**spoiler alert** The hero in this book is even worse than the book before, but at least I've figured out why I keep reading these books so voraciousl**spoiler alert** The hero in this book is even worse than the book before, but at least I've figured out why I keep reading these books so voraciously: Ramsey does an excellent "I will hold myself together in the face of extreme provocation and not only maintain my dignity but make equally cutting remarks in return" heroine, which I do adore. It's just that the extreme provocation is usually coming from the villain, not the hero.
And again, it's like I see the idea of what Ramsey's going for, the various plot mechanisms she sets in place to create the particular kind of tension she wants between the hero and heroine, but it's like the impact of those mechanisms get brushed aside, and the implications of what it means to be a person who does that sort of thing is never addressed. By which I mean the hero. Always the hero. Always being a raging dickbag. This one, after what I'm sure is a thoroughly unpleasant jilting, spends the next ten years manipulating the heroine's finances in secret so that she is ultimately unwittingly ruinously in debt to him, which he offers to write off if she will do whatever he says, in or out of bed, for four months.
I'm sorry; that's a shitty thing to do, and even if it's done out of hurt and to cover over love, it still makes you a shitty person to do it.
And even as the author does explicitly address the consent issues inherent of all of this (because of course there are still sexytimes in this scheme), she never addresses the conflict between describing the hero as a person hellbent on the humiliation and ruination of the heroine as revenge while also describing him as a wonderful person passionately in love with the heroine. I just. He never once apologizes for the scheme, even after he calls it off, and, I don't know, I just want it more narratively recognized that he did a bad thing.
But man I enjoy the viciously self-protective heroine, even as I seriously question her taste in men. ...more
**spoiler alert** Engaging writing, and what was good was quite good, but I had to skim through some of the hero/heroine conflict/sexual tension scene**spoiler alert** Engaging writing, and what was good was quite good, but I had to skim through some of the hero/heroine conflict/sexual tension scenes that read as abusive behavior to me, and thus I was unsurprised when the hero stepped fully into that abusive behavior when it suited him more than the sexytimes. I get that Ramsey is trying to play with the power dynamic between the two of them, that what is turning them both on (what is meant to be turning the reader on) is the power shift, that she is doing her damnedest to write these two as equals, but when one member of the relationship can have the other declared insane and sent to an asylum, can legally destroy the other's life work, can hold the other prisoner/hostage by means of finance and the law, well. And then when you have the hero actually threaten those things, to acknowledge that he has that power and can use it at any time and she makes him want to hurt her, well well. That's not a power play to me; that's abuse of power. She can't play, because she has no choice.
Her writing is otherwise snappy, and I do love the heroine's relationships with her female friends having depth and impact (and repercussions), but this hero/heroine dynamic (which book one in the series hinted at, too) is emphatically Not For Me. Ramsey is competent enough to make me think that she knows what she's doing, that she is actually striving for this dynamic (as opposed to the alpha Rapey McRaperson heroes in days of yore), that she is trying to play with it, but I cannot let go of real world (ha) implications enough to appreciate this fantasy dynamic. A million dukes existing at the same time? Blatant violation of the ton? Sure, whatever. I just can't get into using the legal dominance of a husband over his wife both as a plot point and as a driver of sexytimes and not think the hero's a total dickbag by the end of it all. ...more
False advertising; this is super not a mystery - just straight-up historical fiction. Reminded me a great deal, in feel if not in details, of The FallFalse advertising; this is super not a mystery - just straight-up historical fiction. Reminded me a great deal, in feel if not in details, of The Fall of Atlantis, though a much quicker read. The transitions between the two first-person narrators was occasionally a little clunky, and there were moments that felt like Greenwood just wallowing in all of her clearly extensive research, but the Amarna dynasty has more than enough intrigue and oddities to make a rip-roaring yarn. Also, the respectful, consensual, of-age threesome/non-monogamous relationships of all sorts of gender combinations were a delight, particularly in the midst of all sorts of pedophilia/incest that, even in the context of being par for the course and traditional in the royal family at the time, were still considered creepybadwrong....more
A vast, vast improvement on earlier books in the series, though that is faint praise, indeed. (And yet, and yet I still read them all.) The pacing isA vast, vast improvement on earlier books in the series, though that is faint praise, indeed. (And yet, and yet I still read them all.) The pacing is still weird, but Lackey went with the bold choice of actually having things happen at multiple points during the story. In fact, I somewhat wonder if this is the start of another sub-arc in the overall Elemental Masters series, as otherwise there are large swathes of the book that seem disconnected from each other. The training montage/lavish house party/wallowy descriptions of luxury and food at the heroine's new home base works much, much better if it's the origin story for this heroine. One of the other strengths of this book over previous - the jettisoning of the strict adherence to romance novel relationship pacing - also makes me suspect future books about Rosa, who is also one of the least irritating heroines in this series in quite some time. Rosa will get her tied-with-a-bow happy ending at some point, just not yet. Which is good. Lackey doesn't compromise Rosa's established character traits to force a romance happy ending, which makes for an overall better book.
So, hey. Hope for the future! Because of course I will still be reading. ...more