Oh my God this bookohmigodthisbookOH MY GOD THIS BOOK!
This book is perfect.
It's like if Jane Austen wrote porn that also happened to contain powerful messages about human nature, surviving abusive situations, and the identity of self. So, basically, Jane Austen...Except Sylvia Day.
Yeah, none of this noise is making much sense, but can you blame me? Fangirl levels are at DefCon 1 right now, people...HOW can I do the thinking-brain-thing when I AM ODING ON FEELINGS?!
Okay, with that somewhat out of my system, let me try to bring it back down to earth.
Seven Years to Sin by Sylvia Day, a historical romance about unrequited love getting requited. Specifically about Alistair Caulfield who has loved Jessica Sheffield since childhood, but whoops, Jessica never knew and got hitched to another dude. Fast forward seven years, Jess is a widow, the two are plopped on a ship together, and sexiness ensues...Except oh yeah, the novel manages to pull the rug out from under you many times over with unexpected plot developments and character growth. Throw in some elegant writing that steals your breath, a secondary love story that is as heartwrenching as it is engaging, and a book that is intelligent and fun, and you've got the fixings for Seven Years To Sin.
Also sexy sex scenes. Did I mention sexy sex scenes? Because sexy sex scenes.
I could write entire soliloquies as to passionate hottness and intensity of this book's smexy-fun-times. However, I'm going to refrain from that because I'm a grown ass woman who was far more blown away by the depth of character given to the people in Seven Years To Sin. Jessica is such a complexly interesting heroine. Her backstory will rip your heart up into itty-bitty bite-sized pieces. She undergoes such a transformation over the course of the story, and has just as many personal demons to battle as the hero.
And interestingly, Alister is both a strong and vulnerable character. He operates on the Alpha/Beta male mixed spectrum and tugs at your heart with wire cables.
Throw in Jessica's sister, Hester, with her tortuous love story peppering the backdrop of the plot, which pays off in an AMAZING way to the final conflict of the novel and just OH MY GOD I NEED TO SHUT UP ABOUT THIS BOOK!
The plot, pacing, characterizations, detailed attention to setting, conflict, literally EVERYTHING in this novel is wonderful. I honestly can't fathom even one criticism to lodge against it, and that's saying something 'cause I'm a picky ass hole.
It's smart and emotional.
It's hot, and intense.
It's tragic, and beautiful.
And I swear, if anyone tells me historical romance novels are just "mommy porn" or "smut," I'm going to repeatedly pummel them in the face with Seven Years To Sin because stupidity deserves punishment.
So stop watching me fangirl about this kickass book, and go read it. I'm about to spoil the ass out of this novel. Run away screaming into the night if you're not ready...
A romance novel where the heroine comes from an abusive home, who enters an arranged marriage that results in love cut short from Consumption, while her sister enters a love marriage that results in misery, abuse, a miscarriage, and widowhood; a book that endeavors to kill off characters rather unexpectedly though realistically considering the setting, AND contains some of the most erotic writing, enough to make even Mata Hari blush?
Screw stereotypes, all hail Syliva Day, author goddess extraordinaire!
For such a simple premise which starts with prim Jessica stumbling upon rakish Alister whilst he's sexing up someone on the eve of Jessica's wedding, this book goes to some hella dark places. Our heroine struggles with moderate alcoholism, while our hero is a literal bastard, the product of his mother's extramarital affair. Jessica's father was so abusive in her childhood she lost the hearing in one ear while Alister's "father" hates him...and the body count in this book?
I mean damn. The book opens, closes, and climaxes with death.
Benedict, Jessica's husband of seven years dies of Consumption. Michael, the dude secretly in love with Jessica's sister Hester loses his older brother. Hester herself miscarries her baby, causing her abusive asshat husband to eat a bullet, and Alister, our story’s hero, looses all three of his older brothers to Smallpox. These deaths add such weight to the book, making the whole thing feel more real and with consequence.
Plus, every time you think you've got the central conflict figured out, it changes!
"Oh, it's opposites attract?" Now it's coping with tragic pasts..."Oh, it's love at sea?" Now it's incongruent love..."Oh, it's estate stewardship?" Now it's social obligations..."Oh, it's siblings in parallel?" Now it's an unexpected Dukedom.
Like, DAMN book! And yet, astonishingly enough, each plot point and conflict naturally evolve into the next.
Also, can we TALK about how emotionally moving the secondary love story was? Because oh my GOD PEOPLE! As amazing as Alister's and Jess' story were, the secondary love arc is just as powerful, if not more so in some ways; Hester and Michael. The girl who married for love to a man who in years abuses her, and the boy who has loved her for years.
Hester's plot line is so amazingly engaging for so many reasons. I mean, talk about inherent irony in her sister Jessica having married for convenience and found love while Hester marries for love and found hell. Add in Michael's powerful unrequited love, the abuse plotline of the husband, the pregnancy, her depression…all of this leading up to her widowhood and child loss and you talk about one hell of a subplot!
Lastly, I simply HAVE to take a hot minute to be all shocked and impressed at some of the on-the-nose quotes this book had to offer! Three in particular stood out to me, and I'll let you guess why.
Why can men be boys all of their lives, but we women must grow old while we are yet young? - Hester The world was made for men. - Jess And what is a woman's contribution to the world? To serve them? - Hester To create them. - Jess
Why do women insist on ascribing deep meaning to random events? - Michael Because we take note of life's details, which men fail to do. That is why women are clever than men. - Elspeth
It's too soon for you. Your still grieving. When the heart is still healing, we find someone who helps us forget it hurts. But one day we don't want to forget any longer and we let them go. When that time comes for you, you'll say farewell to Mr. Caufield with gratitude and no regrets. It's the way we women survive the passing of our men. - Beth
Like, that was some of the most excellent commentary on gender roles, common differences between sexes, and how women deal with loss.
So, despite the fact that I've been talking for several minutes, there’s still SO much more I could say about the events and characters of this book. I won't, though, simply because fangirling too long is dangerous to my health.
I need to shut up now, and you need to go read Seven Years To Sin.
Hi, my name is Jacqueline, I'm a bibliophile, and I'm in love with this book.
This thing kicks ass. And, I don't mean in the "let's-create-comedic-commHi, my name is Jacqueline, I'm a bibliophile, and I'm in love with this book.
This thing kicks ass. And, I don't mean in the "let's-create-comedic-commentary-for-the-sake-of-an-amusing-hyperbolic-review" kind of kick-assery. I mean legitimate, I-glommed-this-mofo-in-one-day level of quality. So, what's this puppy about? Okay, quick run down; The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lie, a historical romantic mystery set in China during the Tang Dynasty which follows Yue-ying, a scarred indentured servant working in a Courtesan pleasure house, and Bai Huang, a privileged aristocratic playboy, both of whom are set by circumstances to solve a Who-Done-It murder mystery. And subsequent awesomeness ensues.
First off, let me just put it out there that while I do have some issues regarding the story (we'll get to those a minute), I have to say it; The Lotus Palace is basically the literary equivalent of the TARDIS. I shit you not, from Chapter One this sucker takes you out of your Modern Day Bore-ville and transplantes your ass to ancient China. The textures of the writing are hardcore realistic. So much effort is put to the smallest details in the setting, from Chinese social class structure to the character's attire to dietary rituals, making your brain feel immersed in awesome culture all without becoming boring or textbook-ish.
That said, while I'm fangirling over this thing like a Belieber at her first Justin concert, there are a few figurative landmines sprinkled in the recipe of this novel. "The characters, perchance?" you might be thinking. Nope. In fact, I am completely on board with the ideology that says Huang and Yue-ying are IRL people. While Yue-ying does seem to be given more character development, with Huang kind of feels pushed to the back-burner, I'm okay with this criticism. For the most part, The Lotus Palace is largely told from our heroine's point of view. So such favored attention makes sense. Both characters are still likeable, believable, and interesting.
"The plot?" you could be pondering. Nope-nope. The external conflicts of this piece of fiction, while obviously serving as the Forced Proximity Vehicle by which our two leads are granted interaction, it works. The mystery is believable because just enough focus is directed its way without feeling like a Scooby Doo special. What's more, it paves the way for allowing the book's secondary characters to feel fully realized and dynamic.
"Screw you, Jacquie, I'm done playing your guessing games!" you're now thinking. Okay! Here it is; the big ol' answer to What The Hell Is My Problem is basically the romance between hero and heroine. Yeah, okay, so that was a lot of hyperbolic expository buildup for not a lot of payoff; sue me. As is, while I was in copious love with the initial sexual tension and relationship dynamic between Huang and Yue-ying during the first arc of their story, it kind of died a quiet death from the second to third act. I really can't explain what happened, either; which is not helpful, I know. The two had really rockin' chemistry in the first several chapters, but after the story got rolling it's like their relationship was simultaneously rushed and ignored. What's worse, along with getting fewer relationship development scenes the more the story progressed, I also really struggled buying them as couple-material.
AND THIS FACT KILLS MY SOUL! Why the text-screaming? Because the quality of this story was frackin' phenomenal! The writing was amazing, the pacing was amazing-er, and the characters were the book-people equivalent of chocolate+orgasms+free money; basically all the things that make life awesome. Sadly, our two leads just felt stale, especially when considering their relationship culminates at the end of the book in a pretty unbelievable way. Without activating the Spoiler Bomb, I will say that while I straight up demand an HEA in my romances, I want my Happily Ever Afters to not feel as fake as Pamela Anderson's chest. Even more of a bummer, the ending of The Lotus Palace does give me my couple being a couple, but it does so in a very rushed, unsatisfactory delivery.
Still! Aside from all my bitchy bemoaning, I still gotta give high fives to the author of this little gem. Jeannie Lin kept me hooked throughout my reading experience with this book. I did genuinely care about the characters, and my attention was all wrapped up in the story like a puppy with a ball made of bacon. Yes, I do wish more time had been spent on Huang and Yue-ting's relationship, and yes, while I seriously regret this author's use of time-fast-forwarding in the book, I still stick by my recommendation. Ms. Lin, your book was awesome. Please, give me more!
Dear FCC: You probably wish you could censor the following porn, don’t ya? Well HAHA YOU CAN’T!
I really, really, reeaaaaally love this book. I know, fDear FCC: You probably wish you could censor the following porn, don’t ya? Well HAHA YOU CAN’T!
I really, really, reeaaaaally love this book. I know, fangirl at Fangirl Musings loves something, shock and awe right? Well you should, do, or WILL love The Luckiest Lady In London by Sherry Thomas too, because goodness. For one, this regency historical romance is about Felix; AKA a dude who falls in lust and proposes an “arrangement,” (don't ask for clarification 'cause NO SPOILERS YO!) and Louisa; a chick who has got feels in her lady-pants and smart brain-meat in her head-holder. Bless her, 'cause our girl ain't afraid to rock either one of them.
It be diamond-hard for me to pussyfoot around this book's plot without ejaculating some spoilers in your face. SO! If you wanna go into this little do-dad knowing none of the things other than the cover copy, which is graciously provided right there in text for your easiest of conveniences...I’ll wait so you can pause then read...okay and we’re back!
As I was word-vomiting, if you wanna rock the reading as virginal as possible, know that there’s a lot of smexy talk and fun bow-chicka-wow-wow time. There’s an awesome female lead who is just flat out cool in how she’s all about saving her sis in owning her lot in life, whilst also making the best of a shit situation. There’s an astonishingly alpha+beta=theta male lead, who literally kicks the story off with…“Her name was Louisa Cantwell and she would be my undoing." BLESS!
There’s also the fact that those two adorkable dorks make one HELL of a kickass OTP that literally have the best verbal jousting matches ever put to page! Oh, and let's also not forget this is a pairing that's got a whale-ass load of sexual tension intermixed with highly sexually charged dialogue that gets ALL over Bookville. You wanna know Felix and Louisa? No prob. Their big ol’ dynamic can be summed up in its entirety utilizing they own damn words...
“You are persuasive as the serpent in the Garden of Eden.” - Louisa. “And you are far cleverer and warier than poor Eve ever was.” - Felix.
Still not convinced to do the reading thing, yet? Fine! How about the fact that our hero legit pursues our gal with intellectual seduction! You know, after which he offers to become her personal tutor. CUE ALL OF MY HEARTEYES GODDAMMIT! I shit you not, my friends, reading a hero volunteer to help expand the intellectual horizons of a girl he’s got happy-lap-syndrome over? Well THAT was the sexiest damn thing I ever did read in a romance novel.
Just, READ THIS BOOK OKAY? Because there is unicorn-rainbow-poop beautiful ass writing all over this puppy. Like, legit-legit awesome writing.
‘The old her would never have woven an entire tapestry of starry-eyed amour out of spools of a man’s sexual curiosity.’
*Fangirls for approximately sixty seven years.* Sorry, I tend to fangirl when words get shoved together so pretty and shiny like that. And Sherry Thomas deserves ALL the fangirling for having written such a kickass of a story, USING HER SECOND LANGUAGE!
So, there. If you must go into this story as pure as the driven snow, shut me up, and go read.
Otherwise? GET GONE HOODLUM.
Now, let’s talk spoilers. With all my previous wordy-words, it sounds like this book is going to be the “Penis tries to get Vagina to be his bed toy, then falling-in-love ensues” but yeah no. That’s not the deal, because DUDE GETS SHOT DOWN, YEAH BOY! Absolutely NO slut shaming is intended with my next words, because with this particular story, I found Louisa's turning down of Mr. Horny Pants to be far more liberating when considering her lot in life. It's my crappy opinion that Felix’s unexpected, “Well if I can’t have her as my mistress, why not wife?” mentality allowed his eventual love-realization to not only be more believable, but more engaging, as well.
Bless the publishers, because our back cover copy doesn’t spoil that fact, so ye ole marriage plot twist was all the more twisty, and subsequently better in my opinion. As a result, the sex is more interesting and bless that sentence because one, sex, but also two, said sex becomes more entrenched in the story. I fricking-frackin' love romances where the beast-with-two-backs shenanigans gets layered all up in the story! Why? Cause I damn well HATE boinking that feels like it's shoehorned in just so we can tic it off the Romance Checklist.
But DUUUDE! Not only does our Louisa take an active role in her marriage bed-sport, so hooray for her not being a blushing, wilting flower on their honeymoon night. But this girl also OWNS her sexuality! At one point the story pulls an interesting plot development where Felix’s fear-of-love internal conflict gets externalized with him abstaining from the sexy time. This spurns SO much interesting drama and character immersion in the subsequent scenes and go to making the book just astonishing at giving you interesting characters in an interesting story.
Sherry Thomas be queen at creating tension, both sexual and otherwise, and when she paired emotional tension with sexual conflict? Holy SHIT she straight up wrecked my feels. I’ll spare the graphic details, but that scene in the library where Louisa was all, “ME WANTS SEX TIME!” And Felix was all, “NO I SHAN’T!” Then our guy caves, and engages in some under-the-skirt playtime, after which he done devastated me AND Louisa with that little shit stunt he pulled with his handkerchief? Y'all know what douche-move I’m talking about, and if you don’t, THEN READ THE DAMN BOOK.
Sorry. Fangirls get a little irrational when they’re book-pushing.
Point is, that scene cemented my love for this author, because Sherry had our hero be a despicable ass-face in such a unique, emotionally heart wrenching way that I may or may not have...you know...punched the book in anger at Mr. Dick.
That’s a lot of words, but what I’m trying to say in my shitty way is that this story takes a very simple premise...poor girl, rich hero, some lust, some childhood neglect...and mixes it all together in a giant pot of win that spits out the most refreshing recipe of smart, believable people with real conflict in a cool book.
If you’re literate in English, there is absolutely no excuse for you to not at least try reading this novel. Its erotic, it’s emotionally moving, its characters go through a shit storm and come out clean and more grown up on the other wise. The book and its author, quite simply, gets all of the damn cookies.
Now go read it if you’ve not, or Imma have a sad.
(If you like my writing voice or you think I’m funny...[or you just really wanna laugh at a fangirl for fangirling]...then SHAMELESS YOUTUBE CHANNEL PLUG IS SHAMELESS! I review romance novels and Asian dramas, so that is a thing and now you know.)
Seriously. Shut up and know all ye THIS BOOK IS FUCKING FAN-DAMN-TASTIC!
Well, so, yes, I might have just secured my one way ticket to the pillowed
Seriously. Shut up and know all ye THIS BOOK IS FUCKING FAN-DAMN-TASTIC!
Well, so, yes, I might have just secured my one way ticket to the pillowed-wall room complete with self-hugging jackets for that crazy-sauce outburst, but it was so worth being committed over. Alas, lock me away Johnny, for I have recently come to the sad conclusion that books are not healthy for you. In fact, they're a bit dangerous to your well being, and unquestionably no-good for your sanity. Books like No Good Duke Goes Unpunished make it very, VERY difficultimpossible emotionally traumatizing to separate fiction from reality. Why? Well!
When a book kicks much ass, you want that thing to be real, dammit. And, let's face it, we're all secretly convinced that Temple and Mara are walking-talking people. Those two characters are the epitome of a huge honkin' bowl of Awesome sprinkled with a sugary goodness pile of Emotional Agency. Yes, yes, our characters are believable, they're likable, they're strong; they're all of that. But, far, *far* more importantly, their back-stories, their personal identities, AND their personal growth, both independently as well as a couple over the course of novel, brings these two fictional peeps into a hot, zesty fiesta of damned good reading.
Oh, and that's not even broaching the topic of the plot! This story is just damned good; all of it. DAMNED GOOD I SAY! The conflict is nuanced and layered, operating as an external crisis driven by internal emotional pain. The progressing of plot points is so well executed in sensical construction that even the most ADHD spasmodic, "Oh-Look-Something-Shiny!" reading attention span would remain hooked throughout every friggin' chapter. The smexy smokin' sensual chemistry (yay for alliterations!) that sparks in every scene between our hero and heroine is, in my obnoxiously unimportant opinion, serious justification for making this Book-Crack-level worthy.
Not good enough for ya to be convinced to read this glorious collection of words? Well, fine! Then how about a story chock full of piss-your-pants-roller-coaster-ing emotional hits within the plot? Temple's Mr. Angsty-Angst man from Angstville level of mistakenly misplaced self-hate? Or Mara's I'm-Apparently-The-Most-Bravely-Bad-Ass, Most-Independently-Self-Reliant-Vagina-Owner moniker holder in Romance Land? Still not convinced? FINE! Throw in some amaze-balls beautimous writing, some burn-this-mother-down hot sex scenes, AND majestic perpetual plot momentum! Because, ya know, as great effing books do. SO HOW? ABOUT? NOW?!
I really do.
Post Review Postscript:
Dear Sarah MacLean: You're birthed in win, and your DNA is basically the equivalent of diamonds dipped in liquid gold. This has long been acceptable scientific truth for you, for your books up until No Good Duke Goes Unpunished have proven as much. Here I must put it to you, though, that you are a mastery of awesomeness. That itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny way you just SHOCKED THE EVER LOVIN' CRAP-LOVE out of your readership with those last two lines of the epilogue about a CERTAIN surprise you've been harboring over the course of three novels? Well. You are officially Queen of Romance. Here's your well deserved fist bump, good woman.
You know what I love?...Bad-ass heroines who rock capability and personal agency like it's a Def Leppard farewell tour.
You know what I really, reallyYou know what I love?...Bad-ass heroines who rock capability and personal agency like it's a Def Leppard farewell tour.
You know what I really, really love?...Independent, confident females that save their own damn ass while busting out that personal identity.
You know what I love more than anything?...That kinda chick, in a HISTORICAL romance!
Artemis is my favorite non-person person, 'cause life has screwed her blue, but dammit she's a survivor. She's fascinating and strong and bold. This girl did so many awesome things that made me wanna stand up and tackle-hug her.
Her counterpart Maximus, though? Um...Not so much.
This novel rocks it with heroine and plot...but kind of sucks mammalian testicles when it came to the man business.
Maximus is believable? Yep! He's got legit internal conflicts? Double-yep.
...But lord have mercy on a cinnamon bun, he's flat as all hell. Boy is just sort of there, looking a lot like a second fiddle next to Artemis. Why the frickity-frack is that? Well, maybe it's the writing being heroine POV heavy? Maybe it's the big focus-little/pay-off Maxi-boy plot? Maybe it's Maybelline?
But, hey! While our boy is second to our girl, that isn't exactly a criticism ya know. Plus, he's STILL a good character. We see him feel his feels and make an impact on the story and do all the book-character-doing stuff.
Oh! Speaking of the story...(you like that segway? I worked on it all week)...simple story was, well, simple. I'm okay with simple plots, but I'm not okay with plots that cram in unneeded subplots.
That right there is partly why this book didn't bank the Whoot-Whoot 5 Stars.
Real talk, that whole St. Giles subplot could have been ripped ass-first outta the story with like, almost no consequence. Sad to say, that big swashbuckling, Vengeful-Hero-of-the-Night felt randomly forced and boring to boot.
There's a hero's family subplot and a St. Giles subplot and crap-ton other stuff that my brain just went, "Doooooooooon't caaaaaaare." Thank fluffy ducks those subplots were just small road bumps, but still yeah no; not a fan.
Wanna know what I WAS a fan of? DAT ROMANCE YA'LL!
I totally bought that Artemis+Maximus ship, and thank God it sailed because bless their smexytimes, for real.
This OTP's chemistry was next-level, and their emotional journey got me feeling some kind of way! I LOVED THEIR LOVE...buuuuuuuuuut truth to tell I felt their Big Giant Scene was, well...how to put this?...Basically it felt rushed. It went from, "Let's resist!" to "Now let's bang!" back to "NOW let's avoid each other NO NOW LET'S LOVE DAMMIT!"
I still had a happy when the two did the love speaking doo-dah, but instead of reacting like "OH MY GOD YES YOU TWO ADORABLE BASTARDS LOVE EACH OTHER UNTIL THE END OF TIME YASSSSS!" Rather, I was more...
It WAS a lot of wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am, but you know something?
By no means was it sucky. It was anti-suckage, and soooOooOOooOOOoooOO worth your time, I pinky promise.
Just, READ IT BECAUSE I'M SCREAMING IN ALL CAPS! Okay? Okay!
(If you like my writing voice or you think I’m funny...[or you really just wanna laugh at a fangirl for fangirling]...then SHAMELESS YOUTUBE CHANNEL PLUG IS SHAMELESS! I review romance novels and Asian dramas, so that is a thing and now you know.)