Wicked Pleasures

Written by Penny Vincenzi
Review by Arleigh Johnson

Praeger & Son banking company in New York City had been successful for many decades thanks to Frederick Praeger III, who brought the business out of its all-time low point due to his father’s poor management. By 1960, both of his children, Fred “Baby” Praeger and Virginia Caterham, had made socially successful marriages — Virginia even becoming a countess and mistress of the beautiful and mysterious Hartest house in England, while Baby began planning his overtake of the bank upon his father’s retirement.

The root of the story is the enlightenment of Virginia’s children to the astonishing fact that they were all illegitimate, despite having been raised in a loving, though sometimes strained, household by both their mother and the man they called their father — Alexander Caterham. As the secrets surrounding their births unravel, combined with the continuing ups and downs at Praegers, readers witness class bias, sociopathic behavior, affairs, failing marriages, career woes, family feuds, weddings and funerals—all the makings of a highly entertaining daytime soap.

The timeline jumps back and forth, but this serves to give away clues at an appropriate pace, filling in gaps of the story without giving away the ultimate secrets. Sometimes the initially disagreeable characters shine and in many cases become the hero, as in turn the protagonists disappoint. Lengthy though it is, the wonderfully fleshed out characters, detailed settings, and believable plot make it a pleasure to read.

One of the most interesting and authentic topics covered is the banking world — Wall Street and the Stock Exchange. The crash of 1987 is the climax of the story, bringing the characters either high or low. Though the ending leaves a few strings untied, it was for the most part satisfactory.