I admit that this book has a very interesting premise with an extremely intriguing hero, Mark. A virgin hero who advocates that men only have sexual relations with their legally married spouses. Now that is an original character.
Too bad he is paired with Jessica. I see what Courtney Milan is going for and she certainly has a cool story to tell here. Great writing, a very imaginative way with words. I just cannot warm up to Jessica. She is just a little too "broken" for my taste.
The pairing has been done before, just usually with a vicar. This vicar-like hero with a courtesan-like heroine kind of pairing seems to be a trend. I have tried quite a few books with such character pairing and only one of them ever made me want to continue reading, and that was a novella.
Quite to my dismay I cannot pinpoint what did not work for me in this story. I know I did not mind Mark, honestly I never mind much what the heros do. It is the heroine that either makes or kills a story for me. And I did not like Jessica. I know that she had a difficult life, that she was only trying to make a living for herself, that she was only deceiving Mark to ensure her survival. I don't dislike her. I just don't like her, which, according to Countess Violet, are 2 quite different things.
Why? I wish I knew.
I will try to describe what I don't like about Jessica. These are personal feelings and have nothing to do with the writing quality or the story. But the character of Jessica totally destroyed the story for me.
Jessica was a courtesan. Like most women in the business, it was not her dream job. So she wanted out. She wanted to secure funds before she "retired" so she offered Mark's political enemy to engage Mark in sexual activities to discredit him, because Mark was famous for his self-imposed celibacy. He wrote a book about it, god damn it. So they met and of course the saint Mark, who was only just a man, oft tempted but never succumed to his baser desires before he met Jessica, found Jessica irresistible.
This was my first ever problem. Why? I did not understand Jessica's undefinable allures. I am usually pretty lenient on such things but with Jessica and Mark, I wanted to ask: why Mark? She was beautiful yeah but you have met beautiful women before. The entire plot just felt like one convenient excuse to make this vicar and courtesan kind of thing work. Only that I was not buying.
So often with courtesan heriones, they must hate their job and the sexual act. They could not respond to the normal stimula and so on and so forth, you catch the drift. So basically with such a pairing the relationship is some kind of a sexual awakening for the heroine, to have sex with a man she loved. This storyline never goes down well with me. I am not interested in another woman's road to sexual fulfillment. Good for her, but thanks no thanks. I don't need to see it.
Then there is this self-defeating thought: "I am a courtesan. Why would a respectable man love me? People treat me like shit because I am a courtesan. So let me act cold and pretend not be hurt because I have my pride and I am still a good woman even though I sell my body for money." I mean this kind of self-defeating narratives get old quickly with me. OK you have had a difficult life. Must you act like a poor little girl who acts tough but secretly craves acceptance? It was not your fault that you had to become a courtesan so get over it and show some some respect for the tough decisions you have made to support yourself. Now let me quote Countess Violet again:
Now I believe I have established 2 things:
1. I do not like Jessica.
2. I love Countess Violet.
So you see, Jessica and I never had a chance. I feel nothing for her, not her suffering, not her struggle, not her dilemma, not her sexual self-exploration and naturally, not her relationship with Mark. I cannot establish a connection with Jessica. I could not care less about her love story. This "a woman who is just waiting for the right man to do right by her" kind of story.....it is just not my thing. Such characters always make me feel that they are emotionally inadequate. They are looking for acceptance, for salvation. And one man comes along and loves her and her life is now different......it pisses me off just thinking about it.
My rating and review are my personal views. They do not reflect the quality of the book. I would have given the book 3 stars if I liked Jessica a little better. But I really don't like this heroine. No offense, Jessica. It is not you, it is me.