I don't even know where to start with this one, y'all. It was so bad. So unbelievably bad. I've read it twice before and literally had no memory of the story I was about to read--and I really think my brain was trying to protect me. I can usually polish these books off in one two hour sitting, maybe over two 90 minute sessions--generally it doesn't take more than a day or two to read this. This one--I've been reading since Sunday. That's FOUR DAYS.
And it's because I kept putting it down. I kept avoiding reading it. I didn't want to finish it. This is bad. This is bad in a way that Captain Jack's Woman was not. That book had George Smeaton and Kit to save it. This...even the bright spot disappears halfway through.
So what's bad? The so-called hero, Deverell, never ever recovers from the first 100 pages. He is awful, he's pushy, and he just never listens to the heroine, Phoebe. She makes it clear beyond a doubt for the first half of the book she has no interest in marriage. She's attracted to him, but she still doesn't want to marry him. And...we'll get into it in the spoilers, but she literally gives him no encouragement. Responding to a kiss he starts is not necessarily the same thing.
Second, the plot? I don't know. I guess it could have been good but it doesn't even really start until page 247 when we meet the villain. This book was only 351 pages long (in my ebook). I don't know percentages, but I should know what's going on long before that. Like A Fine Passion, the romance takes center stage for the first half of the book--but it doesn't work here because these people are not in love. Phoebe is basically a hostage who succumbs to Stockholm Syndrome. By the time there's an actual villain, I'm just...pfft. Not interested.
The characters? Phoebe starts off interesting. She's--at first--not a typical Laurens heroine, and there are aspects to her character that I like. But Deverell is worse than Jack Hendon (Captain Jack). I did not think that was possible because I hate Jack so much I've set him on fire in two reviews. He makes me see red so much that his name was mentioned in this book and I got all irritated. But Deverell is worse. Because he's basically a stalker who thinks he's charming and he gets away with it.
Skip this book. It doesn't add to the overall series -- Dalziel's last traitor is not featured here, and Dalziel is probably the one person who shows up that I like.
I don't really comment on sex scenes because some people like a lot of them, some people don't. I've never really cared much for the steam level--it doesn't make or break my reading if that makes sense. But the story basically stops for a good 50 pages so Deverell can seduce Phoebe repeatedly. Even in other books when that was happening, stuff was still happening in the story. The middle of this book drags in such a way that you will want to set yourself on fire.
There is nothing interesting about this book, and there's no point in reading. Run away. As fast and as far as you can.
Okay. Let's get into the weeds.
Why is Deverell literally the worst? Let's start with how this book starts. This piece of shit gives us a long siloquy about the type of woman he'd need and drops this goddamn gem:
Consequently he knew and accepted that he wouldn't be an easygoing gentleman fashionable ladies married and thereafter took for granted. (FUCK YOU BUDDY). He was demanding, and not just as a lover; if a lady was his, he would expect to be the central focus of her life. And in such matters he had very little tolerance; his temper was such that he could bend just so far, and no further.
HOLY SHIT RED FLAGS BATMAN.
And lest you think Deverell is fucking with you, he literally takes over Phoebe's life. Our girl is just chilling in the library with some grapes and book enjoying her alone time, when this dick shows up, stands over her, and just...WON'T LEAVE HER ALONE.
Phoebe tries to get rid of him--but he refuses. He knows she's brushing him off and it just makes him more interested. JESUS CHRIST.
It just gets worse from here.
Phoebe's raison d'etre is an employment agency that specializes in rescuing domestic female servants who are being preyed upon by males of the ton. Obviously, this gives her a healthy distrust of Deverell (oh if only she had kept to it.) He spies her helping a maid from their house party escape into a carriage--I can barely type this without flipping my fucking shit--he is angry with her, demands an explanation, and when she refuses--
HE PINS HER ARMS ABOVE HER HEAD AGAINST A TREE AND SEXUALLY ASSAULTS HER.
There's no gray area here -- she does not want to be kissed, she's pissed. He forces himself on her, she is triggered to a former sexual assault which finally gets him to back the fuck off.
Phoebe repeatedly tells this dick no. Leave her alone. She's not interested, and he keeps coming for her.
To the point he has her financial records investigated, has her house watched, and then follows her on a rescue mission (where yes, he's helpful, but fuck it, he doesn't earn any thing from me on this), and basically leaves her no choice. She either accepts her help or he puts a stop to this.
Fucking Prince Charming, am I right?
And yeah, after that, Deverell lets her take the lead. Includes her, takes his notes from her. But why wouldn't he? He's got what he wants. He's in her life--he's seduced her--and he's the focus of her life just the way he wanted -- he's in the middle of the thing that is her driving force, her motivation.
I'm sorry, he doesn't get any points for being a slightly less dick later in this book, because FUCK THIS GUY.
Okay. So that's the romance. (We'll use that word but this is basically a stalker book).
The other ridiculous romper room fuckery is this clodhopper of a plot. For 100 pages, we don't really know anything is going on. Then Phoebe's agency and Deverell getting himself involved is the next 150 pages (with 50 pages of sex thrown in), and the last 100 pages is where the villain shows up.
Malcolm Sinclair is a recurring villain who gets his own redemption book, and there's super cringey epilogue where one of Laurens' ubiquitous grand dames lectures him. I don't care about this dick.
I'm just...GAH. This was so bad, you guys. SO BAD.
Overall I don't even know where to start with this one, y'all. It was so bad. So unbelievably bad. I've read it twice before and literally had no memory of the story I was about to read--and I ...