5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
Undoubtedly one of the best historical romances I’ve read in a long time. I found the premise a little hard to come around to: a courtesan looking to get out of the business takes a contract to seduce and defame a famous male virgin. But… the writing is so good: crisp, clear, and almost lyrical at times, and the characters are drawn so clearly that you can’t help but be drawn in. If I had to nitpick (which I am wont to do), parts of the climax might have been a tiny bit slow, and also, there are times when the pacing meanders a tiny bit… but still! Overall, this is really, by far, one of the best historical romances I’ve read in a long, long time — I recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in this genre as a wonderful example of historical romance.
Jessica Farleigh is a young, beautiful courtesan who is looking to get out of the business — though she doesn’t go into the details initially, it is clear she is suffering from trauma. She feels as though she’s dying by degrees, and hasn’t really “felt” anything, or owned anything (her body, her emotions), in a long time. She is between protectors at the beginning of the novel, and trying to find a way to earn enough to retire. A small cottage in the country with a friend of hers, that’s all she dreams of now.
Meanwhile, George Weston, Jessica’s former protector, has offered a bounty for anyone who can seduce Sir Mark Turner, the third son of a duke who’s recently been knighted for writing a Gentleman’s Guide that has sparked a chastity movement amongst all the young men of the ton. Weston is interested in a position that Sir Mark is being recommended for, and needs to ruin his public image, to better his own chances.
The prostitute and the male virgin… he’s running away to the quiet countryside in order to be away from his adoring masses, and she’s running after him, trying to divest him of his virginity, and hoping that it’ll be the last man she’ll have to sleep with for pay.
From the back cover description, I really, really, did not think I would like this book…
Sure, there are parts here and there that take creative turns, but the book is more enjoyable for it… because really, from a beginning like that, you can take the book almost anywhere. The characters, despite the fact that they could easily have been caricatures, are incredibly well layered — this was a moving portrayal of a complicated love story, with astoundingly believable characters who are flawed, introspective, and, when appropriate, witty, clever, and frighteningly likeable. The families and backstories are well fleshed out (I won’t give anything away here), and the relationship between the three brothers, which clearly links the trilogy together, is strong and believable.
I’m not sure how many times I said, “This is a great book”, while reading it… it’s really one of those books that you are sad to see end. So. Worth. The. Read.
Comparisons to Other Authors/Books:
So, I’ve really rarely seen the thing… You’ve got Derek Craven from Lisa Kleypas’s Dreaming of You (with a former male prostitute and a female virgin), and that’s probably the only historical romance example I can think of. And I would say that Kleypas is a good comparison: the character development, the well-done introspection, all remind me of Kleypas’s stronger works. Similarly, there are some similarities to the one Sherry Thomas novel, Tempting the Bride, that I liked, where Milan takes seemingly unlikeable characters and turns them into three-dimensional heroes that stay with you, and have you cheering for their happy ending.