💙 I read this for the Unapologetic Romance Readers' New Years 2018 Reading Challenge, for the category of: Friends to Lovers. For more info on this challenge, click here. 💙
Part of what drew me to this book was the intimacy of the couple on the cover. A lot of these historical romances have the hero and heroine locked in a dominant embrace by the hero, usually in a pose that suggests "they are having sex with clothes on." I love those covers, because I am a trash queen, but the implicit tenderness of this couple's embrace, as well as the cheap price tag, made me super curious regarding what this story would be about.
Nicholas is an impoverished viscount well-known for his affability and charm. When he was a young boy, before he claimed his title, his childhood friend was a girl named Cynthia. He left her when he left to claim his title, and his saddened when he receives a notice that she died in the post. This discovery rides hot on the heels of him finding his rich fiancee in flagrante delicto with another man, so obviously he's cheerful - not.
Cynthia, however, isn't dead. She's only pretending to be dead because her parents, who are also impoverished, are trying to force her to marry an utterly sadistic earl. She's actually hiding out in the attic of the hero's country home, and he finds her there when he comes home to hide from the creditors and mull on his unfortunate lot in life. The two grudgingly and then with real tenderness slowly, hesitantly rekindle their childhood friendship, but Nicholas is not the same. He's been touched by something dark and tragic, and if she comes to his bed, it will touch her, too.
I feel like this is a lot like what FIFTY SHADES OF GREY was trying to be, honestly - only the hero doesn't use his kink as an excuse to dominate and tyrannize, and the heroine is actually enthusiastic and willingly embraces the kink once she gets used to the idea. Nicholas's past is truly tragic, and Cynthia helps him work through his trauma not just with vagina magic, but also through compassion, understanding, and empathy. I also loved that she wasn't a virgin. That was quite refreshing.
The only reason this book doesn't get a higher rating is because it felt a bit bland. I've read a lot of historical romances set in Regency and Victorian times and after a while, they all start to feel very formulaic and you can only really judge them by the writing and the chemistry of the main characters and the peripheral details that make it stand out, like the ones I have outlined here. It was a lovely romance with great characters, but the story-telling just didn't wow me.
Still; I'm intrigued. Not sure her contemporary romances are quite what I'm into, but I will definitely be checking out some more of her historical romance. Girl can write.
3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars