I recently said that I have a lot more patience for historical rogues than I do for contemporary assholes in romance. This is still true, but Sebastian Ballister, Marquess of Dain really tested my strength. Owing to not being loved enough as a child, he’s belligerently awful to everyone, even those who consider themselves friends. He doesn’t like anyone, but he’s especially contemptuous of “females.” In a fun bit of head-scratching irony, he sneers both at whores and ladies for perfectly opposing and complementary reasons: whores are the only women with whom he keeps company, because he pays them to be there, but he still doesn’t respect them, as they are below his social class. On the flipside, ladies of his class must be flighty and unintelligent, and he can’t pay them to be compliant, so despite the outward politeness afforded to them by the rules of chivalry, he doesn’t deem them worthy of sharing his presence.
This is all even more rich, given his intimate relationships with many whores who he nonetheless disrespects, because thanks to some vengeful brainwashing by his father, he bitterly refers to his mother as a whore and considers that epithet all the reason necessary to dismiss her from his consideration. All of this goes to say that the guy’s got Issues with a capital I, and he is just about the most difficult male hero I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting.
But, as one can see from my four-star rating, I liked this book. I can’t really explain it, other than that Loretta Chase must be some kind of a wizard. Despite really thoroughly disliking Dain, I can’t deny that the romance between him and Jessica Trent (more on her in a minute) really, really worked. They have a sharp, sensual chemistry, and even though in real life I would advise my friend Jessica to steer clear of a guy like him, in fictionland she’s very good for him.
About Jessica — she may just be my new favorite Regency heroine. I know. This is huge. And Jessica alone is a huge part of why I overall enjoyed the book so much. She’s a spinster bluestocking, but not in a cliched “I’m so nerdy and that’s why I can’t find love” way. She just simply enjoys being unattached, or at the very least has enough going on in her life and is well-situated enough in her family to not be desperate for a husband. She has, in fact, turned down previous offers of marriage because she doesn’t care to settle. She’s intelligent, witty, thoughtful, perceptive, and she has hobbies. I like her! I have much more of a crush on her than I do on Dain; that’s for certain.
The story got a little bit bogged down in the subplot about Charity Graves and Beaumont and Vawtry and the icon. I won’t go into too much detail because honestly it bored me a little, and it seemed like a forced way to justify Dain’s derision toward whores. I would have preferred another 50 pages of Jessica Trent going antiquing, and that’s saying something because outside of knowing anything about Jessica Trent, how does reading about anyone antiquing sound remotely fun?
If this seems like a very mixed review for a four star book, it’s basically because as I said earlier, I just couldn’t help but overall like this book. It doesn’t make sense because I didn’t like the hero or some sizable tangents in the plot, but I LOVED the heroine and the overall product somehow still resulted in me rooting for the couple.