This got off to a really slow start. For the first 90 pages or so I felt like everything was happening except a romance. There was a lot of setup going on about a lot of stuff that was never fully developed. Meanwhile, Dominic and Fallon have had only a handful of incredibly brief interactions.
This is one of my pet peeves about romance novels. How do two people fall in love if they’re never in the same room together? We learn of their similarities and differences through their interactions with other people, not with each other. And if we’re not learning it through them being together, how are they learning it?
The book does pick up some but never quite materializes into something great. The hero and heroines back stories are just for show. They’ve both been abused but it doesn’t go into that in any depth. The hero is the very definition of a man whore (he’s with 5 women other than the heroine after they meet. Yes, 5.) and the kind of guy who blames women for being sexually harassed. Despite the fact that this is attempted to be softened by claiming not to harass women in his own home, he does that very thing to the heroine. It comes off as incongruous and it might have worked if his conflicted feelings on the matter had been explored more, but instead were just told “he wanted her real bad” as way of explanation.
The heroine is cold and aloof and going mad with desire over the hero, which is so unlike her because of all her objections to being used and abused by previous employers and schoolmasters as a child. Again this doesn’t go into any depth. We’re only told this happened and that she doesn’t like it, but there’s no exploration of her innermost feelings or any internal conflict in her as a result when she finds herself wanting the duke. It’s just “she shouldn’t, couldn’t want him” and we’re to suppose the reason why is her past and her situation, but there’s no discovering how deep this goes.
With the plot and backstories being nothing more than wallpaper, the story lacked much of a punch, feelings wise. There were some good sexy scenes but I wasn’t yearning for them or longing for them to be together. I didn’t feel much tension. And a lot of that probably had to do with the fact that the book had a “what happens next?” vibe about it. Like Sophie Jordan just wanted to write a book about a woman posing as a man right under the dukes nose but didn’t quite have a real story line to go along with it. I can just imagine her finishing a scene and wondering what happens next, then writing it and repeating until there was enough to call it a book. So it feels shoved together without any real character development or deeper relationship building.
I’m not sure how they really got to know each other. Their conversations were shallow and the kind of things you might reveal to someone who is a bit more than an acquaintance but not what you’d reveal to someone you truly want to share yourself with. I never quite understood why they loved each other.
This book almost had a nice little gender bender thing going on with a smoking hot kiss and groping session that happens while she’s posing as a man (the hero is extremely drunk in this scene). Then he has all these feelings for his valet but they revolved around things like wanting his valets respect and approval and I just wish Sophie Jordan had really committed and gone for it. I wish the hero had even a fuzzy awareness of a deeper connection between them. The fact that he went from no feelings to full throttle the minute (literally the minute) he became aware that he was a she just made this book about sex and not the relationship. But I guess that might not appeal to a wider audience.
All in all, I never really fell in love with the characters and I was pleased it was a short book, which is never a good sign. But I still wanted to read it all the way through and I didn’t hate. It was just really lacking and I wanted so much more.