Book Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller (+ Giveaway!)

Posted January 30, 2014 by Debby in Book Reviews, Giveaways

Book Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller (+ Giveaway!)A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Published by Viking Juvenile on January 23rd, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

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 artistβ€”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 museβ€”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?

5 Stars

One of my goals for 2014 was to finally read some historical fiction. I don’t know what held me back from the genre, to be honest. I eat up historical fiction movies and TV series and adore them, but it never really occurred to me that I could also read some. Anyway. Enter A Mad, Wicked Folly. It popped up on my radar because of the lovely Christina and Gillian. Their reviews got me extremely pumped, and the synopsis sounded awesome, so I was all for it. It went on my most anticipated 2014 debuts list, and I even pre-ordered a copy. When it got here, I started reading it the very same day. (It did help that this book is one of the most aesthetically beautiful books I’ve ever owned.) Nothing could stand in the way of me and this book, and nothing did. With all that excitement and those high expectations, how did the book fare? It is my favorite book of the year so far and will almost certainly remain on my 2014 favorites list.

First of all, probably my favorite part of A Mad, Wicked Folly is the writing. I absolutely love Sharon Biggs Waller’s writing style. It is just amazing. Her prose felt extremely authentic for the time period. It felt British. It felt like it was from the early 1900s. I loved that. But not only that, she just finds the most beautiful combinations of words and phrases (“You look as though magic has taken hold of you.” *melts*). I didn’t want to stop reading this for a second. I actually grabbed post-its(!!) after 26 pages to start marking some beautiful quotes and passages, which, honestly, I have never done before. And this for a debut author! I can sense there will be author stalking in my future, and I regret nothing.


But anyway. The story focuses on Vicky, an aspiring artist from a well-off family, who gets expelled from her finishing school after posing nude in her art class. To mitigate the scandal this causes, her parents want to marry her off as soon as possible. Her only wish in life, however, is to go to art school and one day be able to exhibit her art. I absolutely loved the artistic part of this story. Vicky is very passionate about it, and when she describes techniques used in types of artworks, it gave me a better appreciation of art. I know nothing about art, to be honest, but I felt like I learned something here, and it really opened my eyes. But also the way she talks and thinks about her desires to work on nothing but her artwork was absolutely beautiful. (Again that also reflects this beautiful writing style. *gush*) I clearly need to find more books about artists, because between this and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, it’s clearly an element that I love to read about.

Overall, Vicky is a character I loved straight off the bat. Not only was her love for art inspiring, but her personality is sassy, and she is strong and independent. It only took a couple of pages for me to know that I loved her. She fights for what she wants, she keeps a cool and logical head, and just all around yes!

“If I’m going to be a student here, treated on equal terms, then I have to be willing to do everything that they do,” I said. “There can’t be two sets of expectations, one for them and one for me, the only girl in the class. How will I earn their esteem if I don’t pose?”A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
Obviously, her desire for rights, equality, and freedom clashes with the time period and with her family’s status. She’s expected to do nothing in life except get married, raise children, run the household and pay too many social visits to count. Well, that’s not what she wants in life. This gets her caught up in the suffragette movement, which I honestly wasn’t really expecting from the book beforehand (as per usual, I cast the synopsis out of my memory). But I absolutely loved it. It was a really well-researched and intriguing representation of a historical period that I honestly didn’t know too much about. I felt really connected to the story and what all the suffragettes were going through, and I found myself cheering for them. I’m not a big feminist by any means, but hell yes to this story and to these characters. I think it’s a very empowering story for women, so seriously, all of you, read this.

So while this story isn’t romance-centric, there is romance, and may I just say that it is unbe-freaking-lievably amazing, adorable, attractive, addictive and awesome? Honestly when I was done with the book, the only remotely negative thing I could say was that I wished there was more romance. But that would have detracted from the rest of the story, so I don’t even care. WOW, does Sharon Biggs Waller know how to write slow-burn beautiful chemistry. I am an addict and I need my fix. She used exactly the right tropes to get me to ship this from the first encounter. Will is just an awesome character right off the bat. He is the dream. That’s it. Strong, silent, supportive… The further I read, the deeper I fell in love with him.

Without any warning, tears filled my eyes. No one had ever given me such a kind and thoughtful gift before. I pictured Will going into the shop, looking over the books, and then discovering the very one he knew I would love. I even pictured him watching as the clerk wrapped the volume in brown paper. I wondered if the clerk had tied the green bow on it or if Will had gone into a notion shop and chosen it himself. These were all small things, but kindness was built of small things.A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller
There’s one chapter around the middle of the book that was just so beautiful regarding the romance that I honestly wanted to cry. I cannot help myself. I ship it like FEDEX. I am not okay.

Then I knew: this wasn’t just a passion I felt for my model. My feelings about him had nothing to do with how his looks inspired me; he was far more than a muse. With every stroke of pencil and crayon, I had drawn Will into my heart.

I was in love with him.A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

Summing Up:

I could go on about all the different ways I love this book all day, but I think you get the point. This awesome and empowering story about art and women’s rights, set in a wonderfully depicted London in 1909, boasts a powerful main character, beautiful supporting cast, and an addictive romance, which is all complimented by one of the most beautiful writing styles I’ve yet encountered. It evoked all of the feels: I laughed, I wanted to cry, I flailed, I cheered. I devoured this book and can hardly say anything but that I want more from this author. My heart demands it.

GIF it to me straight!

most wonderful story belle gif

Recommended To:

asdfjkl; I can’t help but say EVERYONE.

I feel like this book has hardly gotten the buzz it deserves, and since I love it so much and want to recommend it to basically everyone, I’m giving away a copy. You want this book. You do. *hypnotizes* SO GO ENTER. FWEEEEEEEEE.



  • You must fill in the Rafflecopter below to enter.
  • The giveaway is international!
  • You must be 18 years of age or older to enter, or 13+ years old with parental permission.
  • Any entrants who are found to be gaming the system will be disqualified.
  • This giveaway runs until February 14th, at 11:59 p.m. EST.
  • When the contest ends, the winner will be announced here and emailed. The winner will have 48 hours to respond, before another winner is picked.
  • I am not responsible for items lost or damaged in the mail.
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37 responses to “Book Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller (+ Giveaway!)

  1. I’m glad you liked this one! I’m currently reading it and 30% in, and loving the writing style as well! I’m not much of a Vicky fan, but hopefully that’ll change as I go on reading. πŸ™‚

  2. I wasn’t that interested in this book before I read your review, but you make it sound AMAZING! I’ve never read any historical fiction before (unless Clockwork Angel counts as historical…) so that’s pretty special.
    Also love books that focus on art! I think I’ve only read The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen and With or Without You by Brian Farrey (both contemporary YA) that are about art, but neither were particularly breathtaking, unfortunately. πŸ™

    • Hah, I haven’t read Clockwork Angel, but I’m guessing the mood is different because that one has so many paranormal elements. This was my first straight up historical (aside from required reading in school) but I think it’s probably a great starting point for people new to the genre. It’s just so likable and still also relatable.

  3. Oh man, I’ve gotten so excited for this book! I actually passed it off as a book I wouldn’t like(without actually *reading* the summary), but then reviews came up and everyone loved it, so I added it to my TBR. I ended up winning a copy recently, so once it gets here I can’t way to read it! Your review has made me so excited for the romance, too, which is something i do not normally say.

  4. This is one of those books that I had not intention of reading. I mean, I kind of want to but I Just don’t do well with topics like these. Of course, my tastes are changing a lot this year as I read more dark contemporary and straight historicals than I ever did, but I am really picky about which ones I choose. That said, if I win a giveaway it’s like a sign from the universe I should read it. πŸ˜‰

    I am glad so many of you are loving this. I love the idea of it and the feminism, so I will probably read it at some point. Maybe in a readalong or something.

    • Hahaha, I will be crossing my fingers for you πŸ˜‰ because I really want you to read this! My tastes are changing a lot as well, and I expect that with this, I will be way more open to historical fiction. I hope to experiment much more with that this year πŸ™‚ and I hope it’ll turn out well, like now. YA sci-fi has seriously been letting me down, sadly.

      Oooh a readalong would be a great idea. This was one of the rare times that I could not contain my gushing about the book. I think it would also be a good book club book because there’s a lot to talk about. *sigh* If I ever had the time to reread books, I would totally set this up.

  5. Okay, okay. Prank over. Now for realsies. *bounces* I am reading posts out of order, because yay for happy oranges and wonderful books.

    I also know nothing about art, but Meg and I read this at the same time and she gushed about how realistic and well done it was. She’s an artsy type, so I think Waller got that right.

    This story is definitely empowering, and I think people who think she poses because of peer pressure missed the point. She posed for HERSELF. For her art. She wants to be taken seriously as an artist, and she cannot do that as a woman of the period without risking her reputation. WORTH IT.

    Yes, slow burn, and that one scene. *swoons* HELL YES.


    eeeeek, you broke out that gif. YESSSSS


      Oh, I know! I was reminded of my trip to the Rijksmuseum with Gaby back in October because she knows ALL about art, and she was teaching me ALL OF THE THINGS. But basically yes, it was super reminiscent of that enlightened trip so I just loooooved that.

      EWWW people thought she caved to peer pressure? It honestly didn't even occur to me that ANYONE could look at it that way. NO. It was seriously intrinsically motivated, and I thought Waller conveyed that really well.

      I WILL BE REREADING THAT SCENE. Ugh. Serious gushing love. I cannot even.


      Which gif? LOL to be honest I am very proud of all three of these gifs xD

  6. I DO want this book! I do! I do! Even without the other glowering reports I’ve heard, and even if this WONDERFUL review didn’t leave me completely salivating, that first swoony quote you gave would have sealed the deal. I need to meet the person who would say such a thing.

  7. I remember when Gillian and Christina first got this and were like “it looks cool”, but they hadn’t really heard about it. You’re right that there has been almost no buzz. I wonder why that is, because the reviews have been amazing and this sounds like a book they deserves every bit of buzz it gets.

    I always love it when you completely gush over a book. It makes me that more excited to read it. Seriously, you have a talent. I like that the writing style reads so authentic. I don’t care that much about historical accuracy but I am a big fan of language contributing to the rest of the story. (I’m having a hard time saying exactly what I mean so just ignore this if it doesn’t make any sense.)

    Also, this is maybe besides the point but I love the orange slices. I know, random. Eeeee, and you mentioned Daughter of Smoke and Bone! Also besides the point but I love it so much.

    Ha, I like that all your adjectives describing the romance start with an A. Obviously, this means it deserves an A+ I don’t care what anybody else says, I think Vicky is a BAMF for posing nude, especially when considering her societal position and her reasoning behind doing so. And you’ve made me extremely curious about that chapter in the middle! πŸ˜‰

  8. Oh yessssss

    PC Fletcher! But my fave character was Sophie.

    I had very little to no expectations of this book and I most likely added it because Vicky poses nude. I LOVE scandals! And now I can’t believe how much I grew to like her. Especially as she does somethings that are considered so very un-feminist-like: marrying a guy to get through college. But I personally thought that it showed how loyal she was to her art, and also her desperation.

    Your review just reinvigorated all my feels! Thank you! I myself know fuck-all about art but that’s one of the reasons I love Daughter of Smoke and Bone and this book; because they don’t seem like pretentious art snobs, and because the authors write so beautifully and capture the colors and shades of paintings etc etc…

  9. Um. I LOVE historical fiction, so why wasn’t this on my radar?! It has a gorgeous cover and a great premise, and now (like the tweet says xD) your gushing review definitely sold it for me. I need to read this. AND I need to own this book because of it’s gorgeousness. (But I am going to wait to order it, because there’s always a chance I’m going to win this giveaway, xD)
    But, is this NOT a Debby book? After such a gushing review!

  10. Gosh, you know how to sell a book Debby! I always really like historical fiction, but I don’t read enough of them. This book is definitely high on my wish list *enters giveaway* I saw your pictures and this book is indeed pretty!

    Ohh, great! I like it when the prose feels like it fits the setting. Post-it’s at such an early stage is a very good sign. How promising for further work of her πŸ˜€ Having the feeling that you are learning in a subtle way is fun. I like art, so I’d love to see more about that. Plus, I LOVE passionate characters and than she is also sassy, strong & independent. Gimme gimme!

    Not romance-centric, this book is starting to sound better and better to me. I do like the fact that it’s such a wonderful romance πŸ™‚ Slowburn chemistry is the best <3

  11. I’ve always loved historical fiction and this book sounded like it could be awesome and after reading your review, wow… I just NEED to read it!! Historical fiction with feminist undertones… Just… *makes grabby hands*

    Thank you so much for the giveaway and making it international!! *jumps up and down*

  12. Debby, seriously, you’re making me want to get to this book sooner! I did receive an ARC of it, which has sadly fallen to the wayside in the face of all the awesome books (both older and newer releases) that I’ve been indulging in. I do love that you genuinely are enthusiastic about A Mad, Wicked Folly, as it’s entirely contagious! I’m now looking forward to reading it even more than I already was, particularly because (a) the writing is gorgeous, (b) the story sounds amazing and (c) I love a slow burn romance.

    • Awww, I think you’re not alone though… Lots of people have overlooked this book, which is something I’m desperate to fix! I hope you love it πŸ™‚

  13. I’ve heard a little about A Mad, Wicked Folly and while it’s been all good stuff, I can’t say there’s been a lot of it. I liked the sound of it before but wasn’t in a rush to read it or anything but now? Ohmygoodness, do I want to read this! I LOVE your review and enthusiasm for this book, it’s entirely catching, too! I’ve hardly read any historical so that’s another point in its favour because like you, I’d really like to discover this genre much more than I have. The first book I remember reading that had a historical aspect in it was Born Wicked. Have you read it? It’s witchy, which I’m not sure if your for or against, but it is GOOD and the historicalness (totes not a word but roll with it) SHINES. I read it two years ago and it still gives me warm and lovely feelings πŸ˜‰ Thanks for this lovely review! Win or lose, I’m definitely bumping this up on my to read list!

  14. Nicole B.

    This review is really helpful. It gave me more insight on the book, but didn’t convince me to read it… since I was already 100% convinced! I’d love to win this!!