Friday, January 24, 2014

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Release date: January 21st, 2014
Publisher: Viking Juvenile (Penguin)
Series: No
Source: Print ARC from the publisher
Rating: A delightful and romantic historical novel. A must-read!


Welcome to the world of the fabulously wealthy in London, 1909, where dresses and houses are overwhelmingly opulent, social class means everything, and women are taught to be nothing more than wives and mothers. Into this world comes seventeen-year-old Victoria Darling, who wants only to be an artist—a nearly impossible dream for a girl.
After Vicky poses nude for her illicit art class, she is expelled from her French finishing school. Shamed and scandalized, her parents try to marry her off to the wealthy Edmund Carrick-Humphrey. But Vicky has other things on her mind: her clandestine application to the Royal College of Art; her participation in the suffragette movement; and her growing attraction to a working-class boy who may be her muse—or may be the love of her life. As the world of debutante balls, corsets, and high society obligations closes in around her, Vicky must figure out: just how much is she willing to sacrifice to pursue her dreams?

This book! Oh, I adored this book. It's everything I want in a historical novel. It focuses on characters and plot and never bogs you down with historical information. The information just seeps into your brain as you read, and you're never bored for a minute. I read most of this book on a plane, and I'll say it kept me quite entertained, and that I think I scared my seatmate a bit with all the squealing and clamping of the book to my heart.

We first meet Vicky, our plucky, artistic heroine in boarding school in France. She's got a lot of artistic talent, and what's more, she's got drive, determined not to let limitations imposed upon her gender inhibit her (that's my girl). So of course, she volunteers to pose nude for the all-male art class she's not supposed to be a part of, and of course there is une scandale magnifique, and Vicky is sent home to London in disgrace. It's all great fun, and the best part about it is that Vicky really is very honey badgerish about it. She don't give a shit. She just wants to draw, okay? She's a bit reckless and extremely stubborn, but she's also funny and brave and my God, I love this girl. She's not afraid to speak her mind, and she makes a hilarious accidental drunk. And I love that she's determined to take charge of her own life.

Her wealthy (and misogynistic) parents are determined to make a lady of her and have arranged to marry her off, but Vicky's set on getting into art college. As she tries to achieve her dreams in a world in which women are not meant to dream, she crosses paths with the suffragettes, aka the female protestors endeavoring to win the right to vote. That's right. Any time you watch a gorgeous period drama and get taken in my the lavish costumes and the courtesy and what not, and think you'd like to live in that time, read this book and realize that, if you're female, you'd basically be an object that gets passed around from man to man and has no say in... well, anything.

I loved the suffragists. Loved, loved, loved. There was so much fun and swoon (more on the swoon later), but this book also touched on serious issues affecting women in 1909. While British History is my most beloved nerd-topic, I'll admit to not knowing too much about Emmaline Pankhurst and her brethren besides the fact that they're Mrs. Banks' sisters.

Vicky becomes more and more drawn into their cause, and I fell more and more in love with her. Vicky, my GIRL. Also, the art bits. As someone who's also done art her entire life, I could relate completely to her artistic drive and the way she'd become absorbed in her sketches. Her desire to conquer paint, a medium, she's not yet comfortable with. The desire to be taught. The desire to draw certain subjects (she gets an overwhelming urge to draw the suffragettes, which starts this whole thing off). Vicky's artistic talent was incorporated very naturally and wonderfully into the plot and really helped round out her character.

Okay. Swoony swoons. All the swoony swoons. Vicky is engaged to be married to a wealthy young man, Edmund, and though she realizes he's not as wretched as he could be, she crosses paths with a handsome, working-class police constable named Will, who... well, I think I need a moment.

I really don't want to tell too much, because the wonder of this story is watching Vicky discover herself and find independence in a world that's determined not to let her. But you should know there is also a very cute boy who supports her dreams, and there's nothing more romantic to me than that. If you're anything like me (and you shouldn't be, I'm a bit insane when it comes to ships. You might have noticed), you will squeak and squeal and grin like a mad person basically whenever they make eye contact.

Obviously, I loved this book. Get thee to a bookstore, fool! You need this book in your life.


  1. Wow, I haven't heard all that much from people about this novel, just saw it on a lot of To-Read lists towards the beginning of the year. Glad to see it's worth reading! Haha And special kudos for an exceptional integration of Mrs. Banks GIFs!

  2. I already have this on my TBR pile but you just made me want to ready it right this second! I love a strong female lead, I love historical romances, and I love a woman who knows what she wants. (Plus, who doesn't love a nice little romance thrown in?) Great review as always! I can't wait to swoon over Will myself.:)

  3. This sounds great! I love historical fiction, but haven't done any YA historical fic before. I'm just going to have to start! Nice review!

  4. This was on my list of debuts I couldn't wait for! This seriously sounds amazing!! I adore historical fiction and the MC sounds AWESOME. and i am ready to swoon!!! When my book buying ban lifts... this will be the first I pick up I think!

  5. I really want to read this! I've seen the best things about it and I love that it's a stand-alone so easy to squeeze in. I'll have to pick it up :-)

  6. This is on my TBR list for sure, because you mentioned the suffragettes and Vicky sounds like a main character that I'd probably simply adore! And bonus points for being a stand alone!
    Thanks for a great review!

  7. YOU COMPARED VICKY TO A HONEY BADGER AND THAT IS THE BEST. So is Vicky. And honey badgers. But let's get back to Vicky who is fantastic and amazing. The dinner party scene with the brandy was one of my favorite things about this book.


    I loved loved loved the art bits. When she described the smell of the art store I was shouting YES and also making a mental shopping list because you can never have too many art supplies and I want to go and spend an afternoon petting sketchbooks and pastels.


    Great review. Your words are both excellent and accurate. I like them a lot.

  8. I've added it to my TBR. I loved the Mary Poppins GIFs. Those sold me! ;)

  9. Okay SO I'm really really really REALLY *takes a breath* tempted to buy this one after your review. I'll be honest - I haven't read many reviews of it, because hype terrifies me these days. BUT everything about this book seems like I'd love it. From Vicky, to art, to the time period, to FEMINISM. Gah. Thanks, Gillian. You're gonna make me go broke. ;)

  10. Whoa, your review gave me chills. Know that this is a very rare thing to happen to me. Just chills in general. But yes, DO WANT.

    I like that her fiancé is not made the devil to make the actual love interest that more appetising. This is a way better dynamic, because then you can see it really depends on choice rather than passing off the bad guy in favour of the obviously good one. I like.


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