Hmm something about this didn’t click the same way that Lord of Scoundrels clicked. I figure a decent chunk of that is that no character can compare to Jessica (I felt somewhat similar with every heroine of Georgette Heyer, sometimes anti-semite, after Sophy). I picked it up in a similar vein to others, it seems–a heroine who isn’t a blushing virgin set across from a notorious ladies’ man who teaches her glorious pleasure. Like, sure, won’t deny I read the f out of those books but also, eye roll.
The good! Francesca’s friend is the best, I’m not going to even try spelling her name, something with lots of vowels. I would have loved much more escapades of F&G, courtesans of the highest order, gamboling through Venice. That they’re so casual and chill with what they want gave me all the life.
But at the end of the day I feel like I didn’t get enough of that vibe from Francesca when it came to the romance plot. It felt very much like the Inara/Mal dynamic from Firefly, which as we now know was probably never intended quite as grrrl power as it might have seemed (thanks Whedon!!!1). James gets to constantly call Francesca a whore/harlot and comment on her choice of career, and the fact that he doesn’t “hold it against her” means it’s okay. And yet we literally open the book with him being a sex spy and not even for anything particularly noble–getting some stolen jewels back which, we are told, helped something King Duke something Napoleon.
The rapidly alternating third person POV also stripped some of the sparkle for me. Some of the tension of “what are they thinking?” (that they want to bone. it’s always that they want to bone) is lost when we have one line from the thoughts of James and then another from the thoughts of Francesca. I mean, of course they’re going to end up together, you can tell that from the cover. But while getting there there’s some willful suspension that lets there be UST. I kept thinking that modern day books with dual-non-virgin characters maintain lots of UST no matter when in the timeline the characters get on with it. Somehow once James and Francesca started making out, that frisson…fizzled out.