Editor's Note: This review is not in the same format as the rest/most of our reviews because there's no way I'm adding this to our searchable database and risking readers looking for say, Scottish romance, thinking we're recommending it.
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Rating: R
Trope: Virgin Heroine
Tags: straight, f/m, white, Scottish, High Court Chief Justice hero, British heroine, virgin, wealthy
I had so many issues with this book, I hardly know where to begin. And to be honest, a lot of my problems may well stem from the fact that perhaps white cishet histrom no longer holds the appeal for me that it once used to. There are inherent problems within that subgenre but I’ve occasionally been able to overlook them. However, this book is problematic because it feels like the author is trying to pay homage to old school historical romances of years passed and it falls into traps that should have no place in modern day romances.
Let's start with the hero, and I use that term VERY loosely in the context of this book. Cassius Gerard Ramsay is Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. He is the half-brother of the hero in the first book and due to a painful childhood that included being abandoned by his mother, he has grown up disliking and distrusting women. His misogyny is pretty glaring: his mother divorced his father to marry a duke and then continued to have multiple affairs and this causes him to believe that women are manipulative and power-hungry, who use their sex to control men. Yiiiiiiiiikes. Save me from a brooding hero who thinks all women are evil.
The heroine, Cecelia, is maybe the only saving grace in this book (along with her interactions with her friends, Alexandra and Francesca) although I will say, her unfortunate taste in a romantic partner really makes me question her ability to make good life choices. Cecelia has inherited a gambling establishment from the same secret benefactor who rescued her from a life of total misery and paid to educate her. She is well educated, far more intelligent than women were typically given credit for being back in those days and refuses to change her life goals to suit a man. I really appreciated her very modern stance on refusing to compromise her freedom for marriage to a man who would never do the same. I only wish she’d run from the hero.
The book was already a loss for me because when I’ve written the hero off as a viable love interest for the heroine, there’s nothing else to hang on to. It is, after all, a romance novel and if I’m no longer invested in the pairing, then what even is the point of this book? However, it’s in the second to last chapter in the book, during the very soap-operatic climax, that the book really goes off the rails. Until then, it’s your run-of-the-mill, white, cishet historical romance. But in a scene that is just so completely ridiculous, the villain is revealed to be a queer woman aided by three men, one of whom happens to be an Indian man. This is the only scene in which the Indian man appears, he’s killed a few pages later, and doesn’t even warrant an actual name beyond the descriptor of “the Indian man”.
I know we talk endlessly about diversity in romance, about what good representation really means. If you’re a white author writing white, cishet histrom and your idea of including diverse characters is to use them as minor plot devices or turn them into the villains of your story, then maybe consider the idea that writing diverse characters is just not in your wheelhouse.
If, after all that, you want to buy the book, here's an Amazon link.
Content Warnings: violence against heroine, attempted murder, explosions, heroine has an abusive father, fat shaming, slut shaming
FTC Disclaimer: I received an arc of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.