Much to my surprise while looking at what other series Sophie Jordan had on offer, I have read one of her books before--Firelight, a young adult fantasy about shapeshifter dragons and dragon hunters that's pretty much like Twilight but possibly even worse. I'm actually very glad I saw that after I read this book, because it probably really would have colored my impressions of this one otherwise. Also worthy of note is that this isn't actually the book I wanted to read. I wanted to read While the Duke Was Sleeping, which is the first book in her Rogue Files series, but there was a hefty library waitlist for that, so I settled for this one instead.
Let me put this out there to begin with: while I think Declan and Rosalie ultimately made a good couple, the setup here is kind of...uhm...weird to me. Because they're step-siblings. And they did live together, though apparently not for the past ten years. But still. Step-siblings. And not only that but they start hooking up while Rosalie is in disguise at a house of sin, where people go to have orgies, watch other people have orgies, etc... And their whole relationship basically is based on a lie...
So, yeah. Let me back up a bit. The story follows Rosalie, who has spent the past ten years of her life at a finishing school, including two years after she actually graduated because her mother never bothered to collect her. The headmistress decides she can't keep Rosalie forever, even though she likes her, and so delivers her to Declan, the Duke of Danbury and Rosalie's stepbrother, as he's her only other family. Declan hates Rosalie on sight because of her connection to her mother, and vows to get rid of her as quickly as possible--his aunt and cousin convince him the best way to do this is to give Rosalie a huge dowry and marry her off. And so the husband hunt begins. But Rosalie is in love with Declan, and always has been, and while she accepts she'll have to marry someone else, she's not about to let Declan decide on exactly who that will be for her.
What I think ultimately rubs me the wrong way about this book is that it was specifically written to titillate. There's absolutely no reason that Rosalie had to be set up as Declan's step-sister and didn't enter his sphere in some other way, maybe by ending up in Peregrine and Aurelia's care. There was absolutely no need for the whole Sodom (the house of sin) plot line. There are plenty of other tropes that could have been used to fulfill these same plot lines, and yet Jordan chose these, apparently just to shock and titillate the reader. But she uses them without fully committing to them. There are some pretty serious kinks that come up in this book in various ways, but Jordan clearly can't decide if she wants to commit to them and have a full-fledged historical erotica, or if she wants to have a more sedate, "traditional" historical romance. So she bounces back and forth between the two and doesn't really land in either, and it's an attempted balancing act that doesn't ever really work out. Consequently, I don't think this will really please readers of either camp. There's also some really twisted stuff involving rape going on in the background here that's never truly addressed, particularly the impact it must have on the character in question and how it shaped everything leading up to the book.
So, am I still interested in Jordan's other historical romances? Yes. Aurelia in this one seemed like a girl who definitely would not have actually existed or at least acted the way she did in reality, but has promise as a romance heroine. And I still want to read the Rogue Files books when I can get the first one from the library. But as for this one... Eh.
2 stars out of 5.