Reviewed by Joanne Bozik
Posted April 7, 2014
WICKED LITTLE SECRETS is set in 1845 England gave me great
enjoyment to read. This historical romance was one book I
could not put down. I carried this book where ever I went
and every chance I'd get, I'd read it. The characters come
to life in this book, but the one that stands out the most
is Vivienne Taylor, the heroine.. Vivienne was a bit of a
wild child, always getting into trouble for one thing or
another. She has never won her family's approval until one
night at a ball when she is asked to marry the wealthy John
Vandergrift. All is going well until a vicious blackmail
scheme against her family hits the fan. Vivienne knows only
one person she can get help from, her old time friend Lord
Lord Dashiell has known Vivienne since she was a little
girl and he promised himself that he'd never ruin that
friendship, but when he takes a look at Vivienne all grown
up now, the most beautiful woman he's ever laid his eyes
on, things start to change for the both of them. The only
problem with Dashiell is his bad reputation of being a Rake
of the Ton and in no way is he looking for marriage, but he
will never hurt Vivienne, this he swore to many years ago.
But when she comes to him for help, they must always meet
in secret to try to figure out who's attacking her family.
If her betrothed or family find out they've been meeting in
secret, they will have more trouble then they bargained for.
The romance between Dashiell and Vivienne start to grow and
as the heat between them grows hot enough to burn a forest,
it becomes very hard for them to stay away from each other.
I loved this hot historical romance and kudos to Susanna
Ives. WICKED LITTLE SECRETS is a recommended read for sure!
It has almost
everything in one book, romance, lust,and a mystery that
you sitting on the end of your seat. I would not pass up
It's Not Easy Being Good...
Vivacious Vivienne Taylor has finally won her family's
approval by getting engaged to the wealthy and upright John
Vandergrift. But when threatened by a vicious blackmail
scheme, it is to her childhood friend that Vivienne turns;
the deliciously wicked Viscount Dashiell.
When Being Wicked is so Much More Exciting...
Lord Dashiell promised himself long ago that his friendship
with Vivienne would be the one relationship with a woman
that he wouldn't ruin. He agrees to help her just to keep
the little hothead safe, but soon finds that Vivienne has
grown up to be very, very dangerous to all of Dash's best
No. 15 Wickerly Square, London
Tuesday, March 11, 1845
Vivienne Taylor repressed a mischievous smile as she gazed
at the female members of the Wesley Congregation. The way
the ladies sat in three neat rows, with their earnest faces
poking out from their morning caps, resembled a gardening
bed of black and white lacy flowers. They gathered for the
weekly Bible lessons held in the parlor of Gertrude Bertis’s
home on Wickerly Square.
Aunt Gertrude banged her cane on the floor, signaling the
beginning of the lessons and scaring Garth, her pug dog, who
had been snoozing at her feet. “Sisters, today we shall have
a special reading in celebration.” Her mouth hiked slightly
around the edges… the closest she came to smiling. For
though she had a plump, flushed face—the kind made for grins
and laughter—she kept her mouth and brow in tense, severe
lines, making her appear decades older than her forty-one
years. She wore her hair in a snug bun, but a few rebellious
strands of silver and brown escaped and curled about her
face. Her corset was laced tight, constraining her
expansive, round form into rigid feminine contours. Yet when
she gazed at her niece, a tender glow melted all the
hardness in her eyes.
“My little Vivvie is engaged.” Aunt Gertrude reached over
and patted the top of Vivienne’s hand. A wave of warmth
flowed through Vivienne’s body.
The ladies cooed, “How lovely,” and “Won’t you be a
beautiful bride?”—not the sort of disapproving words
Vivienne had heard most of her twenty-two years, words such
as, “Proper young ladies do not bring up the marriage
customs of the ancient Spartans at the dinner parties,” and
“Proper young ladies do not ask the circulating library for
books by the Marquis de Sade,” and, the one that embarrassed
her father the most, “Proper young ladies are not asked to
leave Ladies Seminary.”
Vivienne had done something right, even if for the first
time in her life, as her sisters Hannah and Fiona had
claimed. Just when her family was a few pounds from debtor’s
prison, Vivienne managed to catch John Vandergrift, the son
of the manager for South Birmingham railroad. With a
flourish of his pen, the elder Mr. Vandergrift could fill
her father’s machinery factory with orders.
“Vivvie has come up from Birmingham to be near her fiancé,”
her aunt continued. “I met him just yesterday, such a fine,
considerate young man. I know Mr. Bertis would have
approved.” She turned her head and gazed up at the portrait
of the honorable Judge Jeremiah Bertis, posed in his court
robes and wavy wig. He held his jutting, Romanesque nose
high, as his heavy-lidded, dark eyes looked disapprovingly
on everything below him.
“Mr. Vandergrift is wonderful, isn’t he?” Vivienne gushed.
“I have to continually pinch myself. I can’t believe that he
“Well, it’s little wonder,” said Mrs. Lacey in her honey-
sweet voice. She resembled an elf with her small stature,
frizzy white hair, and bright smile. “You’re ravishing with
those green eyes and black curls. And your breasts are so
ample. You know how gentlemen just love breasts.”
“Breasts!” Aunt Gertrude cried. “Mrs. Lacey, pray restrain
yourself!” She squeezed the bulbous head of her cane as she
fumbled about the medicine bottles on the side table,
finding a blue square one that Vivienne recognized to be Dr.
Philpot’s Wonderful Nerve Tonic for Ailing and Suffering
Ladies. Soothing Menses, Hysteria, and Other Female
Complaints. She popped the cork, took a discreet swig, and
then sniffed, dabbing the edge of her mouth. “A lady’s
virtue is far more desirous than her physical beauty. There
is many a lady suffering in the flames of hell for her
vanity.” She let her words fall as heavily as the sentences
her husband handed down to the poor women brought before the
London courts. “Now, for your own benefit and Vivienne’s,
you shall read from Proverbs, Chapter 31, verses 10–31.”
“I just need to get my spectacles.” Mrs. Lacey reached for
her reticule, still smiling despite the warning of her
soul’s incineration in hell. She rooted through her personal
effects, handing her neighbor various embroidered linens,
perfume bottles, and a dried, crumpled flower to hold.
“Isn’t that the prettiest little chrysanthemum? I hope that
gentleman didn’t mind when I plucked it from his coat. Ah,
here are my spectacles. Now, what was I supposed to read?”
“Proverbs, Chapter 31, verse 10. Proverbs is after Psalms.”
Vivienne rose, took the lady’s Bible, turned it upright, and
flipped to the correct page. “It was written by King
Solomon. He was forever writing proverbs and songs, you
know. He had over five hundred wives.”
“Good heavens,” Mrs. Lacey exclaimed, taking the Bible. “How
many times a day do you think he—”
Aunt Gertrude cleared her throat. “The verse if you will.”
Mrs. Lacey held the Bible to the tip of her nose and
squinted behind her spectacles. “‘Who can find a virtuous
woman? for her price is far above boobies.’”
“It does not say ‘boobies’!” her aunt barked. “‘Her price is
far above rubies.’ Rubies!”
“I just love rubies,” Mrs. Lacey exclaimed. “I am always
telling Mr. Lacey that—”
Aunt Gertrude banged her cane. “Please refrain from any
Thirty minutes later, Mrs. Lacey had progressed exactly six
verses. Garth, now asleep again, made little snorts at his
owner’s feet. Vivienne tried not to fidget. She forced
herself to sit up straight even though her back ached from
the hard chair. Could the future wife of John Vandergrift
excuse herself to the privy and escape? Would that be the
action of a Biblically virtuous wife? As Vivienne
contemplated the moral dilemma, she noticed, through the
window, the wild, untamed gray hair and spry body of her
aunt’s neighbor, the Earl of Baswiche. He stood in her
aunt’s tiny box garden, wearing only a beige banyan that
reached to the calves of his bare legs. His eyes sparkled
with a devious light.
“Pardon me,” Vivienne interrupted, “but Lord Baswiche is in
“What?” Her aunt whipped her head around to the window.
The earl’s mouth cracked into a wide grin. “Hello, ladies!”
He spread his arms wide and his banyan opened. Between his
slightly bowed legs, his male parts dangled like meat strung
in a butcher’s window.
Vivienne put her hand to her mouth to hide her giggles.
Mrs. Lacey gasped. “What a big—”
“Get out of my garden, you dirty sinner!” Aunt Gertrude shot
up, almost stumbling over Garth, as she yanked the curtains
over the window. “Miss Banks!” she shouted for the
housekeeper. “Go next door and tell that wicked Lord
Dashiell that his grandfather is in my garden again.”
Lord Dashiell was home! Vivienne’s blood surged with
“My poor nerves.” Her aunt beat her palm against her bosom.
“I feel an attack coming on.” She grabbed Dr. Philpot’s and
gulped down the contents. “Where is Banks? Banks!” she
cried, violently shaking the bottle, trying to get out one
“She is down in the kitchen getting the cakes ready,”
Vivienne said. “I’ll tell Lord Dashiell.” She started for
Aunt Gertrude’s eyes widened. “Don’t you dare go to that
house of ill-repute next door—a shameful Babylon. What would
your father think of me allowing you to be corrupted? Now
let us sit down.” She eased back in her chair, and her
nostrils flared with her rapid breath. She gripped her cane,
running her fingers up and down the shaft. “Mrs. Lacey, read
the next verse,” she said in a controlled calm. “You were
saying, ‘She girdeth her loins with strength.’”
“I’ll just tell his butler,” Vivienne assured her. “I won’t
be a minute. How could I possibly get corrupted in that
short a time?” She scooted off before she could be stopped.
She hadn’t seen Lord Dashiell since he left for Rome over a
year ago and, who knows, he might be heading to Russia the
next day. Typically, he stayed in London long enough to land
into a scandal and then he was off again.
Outside, she scanned Wickerly Square, adjusting her eyes to
the light. Built a few decades after the Great Fire, the
houses were not nearly as fashionable as those in Cavendish
and Grosvenor Square to the west. Dull stacks of gray stone
with dark windows edged the square—the homes of middling
families. Dashiell’s domicile stood at the corner and
towered over its neighbors, giving the square a lopsided
appearance, as if his were the manor house and all the other
homes mere tenant outbuildings. In the center of the square,
protected by a block iron fence, was a grass-covered park.
In each corner grew spreading oak trees with low branches,
perfect for a young girl to climb.
One afternoon, a little over ten years before, she had been
daydreaming in the tree growing nearest Lord Dashiell’s home
when she first spied on the famed scoundrel. She had been
sent outside after inventing a fantastic game she called
“Keep out of the Ocean,” which required shoving all the
parlor furniture together and pretending it was a cluster of
islands in the South Seas. Then she leaped from chair to
table to harpsichord without falling into the ocean and
being devoured by hungry sharks while singing at the top of
her lungs. Her uncle had thundered out of his library, his
face creased with rage. “Bad seed!” he boomed. He never
called her by her name or my little Vivvie like her aunt,
just bad seed. “Why are you intent on destroying my home? Do
you know what happens to little girls who don’t respect
other people’s property?”
“You put them in the gaol?” she ventured.
“Precisely,” he answered. “And wipe that insolence from your
face when you speak to me. Mark my words, you are rotten in
the soul and will come to ruin.”
So she had been sent to the square with a copy of Institutes
of the Laws on England to learn the legal process by which
wicked little girls came to ruin. She had scampered up the
tree and set the book on a high branch in hopes a bird might
drop on it. There, hidden in the thick foliage, she felt
safe. With the exception of Aunt Gertrude, every adult in
her life just scolded her. Now that his wife had died, her
father was forever losing his patience with Vivienne, who
was as excitable as her sisters were calm. Every few months,
she drove the poor man to such distractions that he would
claim that he couldn’t do anything else with her and would
send her to Uncle Jeremiah’s so she could “learn how to
The way she saw the situation, she would just continue to
let down her father and uncle, and there was only one
sensible solution to the problem: to stow away on a boat to
Egypt and raid tombs. She was thinking of the specifics of
her plan, which included dressing like a boy, eating hard
tack, perhaps even bugs, when she heard a rich, resonant
male voice say, “What a fine climbing tree you have.”
She had gazed down through the leaves at Lord Dashiell and
gasped. He could have stepped straight out of her
imagination, filled as it was with blood-thirsty pirates,
fierce Mongols, and courageous Templar knights. He was about
twenty-one years old then. His dark hair flowed loose over
his collar in disheveled curls, and his bronze skin was so
tanned that he could have been Marco Polo himself. With his
high cheekbones, strong chin, and blue shadows under his
eyes, he appeared quite Gothic, like the heroes in those
books her older sister was always reading. Though the ironic
twist to his full lips and sparkle in his chocolate-colored
eyes belied any dark, stormy thoughts of the Gothic variety.
“I’m Dashiell,” he had said, in a kindly voice meant for
children as he pointed to his home. “I just moved there. Our
home in Berkeley Square burned down.”
“Oh, I’ve heard of you,” she said. “My uncle told my aunt
that you’re a heathen, whoremonger, and adventurer, and that
we’re not supposed to talk to you.” But looking at this
striking species of heathen, her uncle’s orders flew from
her head. “What’s a whoremonger?”
He blinked and his smile tightened from easy to nervous and
he started to edge away. “Err, maybe you should ask your
“Why do adults always answer my questions by saying I should
ask another adult?”
He stopped, tossed his head back, and laughed—a welcoming,
musical sound. She turned on the branch until she was
hanging by her knees and gazing at him from upside down. “I
wish I could be an adventurer. I would go to Egypt.”
“Well, I just got back from Egypt.”
“Really!” She spun down from the tree and landed with a soft
thud on her feet. “Did you dig for a Pharaoh’s lost
treasure? Have you ever found a mummy?”
He knelt down, putting himself at her level. “I have, but
most everything of value had already been stolen. It’s
extremely difficult to find a fresh grave.” He dug into his
pocket and drew out what looked to be a pale rock. “I did
find this in the Valley of the Kings.” He turned the curious
rock over. It was sanded flat and carved with tiny pictures.
She squealed. “Is that a real hieroglyph?”
“Made over three thousand years ago. Perhaps during the
reign of Ramesses the Great.”
“Do you know what it says?” she asked.
“Two pots and a goat, I think.”
She scrunched her eyebrows. “No, that can’t be right. These
things were supposed to be about Pharaohs, Isis, and
“I’m sorry if I procure boring relics.” He would have her
believe that he was terribly offended, but the quiver on his
lips gave him away. “You might as well take it as no one
will want dull hieroglyphs.” He took her by the wrist and
dropped the stone into her palm. Then he winked.
Her young heart swelled with love. For the first time in her
lonely life, she had met a kindred spirit. Except he got to
live out all the adventures she could only dream about.
For the next few weeks, she told her uncle that she still
wasn’t sure what happened to wayward girls who didn’t mend
their wild ways, and that she should continue reading his
law book to find out. Then she would secretly wait in the
tree in hopes that Dashiell would come out with another
ancient treasure or another fabulous tale of his journeys.
Only later did she realize that she was getting the child’s
versions of these stories—missing all the exotic details
that titillated society such as concubines, mysterious
lovers, and duels.
A month after she met her hero, she came outside to find his
carriage being loaded down with trunks and him dressed in
somber gray wool. Traveling clothes.
“Good-bye, my secret little sister,” he told her. “I’m
heading to Cypress. I’ve gotten into too much trouble
Tears burst from her eyes. “You can’t leave me.” Her father
had written and said she shouldn’t come home for another
month. And although she loved her aunt with all her heart,
she couldn’t bear any more of Uncle Bertis’s constant
scolding and calling her a bad seed.
Dashiell knelt, withdrew a handkerchief from his coat, and
wiped her eyes. “Ah, my little Vivienne, don’t cry. All I do
is make women cry.”
“Take me with you. I’ll run away. I can help you dig, and we
can explore wonderful places together.”
“You know that’s impossible,” he said gently.
“No, it isn’t!” She screamed and stamped her foot.
He sighed and raised her fingers to his lips. For a moment
she thought he might kiss them, and she felt a strange,
almost scary, quickening of her heart. Instead, he gently
nipped at her pinky finger.
“W-what are you doing?”
He flashed a mischievous grin. “Performing the sacred ritual
of the cannibalistic Bazulo tribe in Africa.”
She wanted to be angry with him, but giggled in spite of
herself. “There is no Bazulo tribe in Africa.”
“Are you quite sure?”
“Well then,” he chuckled. His features grew grave and he
placed his hand over his heart. “When you make the sacred
Bazulo vow, you swear that you will always keep the other in
your heart and be there should that friend ever need you. So
even if I am hundreds of miles away, I promise that I shall
always come back to my secret little sister.”
Since that time, Dashiell had popped in and out of her life,
exciting her imagination and then leaving again. They would
never again be as close as they had been that summer.
Although her family might attest otherwise, Vivienne had
grown up. And Dashiell continued to be, well, Dashiell. The
Bazulo vow was forgotten; it was just something silly he
made up to comfort a distraught child. She knew she could
never run off with him, being a heathen, whoremonger, and
adventurer, and perhaps that was why he still filled her
imagination like a bad-behaving, handsome Dionysus—an
untouchable Greek god. Of course, her aunt never learned
about her niece’s secret kinship with the notorious rake,
else she might have an apoplexy, and if her father found
out, he would truly disown her once and for all.
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