I just went on a tear of reading nothing but romance novels for most of a week; there were a couple of gems and a couple of "meh" titles. Wicked All Day
fell somewhere in between, but is the one that stands out most clearly in my mind in retrospect, maybe because so much of it was over the top.
Zoë Armstrong is a rather spoiled creature who, being a bit wild and also born on the wrong side of the blanket, is all but unmarriageable. Her only prospects are fortune hunters, most of whom are utterly unappealing. Her father has announced that she will marry one of these fortune hunters or be banned to Scotland with the sheep. Completely devastated by her father's lack of empathy and understanding, Zoë seeks out her best friend Robin for a bit of sympathy. One thing leads to another and Robin and Zoë are caught in a compromising position by Robin's older brother, the Marquess of Mercer, and his devious French mistress. Robin has no choice but to make an honest woman of Zoë, and both families head to Mercer's country estate to plan the wedding away from the prying eyes and wagging tongues of the ton.
Of course, Mercer's been in love with Zoë for an age and Robin's heart lies elsewhere and everything becomes a hopeless tangle. Robin spends most of his evenings drinking and whoring in the village because he's bitter that he can't have the woman he truly loves. Mercer is too much of a stick-in-the-mud ever to admit to himself or Zoë or Robin that he's truly in love with Zoë and won't be happy unless he can marry her. Robin, because of his anger and drunkenness, is involved in a riding accident that nearly kills him and leaves him disfigured. Mercer's French mistress shows up to cause trouble, and Zoë naturally misinterprets Mercer's reaction. In all, it's a plot worthy of a soap opera.
I really didn't care for Zoë through most of the novel, but her character showed real growth and self-awareness by the end, ultimately redeeming her in my eyes. The same could be said for Robin and Mercer. All three of these central characters began as deeply self-involved, but self-unaware. Their individual journeys toward the discovery of their true selves and the knowledge of what (and whom) they really wanted in life made all the over-the-top emotion and convoluted plot devices worth the reading.