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Wicked Company

by Ciji Ware

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633353,622 (3.89)1
All of life's a wicked stage and love a dangerous drama... "A fascinating portrayal of London's theatrical milieu...Ware again proves she can intertwine fact and fiction to create an entertaining and harmonious whole." -Publishers Weekly If Shakespeare had a sister... In 18th century London the glamorous Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres were all the rage, beckoning every young actor, actress, playwright, and performer with the lure of the stage lights. But competition and back-biting between theatre owners, patrons, actors, and writers left aspiring playwrights with their work stolen, profits withheld, and reputations on the line. For a female, things were harder still, as the chances of a "petticoat playwright" getting past the government censor was slim. In this exciting and cutthroat world, a young woman with a skill for writing and an ambition to see her work performed could rise to glory, or could lose all in the blink of an eye... In Ciji Ware's signature style, real-life characters of the day create a backdrop for a portrait of a glittering era, a love story, and a compelling glimpse into what life was like for a strong and independent-minded woman in an emphatically man's world. "A historical novel so lively and intriguing, you don'trealize you've learnt anything till after you close the book. Exciting, entertaining, and enlightening." -Literary Times… (more)
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I was introduced to Ciji Ware’s masterful storytelling in Island of the Swans and couldn’t wait to read her other works. Cottage of the Sea was an equally engrossing story that reaffirmed my dream of one day living by the ocean. Wicked Company has made me a Ciji Ware devotee, this author not only rights beautiful stories, her text is a lyrical experience throughout. As the melodic plot unfolds she adds unique and charming characters who offer the perfect counterpoint.

The setting is 18th century London centering on the Covent Garden District. Ware points out in her Author’s Notes, that women dramatists were more common than most have come to believe between 1660 and 1800. In her opinion they have been omitted in studies of British literature and her purpose in writing is to shine light on these remarkable women of the British and American theater.

Sophie Hamilton McGann works for her father, Daniel McGann, a printer. She is a bold, intelligent, opinionated and often rash female heroine of fiction. However, many of the plays performed in the novel were based on actual historical events. Surrounding Sophie is at the center of Wicked Company, joined by a cast of historical and fictitious players. Regarded as key figures of the theater world at the time were, David Garrick, Richard Sheridan, George Coleman and several others. What surprised me in this book was the practice during this time of the employment of a government censor. Edward Capelli, lived at this time and he was the Deputy Examiner of Plays. He certainly gave Sophie a difficult time, slashing her dialogue and often refusing his approval entirely. From the beginning Ware establishes Sopie’s independent spirit and often impulsive temper. She often dons man's attire to gain admittance and acceptance. When she meets Hunter, a street juggler she is smitten, but it will be years before he realizes he too has a mad obsession for Sophie. Until then, they are good friends and the paths they follow are not always in sync. Their passion is precious but kismet interferes with a smooth journey for the two. Ware taunts the reader with an anxious love story that seems hopelessly doomed.

I admire Sophie for her tenacious will and resolve as she insinuates herself into the theater world dominated by men. Sometimes I want to shake her silly for her impulsivity, but overall she is an 18th century spitfire who just wants her value as a writer acknowledged and live her life with the man she loves without personal sacrifice.

To understand Sophie, perhaps this piece of dialogue will form an image in your mind. Throughout the centuries this or similar refrains, whether a whisper or a shout resonate around the world by women. Sophie could have been my twin.

“I’ve had days lately when I’m tired and discouraged, but why must a woman always put a man’s wishes and desires first? Why must she invariably honor his dreams and ambitions above all else? Do you really think that’s the only path to happiness for men and women?” (232)

Wicked Company confirms that Ciji Ware is an exquisite writer of historical fiction and without a doubt one of my favorite authors.

Disclosure: Wicked Company was sent to me by the publisher. ( )
  WisteriaLeigh | Nov 13, 2010 |
This is a tale of a young woman who finds herself without her father. A young woman who was brought up educated at a time when women were not thought to have brains. After her father is arrested for selling books the church finds offensive Sophie writes a tract against those that convicted him and finds herself in serious trouble. Helped out of town by her actor friend she runs to London to seek out her aunt and uncle only to find more problems. Being strong and smart Sophie uses her writing and print making skills to survive.

Ms. Ware's writing style is such that you find yourself drawn into the time period. It was rather like watching a movie in my head. Her descriptions of place, attire and even persons are detailed but not so that you feel like you are reading a list. It's all drawn together so well in the whole of the story. The characters are well conceived and interesting. I did get a bit annoyed with Sophie though; as smart as she was portrayed to be it seemed she just never learned when it came to men. I also found it a touch hard to believe a young girl would survive so unscathed in this time period. But those minor niggling thoughts aside I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

I was not aware that there were so many female playwrights in this time period. It did not surprise me that they were looked down upon and generally dismissed. The descriptions of the theatres and the backstage goings on were fascinating and added so much to the story. I am a theatre lover so it doesn't matter the time - a play is a play!

The central love story was full of challenges. I truly wonder if two people would really survive what these two went through over the course of so many years. There was an appalling lack of communication although I suppose back in this time period women WERE supposed to be seen and not heard. heh. ( )
  BooksCooksLooks | Oct 30, 2010 |
WICKED COMPANY by Ciji Ware is an amazing historical romance set in 1761-1774 Scotland and Boston. It spans thirteen years, is well written, very detailed, has depth, the plot in very interesting. It has romance, deceit, betrayal, intrigue,passion, secrets, danger,misuse,playwrites, theatre, actresses, goverenment censor,actors, a true love story. This story is very detailed with vivid characters and plot. The characters are enchanting, determined, real life, strong, independent and will sweep you off your feet. The heroine, Sophie, is independent, beautiful, a petticoat playwright, strong willed,is misused, betrayed, determined to use her own name for her playwrights,and falling in love with her long time friend/protector Hunter.The hero, Hunter, is handsome, a jugglier, wants to be an actor,becomes Sophie's protector and falling in love with her. This story spans over a period of thirteen years, takes them into danger, adventure, Sophie's marriage to an evil, worthless, liar and drunk who uses her to know end. She learns everyone is not what they often seem. Befriends a actress, playwright, becomes with child by her husband, the child dies, she craves for love from her long time friend, Hunter. Hunter, thinks of her only as a friend/sister for years, but learns he is attracted to the woman she has become. Together they face the odds. Sophie, after a long estrangement with her drunken husband, becomes involved with Hunter. Has his child, becomes entangled with someone she believes to be her friend but soon learns he is only after her mind and will do anything to get her to writes plays for him. Sophie and Hunter suffer through years of trials but finally find true happiness, family, and true love. This is an intriguing story of love, betrayal, truth,and show the struggles female playwrights went through to get their work published in the 18th century. I would recommend this book, it is long with great details and a wonderful story. A keeper. This book was received for review from the publisher and details can be found at Sourcebooks Landmark an imprint of Sourcebooks and My Book Addiction and More. ( )
  tarenn | Oct 2, 2010 |
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All of life's a wicked stage and love a dangerous drama... "A fascinating portrayal of London's theatrical milieu...Ware again proves she can intertwine fact and fiction to create an entertaining and harmonious whole." -Publishers Weekly If Shakespeare had a sister... In 18th century London the glamorous Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres were all the rage, beckoning every young actor, actress, playwright, and performer with the lure of the stage lights. But competition and back-biting between theatre owners, patrons, actors, and writers left aspiring playwrights with their work stolen, profits withheld, and reputations on the line. For a female, things were harder still, as the chances of a "petticoat playwright" getting past the government censor was slim. In this exciting and cutthroat world, a young woman with a skill for writing and an ambition to see her work performed could rise to glory, or could lose all in the blink of an eye... In Ciji Ware's signature style, real-life characters of the day create a backdrop for a portrait of a glittering era, a love story, and a compelling glimpse into what life was like for a strong and independent-minded woman in an emphatically man's world. "A historical novel so lively and intriguing, you don'trealize you've learnt anything till after you close the book. Exciting, entertaining, and enlightening." -Literary Times

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