“Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.”
Writing: 4/5 💦 💦 💦 💦
Dare has an easy to read style, with no dragging descriptions or plodding scenes. The pace is quick and gets to the juicy scenes with messing around with unnecessary things like plot or worldbuilding. It’s light, fluffy and easily digestible. The dialogue is exceptionally good – almost reminds me of buffy era Joss Whedon for the level of witty banter. It’s probably the stand out feature of this book and something I would like to read more of.
Plot: 2/5 💦 💦
I know this genre isn’t meant to be about plot and I shouldn’t expect too much of it, but the limp attempt at a vigilante subplot (Batman. He’s literally Batman) was more distracting than entertaining. It’s entirely possible to create enough dramatic tension with the romantic premise alone, but in this story that’s resolved without that much of a fuss either. I’m also not sure if I’m ok of the treatment of the male lead’s facial disfigurement as a plot device to highlight the virtue of the heroine (and the evilness of his ex). If it’s supposed to be a beauty and the beast retelling I’m a little underwhelmed by the comparison.
Sex: 3/5 💦 💦 💦
This isn’t really to my taste as it’s very very vanilla, but it’s well written for what it is. A good old-fashioned heterosexual, red-blooded, babymaking romp. The eroticism derives mainly from their desire, enthusiasm and enjoyment of each other (or their resistance to their desires). There’s heavy petting, PiV (Penis in Vagina) penetration, oral sex and some mention of semi-public sex. I actually felt the proportion of sex to overall book was a little light, but probably on par for the genre. You can actually skip the sex chapters of the book as suggested in the dedication to the authors Dad, which I found hilarious in itself.
Feminism: 3/5 💦 💦 💦
Most people don’t read erotica for the feminism, but if you’re like me and a bit too much patriarchy can kill your vibe this is an aspect worth reviewing. This book is a historical romance, so there’s the expected level of institutional sexism present in the background. The heroine has been disowned and made homeless by her father but manages to get back on her feet (less one toe) and find work as a seamstress. Fortunately she is rescued from a life of drudgery by a wealthy man – something a modern women might roll her eyes at, but Dare acknowledges that marriage is by far the better option compared to the life of a working woman at that time. The heroine (Emma) also somehow manages to easily find a group of independently wealthy, educated and progressive women to be her girl gang.
Most of this is a small fries compared to my main problem with the book; it’s a rescue fantasy. Down to earth Emma sees past the “monster” to the pained man, and saves him with her magical vagina of emotional healing. I understand why this is a very appealing fantasy for many women, but I fundamentally don’t think it’s a healthy romantic ideal. Sure, fantasy and reality are two entirely different creatures, but I do think it’s worth being at least aware of what we’re feeding our subconscious. If you’re ok with a little rescue fantasy indulgence but know better than to replicate it in your actual life, then do go ahead and feast on this series.
OVERALL: 3/5 💦 💦 💦
I enjoyed this more for the comedy than the sex, in fact I found myself laughing out loud within a few pages and then irritating people by insisting they listen to me read out bits of dialogue. I think the writing is good, it’s just not really my cup of tea. It’s definitely *someones* cup of tea though as it has a 4.07 rating on goodreads and over 2000 reviews. Though it’s not my usual fare, I enjoyed that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and allows for quite a bit of poking fun at its own genre. If you think historical romance might tickle your pickle, this is a good place to start. If wondering exactly what war the Duke was in is going to keep you up at night, give this a pass.