Friday 16 July 2010

Wicked Games by Sasha Wagstaff

Feuding families, star-crossed lovers...let the fireworks begin! Debonair and dynamic, millionaire Judd Harrington is back at Brockett Hall. With his socialite wife and family in tow, he's returned from LA a glittering success. But as he stares across the valley at Lochlin Maguire's beautiful country house, all he can think of is revenge. Meanwhile Judd's arch-rival has troubles of his own. Lochlin's record label is losing major talent to an unknown competitor, his wife Tavvy is distracted and he can't seem to see eye to eye with his son Shay. And, unbeknownst to Lochlin, his talented singer daughter Iris has fallen for irresistible racing driver Ace Harrington out in LA. Ace is under orders from Judd to break Iris's heart. What he hadn't bargained for was losing his own in the process. Can he go against his father's wishes? Or will Judd's wicked games ruin love's young dream?

I am a massive fan of a decent, sprawling summer bonkbuster such as those written by Jilly Cooper and Fiona Walker. I adore immersing myself in feuding families, glamorous locations, steamy sex scenes, pantomime villains... To me, it is a perfect way to break from all those serious novels I read. So, yeah, I love a good bonkbuster. Unfortunately Wicked Games wasn't. Not by a long way.

Don't get me wrong: the setting is perfect (the music industry, backed up by a little racing); there is enough double-crossing, spite and revenge to satisfy me; the men are gorgeous and the women irresistible. All the ingredients are in place for this to be a great piece of escapist ficton.

Yet I didn't like it. I didn't hate it either - I certainly read to the end, and wouldn't be completely put off trying another of Wagstaff's novels - but I just found it so lacking in excitement and intrigue. I'm not looking for massive twists in my bonkbusters - I generally know from the word go who will end up with who and (mostly) how it will play out as they get there - but Wicked Games plodded in a pedestrian manner from event to event without investing me in the characters.

In fact, this was one of the problems: despite the book being 450-odd pages, it is on the slim side for a bonkbuster novel (which usually stretch to 700 or 800 pages, if you think about the aforementioned Cooper and Walker), and Wagstaff packs in way too many characters to do justice to them all. The whole subplot dealing with Savannah - Judd's illegitimate daughter - is one that could have been the focus of the entire novel, yet it was rushed through in this book. Can you honestly say, having read the book, that you really cared about Caitie, Elliott and Jas? These three could have been stripped out of Wicked Games with no loss, allowing room to develop the subplots which were of interest. Add to that Jerry and Allegra and we'd be reaching a novel that didn't dart around so much like a gadfly, and could be enjoyed more thoroughly.

I will say that Wagstaff writes in a compulsive manner that I enjoyed, but I can see not being to the taste of everyone. It was rare that we stayed with any character POV for longer than a couple of pages, and this flitting backwards and forwards (with the requisite cliffhangers) kept me turning the pages feverishly, despite the fact that I didn't care too much for some of the characters. I knew that if I hit upon a character POV that didn't do anything for me, it would be a matter of moments before I moved onto one I would enjoy.

All in all, Wicked Games was not the best example of this genre that I've ever read. It was diverting enough during a bath, but I won't want to revisit these characters - unlike the iconic characters that bestride the work of Jilly Cooper. If you are looking for a tale of rogues and revenge, in the glittering world of media, then do yourself a favour and pick up Rivals by Jilly Cooper. I wouldn't really recommend this novel when there are better bonkbusters out there.


  1. Bonkbuster! LOL! I love that! I do love one of those too (I can't type it again, am already giggling!) But the ones I read usually have a paranormal slant. Maybe I should finally give Jilly Cooper a go eh? Do you recommend one to start with?

  2. Ha, I thought it was a common enough term - but I confess it does make me giggle as well! As for Jilly Cooper recommendations, can't go far wrong starting with Riders. It is a sprawling book, with flaws and pacing issues, but the characters are vibrant and exciting, and you just end up immersing yourself in it.

  3. Your review is almost the same as mine after i read this (see) apart from being much longer and cleverer of course!

  4. Ah, yours was much more succinct than mine! It is a shame, because I love the type of novel this should have been. I'm glad your review was negative as well, because I've seen some glowing reviews that, frankly, I am perplexed by!

  5. Maybe they're by people who find Jilly Cooper too clever? I'm very bad at being wordy with reviews, especially if i don't like something