Kate Bergeron is the beautiful and mysterious former mistress of a cloth merchant...and the latest beauty to capture the interest of the Prince of Wales. Mired in a disastrous divorce, the Prince attempts to distract attention from his next amorous pursuit by ordering Grayson Christopher, the eligible Duke of Darlington, to pretend to London society that he is having an affair with Kate.
When Grayson reluctantly agrees to his Prince's demand, he finds the lady no more willing than he is. Kate will grudgingly act the part in public, but her favors are not for sale to any man. As Grayson and Kate mimic ardor for the world to see, they find what started as a deception becoming all too real. And when passion flames into love, their predicament becomes extreme. For while marriage between a duke and a courtesan could never happen, Kate knows in her heart that she is willing to accept nothing less....
This is the first book I've read by Julia London. I've been hearing about her for years, but put off reading her because I burned out on historicals. I can't quite decide how I feel about this book. My initial instinct after finishing it is to say I enjoyed it. It was a sweet, light romance. But if I look at it too closely I find many things that bothered me.
The heroine was portrayed in an almost child-like way, which worked to an extent, but became tedious after awhile. Because she's had little education, Kate struggles with the meaning of words and finds joy in some of the simplest things. At first I found this endearing, but as the novel progressed I found myself becoming annoyed with her. She was an adult, not a 5-year-old. I wish she had been portrayed as older and wiser, instead of young and innocent. At first I thought she'd be one of those courtesan's that wasn't really a courtesan, but that wasn't the case. Considering the extend of her 'knowledge", I expected her to be more worldly and mature.
And yet for my annoyances, I still liked her. Her outlook on life was optimistic and refreshing, and matched against Grayson's more serious personality, she brought much needed levity to the story.
Grayson is a snob, plain and simple. That's one of the key conflicts in this story. I understood that. I even understood why he was a snob - he was a Duke, and one of the most upstanding of them all at that. But he was also a hypocrite. He stepped outside the bounds of propriety all the time, only he found convenient lies and excuses to explain the behavior away. I could have excused that, but the issue was never really addressed. That of his snobbery was, but his being a hypocrite seemed to completely escape everyone, the author included.
And yet I liked him. He was kind and considerate, and his confusion over his feelings for Kate was adorable. As the story progressed and he lightened up, I really started rooting for him. His obvious struggle between his feelings for Kate and doing what propriety demanded really drew me in.
Mostly I think I was bothered by the overall storyline and the way the class distinctions were portrayed. Especially since the ending left a lot open. It bothered me that Kate felt she deserved marriage from Grayson, especially since she often claimed to know and accept her place in life. I think the way a duke marrying a courtesan was written is more believable than many others I've read, but I wasn't quite satisfied with it. Shouldn't a duke be able to say, "Screw convention, I do what I want"?
And yet the storyline is one of the things that worked. London stayed true to the times, writing something that isn't generally accepted in the world of historical romances. I have to give her credit for that, even if it left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied.
As you can see, I really struggled with this book. On the surface I quite enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it in one sitting. It wasn't until after the fact that I realized so many things bothered me.
3.5 out of 5 (or maybe 3.75 out of 5? I can't decide)
This book is available from Pocket. You can buy it here or here in e-format.
Totally unrelated to the review: I really dislike her website. It loads very slow and I couldn't find any information about connecting books. Based on some things referenced in this one I assume there are books prior to it, but I can't say for sure since her website is unclear. Share this post!