Editorial note: I read this back in July, and wasn’t planning on reviewing it for CBR, but now that I’m trying to get to 104, you get a rambling rant. Enjoy!
I had been excited for this one because it’s an erotic romance set in the regency era, in the US! Which is not something I have read before!
The hero was immediately disappointing. He barely seemed to like the heroine at all, except for sexual/possession purposes. And I guess that therefore I didn’t really understand what the heroine saw in him either — the author tells us, in the throes of their passion, that Beth felt for Grey what she had never felt for any other man, but I have no backstory to explain why that is and certainly nothing in the story makes him seem worthy of her love.
I DNFed White Lace and Promises at 34%, so perhaps some of these things would have been clarified, but I think the way the plot is laid out really did the story a disservice. The idea is that they’re on the eve of marriage, and he’s trying to stop being so obsessed with her (for some reason that’s not explained), so he wants to completely devote himself to his work to put some distance between them. This is a weird place to start your book. I understand that there is a prequel novella, but I feel like the full-length should stand on its own. Therefore, it should not start off the bat with the hero manufacturing drama to keep himself away from the heroine for no good reason, despite assuring us that he loves her. Because if we didn’t read the novella, and I didn’t, we never see any evidence of that alleged love for her at all, or even have any idea how they got together or why.
So there is already this weird question of whether or not these two even like each other. What happens at 34% would be horrible in any book IMO, but it’s especially strange when you’re meant to believe that it’s between two people who are in love with each other. Because what happens is Grey starts offering Beth money, to buy her compliance with him announcing that he’s leaving on an unexplained trip just before their wedding. Just basically saying, “I’m leaving, you don’t get to know why, but here, have some money and just go shopping and don’t worry about it.” Then when she’s confused and upset and tries to lure him to bed (again, possibly because this is billed as an erotic romance but also because WE’VE SEEN NO OTHER INTIMACY BETWEEN THESE TWO) he flips that around on her and starts holding her down and forcing her to “take her pleasure” and “admit she loves him” which to me was ?!?!??!?!?!?!!! and @%#$! and basically non-consensual, not to mention completely irrelevant to the issue of him just taking off before their wedding and being a prick about it.
It’s very reminiscent of old school romance, where because you the reader are in the heroine’s head so you get the privilege of knowing she is actually “enjoying it”, you get to pretend it’s not rapey. But, like, from the hero’s perspective, she’s trying to twist out of his grip and telling him to go to hell, and, actually, now that I am re-reading the text, there’s even this from her inner monologue: “No, no, no. She couldn’t say it. Not like this. His advantage was too unfair.” So, really, even though the reader knows she’s allegedly sexually aroused, she’s not totes cool with everything going on, and the hero CERTAINLY doesn’t know anything other than that he is trying to overpower her, so nope.