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Wake Me Most Wickedly by Felicia Grossman


CW: sexual harassment, discussion of transactional sex with no real enthusiastic consent, lots and lots of antisemitism

I enjoyed this book. I read it cover-to-cover in almost one sitting, but as I sit here to write this review, I’m left with distinctly meh feelings about it. Is this because I had a disappointing breakfast and that’s colouring my perspective? Or was the book meh? Let’s find out together.

This story is set in the Jewish community of London in the 1830s and is essentially a gender-reversed Snow White retelling.

Solomon Weiss is a rich businessman whose focus is ensuring that he makes his half-brother (who raised him) proud. To this end, he works for the family bank, and he knows he will have to marry soon. The trouble is that Solomon cherishes his ties to his Jewish heritage while his half-brother despises them. Solomon attends synagogue and fosters his connections with other Jewish people. However, within the Jewish community, there are, as the book describes, ‘good Jews’ (like Solomon is trying to be) and ‘bad Jews’ (like Hannah Moses). I think you see where this is going.

Hannah Moses isn’t quite an outcast, but she isn’t welcome either. She attends synagogue on holidays, but she is labelled a ‘bad Jew’ for her family’s criminal past. Hannah herself is certainly a criminal, there’s no getting around that. But she does it to build up a dowry for her younger sister so that she can live the life of a ‘good Jew’. She runs a pawn shop and occasionally sells stolen goods. On the side, she also finds out information about people and sells that information to bad folks.

This is a difficult life for Hannah and she faces a lot of sexual harassment. One night, she sees the neighbourhood thugs getting ready to beat up Solomon. Hannah saves his life through some quick-thinking on her part. When Solomon sees his saviour at synagogue at the next holiday, he is delighted. But his friends waste no time in filling in the blanks on Hannah’s past. Solomon wasn’t raised Jewish so he doesn’t know the community’s history well. This is one of the central points of tension in the book: the challenge of conforming to the boundaries of being a ‘good Jew’.

Of course, they fall in love! Cue sex scenes and parts of the Snow White plot! At this stage, I must admit some reservations on that first kiss between Hannah and Solomon. Solomon makes a cute wager of it, but for me, Solomon was a bit too bold with Hannah, and I felt he took advantage of their respective social positions. He had too much power in that scenario for Hannah to say a comfortable no. BUT the kiss is one that is electric for both of them, despite the small ick I felt. From that point on though, in their interactions with each other, the two feel like genuine peers despite how they are viewed by the broader community in the book.

Wake Me Most Wickedly is quite closely linked to the first book in this series, Marry Me By Midnight, so I would recommend reminding yourself of the plot of book 1 before getting into book 2. At least, that’s what I should have done. I was initially really confused because I had forgotten about Solomon’s role in Midnight and his place in the community. Hannah is totally new to this book-world, so her backstory was told in detail.

For me, the plot doesn’t quite work as well as it could. Most romance novels I read follow a pretty standard plot arc with tension building to a climax. This book had a few mini climaxes along the way with a bigger one at the end, but there wasn’t that building of tension ratcheting things up in between. So at some points I was left a little bored by events. BUT, I kept reading. I read this book well past my bedtime.

Because it is a gender-reversed Snow White, it wasn’t immediately clear who the characters were other than Solomon being Snow White. Hannah is the prince in the sense that she saves Solomon at the start of the book, but otherwise she’s pretty powerless throughout. It takes a while for the other Snow White plot elements to be revealed in the book. Most of it happens in the last third of the book, and I don’t want to spoil too much. For the first half of the book, the focus is on Hannah and Solomon finding excuses to spend time together which may or may not include climbing through a few windows.

In conclusion, this book sits in an uncomfortable grade zone. It’s not thrilling enough that I can unreservedly recommend it, but good enough that I will absolutely be reading book 3 when it comes out. If it’s about the couple that I think it’s about, it promises to be FILLED with tension, an ornery cat, and great banter.

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