Naive, Romantic friend. In fact, I wasn't even sure that I liked Helene until this book. She seemed like too much of a goody two-shoes, and she made it perfectly plain she didn't like marital intimacies in the least. Yet she eloped with Rees?!Her husband, Rees, seemed like a lost cause to me, too. For all his wild ways, he didn't seem to have much use for women, and he wasn't all that nice a guy to be around even for his male friends. Although when his friend Simon Darby met & married Henrietta (2nd book), there was a slight change in Rees. And in this book, we learn that Rees longs for the companionship, passion, and love that his friend Simon has found in his wife and his marriage.It seems that Rees is another tortured hero - imagine that! As usual, his parents' marriage and his father's behavior towards him have shaped him into who he is. Rees is the eldest of two brothers, and Rees is the Sinner, while his brother Tom is the Saint. So naturally, as a second son, Tom is a vicar. Tom makes his debut in this book; he's not seen Rees for 5 years, and he misses his brother, even though their father did all he could to make the brothers detest one another. On his way, Tom encounters an orphaned 5 year-old girl who's been taken in by a middle-aged, motherly cook (Mrs. Fishbourne); but Meggin is starting to attract attention and isn't so easily hidden any more, so in a moment of desperation, Mrs. F gives Meggin to Tom to look after, thinking that 1) he's a vicar, and 2) he's from the part of England that Mrs. F is from, too.Helene has been in anguish because Esme had a little boy, Carola has a little girl, and Gina has a little boy, too. Helene wants a child desperately, but when she talked to Rees about it, he flatly refused. Helene even tried to make Rees jealous by making him think she was having an affair, and while it galled Rees a bit, nothing much came of the incident. Helene is determined to have a child - with or without Rees' involvement; she knows it means scandal, but Helene no longer cares - she's lonely and wants a child to love. Esme, after her experience, convinces Helene that it's imperative she give Rees another chance to sire the child. Esme and her now husband Sebastian are still dealing with the consequences of Esme's son, William: while William has Miles' name and inheritance, it's become clear that her encounter with Sebastian the night before her mutual bedding with her husband produced William - he looks exactly like Sebastian. But because everyone proclaimed him to be Miles' son at birth (because they wanted him to be, Esme most of all), William will inherit Miles' title and lands; meaning that Sebastian's eldest son (perhaps only son?) isn't eligible to inherit Sebastian's title and lands.Esme and Gina decide that Helene needs a makeover - she looks too stiff and uptight. Helene is concerned about her non-existant curves. So they take a trip to Esme's modiste to remedy the situation. Of course, Rees has been dragged to the same modiste by his opera singer, Lina. Rees is trying to write his next opera, which is long over-due, and he needs Lina's vocal help. Seems not much else has been going on between Rees and Lina for over a year now -- Rees isn't interested in much more than composing, especially since inspiration is eluding him, and Lina, bored to tears, tries to poke and prod Rees into emotion by making him take her out and spend money on her. In the modiste shop, both sides overhear the other: Lina deliberately flaunts herself, making it sound as if Rees drags her home to make love to her. Helene is mortified... just enough so that Esme and the modiste convince Helene to try some daring new styles AND to cut her hair, finally freeing Helene from the heavy "Teutonic maiden" braids that she's known for.Of course, Helene's new "look" is the talk of the ton, which is where the Earl of Mayne comes in. While Mayne is known to bed virtually every unhappily married woman and widow around, for whatever reason he thinks himself to be suddenly and madly in love with the Countess Helene Godwin. Here's where our author fails us a bit -- she doesn't really help us to see or feel as Mayne does, so the depth of feeling Mayne supposedly feels for Helene seems completely false. I suppose we're to believe that it's a violent infatuation, and yet in the Essex sisters books (esp. the first), we see the effects of this book on Mayne, and it's not pretty.Regardless, through the magic of this transformation, Helene manages to convince Rees to try for a child. In fact, Rees needs Helene's musical talent to help him complete his long over-due opera; but Rees still feels cruelly towards Helene, and so he insists that she move back into his house - in the NURSERY - while Lina remains in her former bedchambers! Helene knows this would be a terrible scandal, but she's so desperate to at least TRY for a child, she agrees - but only for one month and only if the entire thing is kept completely secret. Helene pretends to be in Bath, but the dogged Mayne discovers her secret, and in a fit of jealousy (really?) makes sure that the biggest gossip of the "ton" knows it.In the meantime, Helene and Rees begin to remember why they eloped... they stop hurting one another verbally and bringing up the past. And it helps that Helene looks more like a goddess, and that Rees acts more like a lover. It seems that Rees and Helene were both virgins when they wed, and Rees never quite learned the "art" of seducing a woman or readying her for the act; he's a wham-bam-it's-your-duty kinda man. (Rees a virgin when married after his father's determination that he be a sinner - really?) But now... they seem to be finding their way together, especially in the outdoors! Scandalous!In the OTHER meantime, Tom finds himself quite besotted with Rees' opera singer, Lina. It's convenient that while she left the opera house to be Rees' lover, Lina really thought herself in love with Rees yet both Rees and Lina discovered early on that the relationship was more about Rees having access to Lina's amazing voice than to her amazing body. So, technically I suppose Lina's not really a courtesan, right? Hmmm.... Lina is a Scottish lass - daughter of a vicar, even. But Lina's father was "perfect" and expected that same spiritual perfection from Lina. When he thought that Lina was becoming prideful over her voice, he told her she wasn't allowed to sing for 6 months. And that's when Lina finally went "all the way" with a neighbor boy and ran off to London to the opera. But of course, Lina is really a virtuous woman... and a possible mother for Meggin! And of course Tom is the image of Rees, but a kinder, more loving and gentle Rees - the one that Lina thought she was in love with.Can you see where all this is going, dear Goodreads Friend? But can they all avoid the scandal that the Earl of Mayne has brought upon them?--------------------I really did enjoy this series of books. And this last book is truly a good read. But it felt too "neat" to me.... Especially because the couple involved (Rees and Helene) have never been very likeable: Rees because he's an arrogant slob who hasn't any use for women, and Helene because she's too uptight to enjoy life, much less relax enough to enjoy physical pleasure. Yes, these two people are hurting, and they've hurt each other deeply - when both were very vulnerable in their opinions of themselves and relationships and sex. Here, Rees is a typical male who's been devastated by his wife (his lover) telling him verbally that she's disgusted by his body and telling him non-verbally (and verbally) that she doesn't like sex. Rees hasn't forgotten or forgiven.There are so many lessons in this book about love and relationships, and IMO, the lessons are directed at us women! Don't go off on a tangent, dear friend... as women, we often forget how we must first like and love ourselves before we can truly love others... and how much importance men give to our words and actions, especially our intimate words and actions. If a man doesn't believe that his lover (partner, wife, etc.) is pleased and accepting of his attentions and himself, and yes, that's mostly sexual in nature, he's devastated - and he'll go elsewhere to find what he's not getting from his lover. It doesn't matter how much he's to blame; the man won't see anything but hurt and rejection, so he won't see or hear anything his lover says or does any longer. Helene didn't and probably couldn't know that - most women don't; we learn it the hard way. Which is why it's so frustrating, because Helene has her friends, especially Esme, to guide her. But because they're too busy acting as her friend and not asking the important questions, like WHY doesn't she like intimacy (getting to the heart of the issue), neither Esme nor Gina can truly offer Helene insight or help.And amazing as it is, we find Rees discovering inspiration and imagination, all on his own. I suppose with the proper motivation, anything is possible. But in this case, it seems improbable.The subplot between Tom and Lina and even the stuff with Meggin is cute and "ahhh"-worthy. But again, all of it is too neat and too convenient, so the truth of the relationship between brothers and who Lina really is gets lost in what seems to be the tying up of all loose ends in this series. Because the book might as well be entitled, "All's Well That Ends Well", seeing Ms. James' penchant for Shakespeare.I can see why Ms. James needed to re-visit Lucius Felton and especially the Earl of Mayne in another series. Had I read this series before the Essex Sisters series, I'm not sure that I would have cared as much about Mayne and wanted to see him happy. Although I suppose he paid his penance by his exposure to the Essex sisters, regardless of his life before them!"Your Wicked Ways" is a fun read, and it does provide us with the bookend to this series. Using a light touch, the book reminds women of some of the lessons about love and intimacy and how important our words and actions are that are worth remembering. The entire series reminds us of how important our WOMEN FRIENDS are to us, and how men can't and shouldn't be expected to be our only sources of love and friendship and companionship. But it's also important to have an inner circle of female friends with whom you can be completely yourself - even confiding your most intimate secrets, woes, and joys with.I'd gladly give the book another star (even star and a half) if it didn't feel so "neat" and so "cute". But it's a good read.