cover image Wicked Widow

Wicked Widow

Amanda Quick. Bantam Books, $23.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-553-10087-7

Odd's teeth! Is this the same pen that gave readers the delicious Mischief, among many other entertainments? The multifaceted Jayne Ann Krentz's pseudonym for her Regency romances, Amanda Quick has been a reliable label, guaranteeing witty dialogue between strong-willed lovers and offering genuine suspense laced with erotic thrills. Alas, the present offering falls short. Virgin widow Madeline Reed Deveridge is maddeningly befuddled about men. Dubbed the Wicked Widow ever since she was obliged to shoot her husband, scoundrel Renwick Deveridge, in self-defense, she now seems to be haunted by Renwick's ghost. Worse, she requires an eternity to realize she loves (and is loved by) Artemis Hunt, whose help she enlists when her maid is kidnapped from the Dream Pavilions, London pleasure gardens secretly owned by Hunt. Artemis is gruff and bossy, rather than exquisitely arrogant in the traditional model, and he commands little sympathy in an obsessive plot to avenge the death of his actress love, Catherine Jensen, five years before the main story takes place. Much space is devoted to the Vanzagarian Society, an arcane cult of which Artemis is a master--Madeline's father belonged to the society too, and Renwick tried to turn it to his evil purposes--but we never know its particularities or feel its power. Sex scenes are perfunctory. The occasional flashes of vivid writing, as in the descriptions of fog-bound pursuits through London's seamier neighborhoods, provoke nostalgia for Quick at her best. (Apr.)