This review contains spoilers.
I really liked the very beginning of this book. We learned about Eva’s school, designed to help mistresses find someone to marry after they had grown tired of the life or become a bit long in the tooth. That sounds pretty hokey and Disney-ish, but I thought it was presented well. The mistresses were told flat out that the marriages would not be guaranteed love matches and that there would be no matches with the nobility offered up. They needed to keep their goals realistic. And the reason for the men being interested in gaining a wife like that—and with that sort of background—actually made sense.
So that seemed pretty promising. I was kind of nervous about the heroine coming off as unnaturally feminist and modern, but I was willing to go with it. Surprisingly, I was so irritated by other things in this book that the school and Eva’s authentic attitude, or lack thereof, had no impact on me.
The hero bursts into Eva’s life demanding the return of his “property”. His property is, of course, his wayward mistress. She disappeared and left all his gifts to her, completely ignoring the fact that she was “his”. Nicholas hires an investigator and finally tracks her to Eva’s school. He blames Eva, personally, for stealing his perfect mistress after she tells him that said mistress is already married and out of his reach. Nicholas plots to ruin her life to make her suffer the way he’s suffering.
The author flirts with some serious issues in this book, but never gives them the weight they would have needed to actually pull it off. Nicholas bought a large chunk of Eva’s mother’s debt and is calling it in as due. He also got the other creditors to start pushing to be paid immediately as well. His terms were: A new mistress given to him from the bunch she’s trying to teach at the moment, her becoming his mistress, or her forfeiting her house to cover the debt. He didn’t even actually desire these things, he just wanted to twist the knife and make her beg for mercy.
Eva doesn’t own any of those women, so she can’t give them to him–and wouldn’t if she could. She can’t give up the house because her she needs it to continue taking care of her sick mother, so all that leaves is her body. That right there is forced consent and it takes a deft hand to pull that off without making you want scrub yourself clean after reading it.
Unfortunately, I didn’t think the author pulled it off at all. She basically just ignored the issue. She made Eva attracted to the hero for no good reason, considering the circumstances, and left it at that, like that solved the issue. If the issue wasn’t going to be treated seriously I wish it would have been skipped all together. Although I don’t enjoy most of the bodice rippers of old, even I can admit that the authors usually did a good job of providing some spark to fascinate the reader enough to pull them into the hero, even while his actions repelled them. That depth and spark was much needed here.
Nicholas was presented as a douche and he stayed a douche. He seemed to genuinely disdain women, and that is an incredibly hard thing to overcome in my eyes. He acted like a spoiled child and threw a tantrum to punish people who really weren’t to blame. The only reason he didn’t go through with his plan to torment the heroine and financially ruin her was because he discovered that there might be something attractive under her disguise. That’s when he started groping her and pushing her to own up to her end of the deal so he wouldn’t ruin her. It’s pretty hard for me to get behind a guy like that. On top of that, the only reason he started to feel bad about having sex with her was when he found out that she was related to nobility as well!
He’d known Eva was the by-blow of a lord, but Crawford had been unable to discover the connection before Nicholas had abruptly ended the investigation.
Now he knew her late father was the late Lord Seymour, an earl of high standing and a peer. He had bedded Eva knowing her mother had been a courtesan. To know half of her bloodline was as old as his own settled a stone in his stomach.
What a prince, eh?
The heroine was no better than the hero. He was a piece of crap, but she was pathetic. Her actions didn’t fit with her beginning characterization, and by the end of the book I didn’t even recognize her. To excuse the hero’s actions in the beginning, Eva was portrayed as captivated by his touch. He threatened her and groped her and yet somehow she still found the time to admire how hot he was. Right… She practically came in her pants every time he looked at her. I found the way she was portrayed and the way she thought incredibly disturbing.
Though she wanted to believe she’d gone to his bed under force and fear of her future, there wasn’t a requirement in the arrangement that she’d actually find pleasure in his arms.
Her pleasure was his gift to her.
She hated His Grace with all of her being–if he were crushed beneath a mail coach, she’d not shed a tear–so why did her body not recoil at his touch?
Worse yet, in the moments after she fled from him and plodded home on Muffin, she’d envied the year Arabella had spent in his bed.
I almost DNF’ed this book many times, but I stuck with it because I really wanted to see if there would be some repentance or even a slight acknowledgment of the wrong that was committed. There wasn’t. By the end the hero and heroine were even playfully joking about him forcing her into his bed. It was disappointing, to say the least.
By the end the book had become rather ridiculous. Nicholas and his mother were cheerfully chatting about his mistress, and various high ranking people were blatantly scheming to get the hero and heroine married. Way too cutesy for me.