3.5 stars rounded up because. This. Is. Good. Historical romance novels are my guilty pleasure, although it is usually difficult to find a story that I really like. Flat characters, unbelievable behaviors, men who whimper or who mansplain (on a good day), feisty or downright dumb heroines (and all the shades in between)…Too much sex, or too little, or badly written scenes. Don't even get me started on the quality of the prose and the narrative. Lots of bad stuff, you name it, yet I persevere. Probably it’s just me being illogical because I like reading romance even if I rarely relate to the characters or find the plots interesting -- and that would make me run for the hills in other types of novels.
Every now and then though, I'm pleasantly surprised with books that are actually engaging and able to upend my nearly nonexistent expectations about the genre. This is one of such cases.
It’s well written, there’s a good amount of both angst and humor, it tackles themes like identity and belonging, there are motivations, nice descriptions, realistic sex, and the backdrop of Victorian Leicester plays an active part in the protagonists’ lives.
Granted, it’s still a romance story and it naturally builds up within the proper, expected borders of the category; if I stopped to analyze the book, I would notice that there is a very simple plot behind it, with insta-lust, an unconvincing hero, saccharine moments (albeit well-placed) and historical liberties. Anyway none of this prevented me from getting hooked.
The author clearly put her skills to good use and delivered an entertaining and well-balanced story, starring a remarkable female lead, which I truly enjoyed. I'll be sure to read more of her work.“The male of the human species has a fundamental flaw. At the moment when we most want to say something clever and impressive, all the blood rushes from our brains.”