Overall: 3.5 stars rounding down to 3 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️ because I liked other 4 star books better.
Plot/Storyline: 3.5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Feels: 3.5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Sensuality: 3.5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Ugh. This book was an emotional roller coaster and I don’t entirely mean that in a good way. It wasn’t the story that was a roller coaster. It was my feelings about the book and as a reader. I was so up and down and yes and no and love and hate about the whole thing.
First, I’ll get this one thing out of the way. I I think this book straddles the line between romance and erotica. I guess it would be considered erotic romance. But that’s mostly due to the content and subject matter than the actual amount of sex in it. I didn’t find it to have more than, say, a Tessa Dare book, but the sex scenes were really about sex more than they were about love, which was a disappointment for me that I’ll elaborate on more in a bit. The non-sexy stuff was much more relationship based, which was a pleasure.
Suffice it to say that there is a light touch of BDSM in this book. It’s central to the heroes background, but there are not a lot of scenes that actually take place during the book. Archer has a pretty traumatic back story. He deals with loss and regret and guilt through having pain inflicted on him. He struggles with this in his relationship with Poppy, who he ends up marrying and believes she will never understand him.
Poppy was an interesting heroine. There are a lot of books where a heroine wants independence and this book begins right where the Poppy is on the very cusp of achieving that. And the book explores how a woman who had fought for and nearly won her independence could still lose something by becoming a duchess. And that is her biggest struggle throughout the book. Especially as she falls in love with Archer and believes he will never love her.
The first 75-80 pages or so were excellent. There was great tension, a nice amount of feels, a hot fist kiss. It was shaping up to be something great. But then it fizzled in the middle. There was a lot of sexual tension but the feelings between them didn’t reach their potential until the last third of the book.
At that point there were some very deep and complex emotions going on between them. They had these intense dark and gut wrenching moments where they’re realizing how screwed up their marriage has become and how lonely they are because neither of them handled their relationship well. And now they’ve realized that they’ve actually fallen in love with each other. But they’re both scared and full of secrets that keeps a barrier between them that they’ll never be able to tear down unless they can swallow the fear and trust one another.
And during these sweet tender moments where they almost, almost get there, there are these perfect opportunities for incredible and intense and passionate love scenes that for some unfathomable reason the author decided to skip over and give us a paragraph or fade to black. The most emotional and poignant love scenes in the book are cut painfully short. I felt cheated.
I felt like the wrong things were focused on. It’s a romance. There should be love mixed in with the best sex scenes. And the passion and desire just didn’t come through because there was more telling than showing. For example, Archer was celibate for 13 years before they married and he should have been losing it the first time, but he didn’t. So for me, that the focus was more on the issues keeping them apart than the bits that brought them together, I was left wanting.
Now, Archer’s super self-control issues were part of his character so I get it in a way. And I will say we were rewarded with him losing it in another way. At the end of the book Poppy gets angry over something Archer did that I think is nearly unforgivable for her to hold against him. I don’t want to spoil anything but what he did was what any sane person with a conscience would have done. Had he not, he’d have been a completely irredeemable hero. And for this hero in particular, with his history, she’s nuts if she thinks he’s not do what he did. And I just was so pissed at her for putting him through that.
And Archer was so angry with her, too. He wished he hadn’t married her and I couldn’t for one second blame him. And he released his anger with the sweetest fury. Not on her. Away from her. So don’t go thinking he’s a monster or anything. But the whole book he’s coiled so tight. He’s so controlled. So exacting. And then to see him lose it. Really, lose it, was a weird sort of perfection. I felt for him. I was crushed for him.
The end I both loved and hated. Archer was perfect. Poppy was exactly what he needed. But I don’t think she ever fully redeemed herself for her error. The epilogue was a complete disappointment. It was Archers sisters perspective and they talked more about another miscellaneous couple that took up 2 pages earlier in the book than anything else and Poppy was barely in it. Pointless epilogue.
So, yeah. A roller coaster.