0.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase
This is a bit of a fake-out. Calling a series of women fallen implies to me that they actually should be… fallen, and thus different and distinct from the youthful virgins and/or managing spinster virgins we so often get within the genre. Instead, this particular novel would probably be more enjoyable for a male, rather than a female, reader: Zoe, our heroine, is a girl who’s spent the last 12 years in a harem, being trained by experts in how to seduce a man… except, she’s still a virgin. Somehow, somewhere, someone’s fantasy is coming true. Too bad the book is riddled with every cliche you could possibly imagine about the “exotic east” and comes off as having stilted leads, coupled with an ungainly, impossible-to-believe setup, as well as second-act villains that don’t really make sense.
4.5 out of 5 stars
Cut to the Chase:
This is a book full of details: the art, the poetry by Byron (down to his inconsistent spelling style), the Italian, the politics around divorce, the fuller-than-full list of supporting characters. At its heart beats a well-drawn, but thoroughly unlikely pair of protagonists: a disgraced divorcee who now lives the life of a courtesan, and a spy-like man who wishes he could retire. Ultimately, they’re two people who are both prostitutes… one who’s turned to the life as a way to free herself from the hypocrisy of the London life she once led, and another who does everything (and sometimes, everyone) under the auspices of serving his country (though without the sometimes more formal recognition a soldier might receive). They are hardened cynics who battle with their wits and sexuality — not at all a story I expected to enjoy, but expertly done and often quite enthralling (and even surprising: a twist I wouldn’t have predicted, and an independent female who is TRULY independent).