Book Review: A MAD, WICKED FOLLY by Sharon Biggs Waller

Book Review: A MAD, WICKED FOLLY by Sharon Biggs Waller
A Mad, Wicked Folly

Written by: Sharon Biggs Waller
Published by: Viking Juvenile
Release date: January 23rd 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Source: Library
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads

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?


Let me tell you a secret. (Okay, it’s not really a secret, but just play along.) I’m not a big fan of “historical fiction”. …I know, I know, I’m a terrible person! I’ve just never really loved any of the historical fiction books I’ve read, unless you count alternate history/steampunkified/supernaturalized history as “historical fiction”. I’ve just never found straight-up historical fiction to be my thing.

…Until A Mad, Wicked Folly. This book was excellent, and it’s convinced me — it would be a tragedy for me to continue to disregard the genre out of hand. Folly had so much awesomeness. The characters (excellent), the romance (delicious), the writing (so vivid)… It was completely engrossing, from start to finish.

The Characters

I was pretty sure I would love Victoria Darling, because I’d heard great things about her feisty attitude and determination. But I was a little worried that, being so feisty and independent, Vicky wouldn’t be believable within the constraints of her era. Wonderfully, this is not the case at all with Vicky. I loved everything about her, and she totally fit within her society, as a woman who can clearly see the disparities between men and women at that time, and who wants to be able to pursue her dreams.

I supposed that was why I liked the pre-Raphaelites and their successors so much. They chose to paint things that human beings would never see on earth, only in imagination. Fanciful things, like this mermaid. Subjects like these made you imagine that life could be far, far different than you ever thought.

From her very first scene, her passion and dedication to her art is what drives her, and it’s that desire that fuels her determination and drive to fight for her place in the art world — and in society in general, as well. I believed in Vicky’s character immediately, and it took no convincing that this girl, constrained as she was by the social norms and strict parents, would want to fight for her freedoms and equal rights for women.

Vicky somehow finds herself involved with the women’s suffrage movement in London because of her art, and in doing so, ends up meeting and befriending a young police constable, William Fletcher. Will is… *sighs* Will is fantastic. Being on the police, he’s tasked with breaking up many of the women’s suffrage rallies, which he really doesn’t want to do. He’s stuck in a difficult position, like Vicky; and like Vicky, he finds ways to get around his peers’ expectations as well. He challenges Vicky to fight for what she wants, and I think that was my favorite thing about him; but he’s also sweet, charming, supportive, and just heart-meltingly wonderful.

The Romance

I absolutely loved and believed the slow-burn romance between Vicky and Will. (And oh, is it slow.) They both know they’re not a realistic match for each other, so it takes them a very long time to act on any of their feelings — though they do spend a lot of time together, since Will lets Vicky draw him, and Vicky teams up with him to draw some illustrations for a series of stories Will is writing.

Now it was Will’s turn to look anxious. He had an expression on his face that I recognized: unsure, as though he might not describe the work well enough; worried that the person might misunderstand and he would appear foolish.

I would’ve loved for their relationship to move a bit more quickly, so we could’ve gotten even more cuteness… but within the greater context of the book, I can see exactly why this wouldn’t have worked — it wouldn’t have been truthful to either of their characters. Vicky is so focused on her art and ambition, which is wonderful. Will is supportive of her, which is awesome. But Vicky’s relationship status is “complicated” to say the least (she’s basically forced to get engaged to a complete tool so she can have money to go to art school)… So I get it. Will and Vicky are so wonderful together, though. They had so many amazing moments: On park benches, falling asleep on a train, Will’s birthday present for Vicky, the first time Vicky goes to Will’s apartment… I just want to squish their faces together!! Seriously, though, they are fantastic — both as individuals, and together. Love them.

The Writing

It’s absolutely mind-blowing how much research went into this book. There’s so much information through the whole thing, about the society in 1909 London, about the suffrage movement in London at the time, and about real people and events involved with this movement.

But I loved that all the information didn’t come across as “here let me teach you something about 1909”.

Sharon Biggs Waller did a masterful job intertwining the reality of the time with the story and characters, so it never felt like a history lesson. The writing itself, while filled with information, was vivid and beautiful and wonderfully descriptive, the kind of writing that I absolutely devour once I’ve started reading. It’s totally engrossing. And it felt like it was plucked right out of the early 1900’s. It felt authentic, while still remaining wonderfully readable.


In conclusion…

I really, really enjoyed this book. It felt light, despite dealing with serious topics of inequality and the plight of women in the early 1900’s. Vicky was a character I needed in my life — smart, driven, dedicated, and so believable in everything she did. Seriously, this book… maybe it’s because I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, but I’m used to having to suspend my disbelief a lot in books. I don’t think I ever had to do that with A Mad, Wicked Folly. It was just utterly wonderful. The ending was also amazing — it doesn’t end with a perfectly-tied-bow on our Happily Ever After, but it ends on an incredibly wonderful and optimistic and realistic (again with the realism!) note for Victoria. Love.

Whether or not you’re a fan of historical fiction, I’d highly recommend checking out A Mad, Wicked Folly.

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12 thoughts on “Book Review: A MAD, WICKED FOLLY by Sharon Biggs Waller

  1. I totally loved this book, and really enjoyed your review. I agree with all of it. You said it much better than I did. Can’t wait to get some of my teens to read this one.

  2. This sounds pretty fantastic. I actually have it on my Kindle and it sounds like it needs to be bumped up immediately. Frankly, I’m not the biggest fan of historical fiction either, but I love the idea of a book that really looks at what the suffrage movement was like. I’ve heard this book will be a hit with feminists, so I’m really excited to read it. Great review!

  3. hehe I loved your comment about preferring your historical with some supernatural or steampunk mixed in there – I’m the exact same way! XD WHat really strikes me out of your entire review is how highly you regarded the MC – I love how strong and rebellious she sounds, especially given the time period -AND- how you described the slow burn romance. I’m a HUGE fan of the slow burn so this sounds right up my alley! Your praise of the writing style only sealed the deal for me :D Wonderful review ^^

  4. Aww, yay! I love this book! I’m a big fan of historical fiction, but I have to say, this one really is a standout. It’s so obviously well-researched, making the historical aspect interesting and informative, but it’s also got such well-done characters that you don’t need to like historical fiction to like the book. Oh, and the romance! I agree, for selfish reasons it would’ve been lovely had the romance not been so slow burn, but you’re so right that it wouldn’t have rung as true that way. :) Great review!!

  5. Yay, I’m glad you enjoyed this one, Nikki! I didn’t really love Vicky at first, but then she totally grew on me when she showed her more independent side. Will was pretty awesome, and I totally loved them together! I really need to read more historical romance. Any recommendations? ^_^ Lovely review, by the way!

  6. I am and have always been a fan of historical romances! Of course I love murder and mayhem as well–at any rate this is a superb write up and I am definitely about to go in and check it out some more. It is on my TBR list for absolutely certain.

  7. I’ve been ignoring this book because I thought it was a regency romance book. Lol. But I guess the cover makes sense once I found out the context behind it. And thanks to your review, I’m quite intrigued by this book. I like how you mentioned that the historical part wasn’t like a lesson. I personally love finding these kinds of books that teach you something about the past while entertaining you. I think the ‘story’ in hiSTORY is important. :P I would also love to see the romance that blossomed between Victoria and Will, although I might get a little impatient and want them together after a while. XD

  8. Awesome review! I loved this book too, and I’m not a fan of historical novels either! But I loved Vicky and Vicky and Will together even more. They are super adorable. Your review is pretty much all of my same thoughts. This is definitely one of my favorite books so far this year.

  9. Why have I not purchased this book yet?? I have seen nothing but glowing reviews and I’ve wanted to read it since I saw people getting the arcs. I seriously need to make a trip to the bookstore. Great review! So happy you loved it. Just adding that to the list of bloggers I trust loving (and wanting to hug) this book.

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