Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘'s Reviews > Once and Always

Once and Always by Judith McNaught
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TRIGGER WARNING : RAPE, swearing & violence in general

► One thing I'm certain of is that this book isn't a romance. No. It's a sickening portray of a relationship where abuse in all its forms is romanticized, including rape.

What kind of abuse? Please chose! Be my guest! Rape? Physical violence? Psychological harassment? Just fucking chose because it contains all those and more.

➸ As I write, Once and Always has an average rating of 4.22 here on GR, with 7,149 people who think that it's a romance worthy of 5 stars. You can't imagine how much this fact scares me and I'll try to explain why in this review.



This is going to be quick : I will spare you the plot which turns rounds and rounds in circles endlessly, the characters not willing to quit making idiotic decisions because really, it's not even the matter at hand. Just know that this story is filled with more dumb twists and misunderstanding nonsense than a vaudeville show. To sum up, a young American woman, Victoria, arrives in England shortly after her parents' death to be taken care of by Charles Fielding, a lifelong acquaintance of her mother. But the old Duke has an hidden purpose : to marry her with his illegitimate son, Jason. What interests us here is the relationship between the two 'lovebirds' (throughout this review, you can safely take my quotations marks as sarcasm).



From their first meeting, Jason keeps threatening Victoria each time he thinks that she is going to go against his wishes, invariably congratulating her by a "Good Girl" if she ends agreeing with him. No matter how perfect she is portrayed to be, how interested he is supposed to be in her 'refreshing' behavior, it remains that his behavior shows something else entirely.

● She's sick? Oh, poor thing, he's going to give her some med. Nice, you say?

"Drink it," he said calmly, "or I'll pour it down your throat"

● The guy has really a way around words. Not conviced?
"I'd like to wring your neck," Jason said, half-seriously, but he grasped her arm as she asked.

I suppose that I should be happy to know that he doesn't fully means that now should I?

➸ I could go on and on and on about his propensity to be a bully, but perhaps the most sickening fact in all that is that we only began to scrape the surface of the issue. Just take a look at his reaction the day after their wedding :

"Jason stood in the gaping hole of the doorway, his face white with rage, his voice hissing between his teeth. "Don't you ever bare a door to me again as long as you live," he snarled. "And don't ever threaten me with divorce again! This house is my property, under the law, just as you are my property. Do you understand me?"
Victoria nodded jerkily, mentally recoiling from the blinding violence flashing in his eyes. He turned his heel and stalked out of the room, leaving her shaking with fear"

Not to mention that he just crashed the door to come in. More generally, we are witnesses to so many scenes where he commits acts of violence against her that it doesn't comes as a surprise that she is scared to death by him. The fact that this behavior can be identified as expressions of passion sickens and infuriates me. No man (or woman, for that matter) has the right to resort to harassment in order to obtain someone's affection. The concept itself is so OFFENSIVE that it makes me want to hurl.



From his earlier behavior, you might expect that he doesn't improve when it comes to the sexual development of their relationship. Sadly, you wouldn't be wrong. Basically, he physically forces her to give him their first two kisses.

Kiss #1
"This is what would happen!" he snapped suddenly, and his mouth crushed hers in a fierce, brutal kiss that was meant to punish and humiliate her. (...) Her struggle only seemed to make him angrier, and the kiss more painful. (...) Victoria saw something primitive and terrifying flare in his eyes as his hands tightened on her arms. She jerked back, a scream rising in her throat, but his lips covered hers, stifling her voice with a demanding insistence that stunned her into immobility."

But surely after this kiss she has to KNOW that the guy is a violent asshole, right? RIGHT? Of course not, what do you think? She excuses him, fucking daydreams about it (because that was so passionate you know) and even more, feels GUILTY for it, first because she thinks that it's a normal behavior to have (the girl is so naive that's not even funny) and then because she is afraid that HE will think less of her because she LET him kissing her. I mean for fuck sake! It's obvious from the start that she never AGREED to this kiss, and the way the woman is shamed for HIS action shows an undercurrent of blind ill nonsense that maddened me. So she says nothing, because "perhaps she would only look a fool if she made an issues of it". So, what does he do? Why, he does it again of course!

Kiss #2
"A harsh laugh escaped him. "I like you too damned much!" he whispered bitterly, then pulled her head down and captured her lips in a demanding, scalding kiss that took everything and gave nothing in return. Victoria struggled in appalled, frightened earnest, bracing her hands on either side of him and shoving hard, trying to free her mouth from his. Jason swiftly plunged his fingers into the thick hair at her nape and twisted hard. "Don't struggle!" he said through clenched teeth, "you're hurting me."
"You're hurting me, Victoria chocked, her lips less than an inch from his.

Now tell me at what fucking moment I am supposed to swoon. Just fucking TELL ME. Am I supposed to be aroused after this? Am I supposed to root for them? Tell me for fuck sake! I'm lost! Because the only emotions that got through me were disgust and rage. But don't fucking worry, because after THAT kiss, she says, 2 pages later, "Perhaps he would despise her for letting him kiss her" . I'm sorry WHAT? What in the world is that supposed to mean? He FORCED you!

Sadly, things don't stop here. You know how much I despise when rape is used as a plot device or background to make a girl in need of 'fixing'. I hate that. But it's nothing, I say NOTHING, in comparison. Jason actually RAPES her on their wedding day. She is terrified because she's a virgin, she says NO, and he fucking rapes her. I don't care if they made a 'bargain' to give him a son, she had no idea what that meant, and even if she had, it's a rape nonetheless.

[they are fighting before] "Visions of blood and terrible pain roared through Victoria, adding their horror to the nausea the wine was causing. "I don't want to!" she cried piteously.
"We made a bargain, and as long as we're married, you'll keep it," he whispered as he pried her stiff thighs apart. Victoria whimpered as his rigid manhood probed boldly at her, but somewhere in the depths of her stricken mind, she knew he was right about the bargain and she stopped fighting him(*). "Relax," he warned bitterly in the darkness above her, "I may not be as considerate as your dear Andrew, but I don't want to hurt you."
His vicious mention of Andrew at a time like this cut her to the heart, and her anguish erupted in a scream of pain as Jason rammed into her. Her body writhed beneath his, and tears poured from her eyes in hot, humiliated streaks as her husband used her without kindness or caring."

(*) Is that meant to make it okay? I don't care if she stops fighting, she is obviously forced into this, so yes, that's a rape. The fact that he doesn't know that she's a virgin (don't get me started about their ridiculous misunderstandings) doesn't make it okay either. Just remember that the day after, when she comes to ask for a divorce, he threatens her.



What you need to know is that despite her naive personality and her propensity to excuse Jason for his behavior, Victoria sometimes realizes that it's not normal and that she deserves better. Each time it happens, there is someone to tell her that she's wrong and that she must give him time to open to her. Excuse me but that's fucking BULLSHIT. I swear, each time I heard the old Charles Fielding or the Captain reassuring her and telling her that she had to be patient, I wanted to throw up. I think that it's no need to prove further that Jason is a violent and dangerous asshole. So, no, I certainly don't want to read things like this :

"You're wrong," Captain Farrell said with gentle finality [that's after the rape]. "Jason has needed a woman like you since the day he was born. He needs you to heal wounds that are deep, to teach how to let himself love and be loved in return. If you knew more about him, you'd understand why I said it"

Excuse me what? She awes him NOTHING. It follows then a description of all the hardships Jason had to face in his past but you know what? I DON'T FUCKING CARE, because it excuses nothing. It doesn't make it okay. NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE. I won't endorse that wicked belief that condones violence under the pretext of a hard life.

A few minutes later this gentle soul tells her that she should have sex with her husband to resolve their wedding issues because that's what wives do (I recall : he raped her). I can't fathom HOW exactly it's supposed to help her.

More generally, in this book the women are either portrayed as sluts who throw themselves at Jason, greedy bitches who only want to take advantage of his wealth or as well, Victoria, pure and perfect virgin who knows everything from shooting to playing piano. Just give me a break.

Not to mention that by all appearances Jason keeps his mistress while married, blaming Victoria because hey! He has needs (do I need to remind you that he raped her?). Yeah, he's class like that.



As I said at the beginning of this review, this is not a romance, and the only satisfying way it could have ended would have been everything but a HEA. Sadly, as you might expect, they have their HEA. I apologize for the length of this review but it felt important to me to explain exactly why I'm giving it 1 star and why I'm appalled that this book is considered as a great romance by many readers. Never, ever let someone tell you - or even imply - that violence is forgivable. It isn't.

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Reading Progress

April 16, 2015 – Shelved
July 17, 2015 – Started Reading
July 17, 2015 –
0.0% "just got the paperback of this, and it was in my romance-experiments list, so let's go^^"
July 17, 2015 –
page 2
0.5% "Okay, so the male-lead calls her soon-to-be-dead wife a bitch on page 2. Well, good to know, I guess. \n \n And seriously, do they have to use fonts so damn SMALL? Ugh."
July 17, 2015 –
page 67
16.75% ""On the surface he may appear cold and hard, but that is only a shell - a thick one, I'll admit, but the right woman could get past that and discover the gentleness inside him."\n \n GD, it's like men are candies or something."
July 17, 2015 –
page 106
26.5% "WHAT. THE. FUCK. This forced kiss just made me want to throw up. And this is listed as one of the best HR? For real?"
July 18, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 133 (133 new)


message 1: by Marla Mei (new)

Marla Mei DAT QUOTE. I JUST CANNOT.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ And this is only the beginning. Sickening.


message 3: by Marla Mei (new)

Marla Mei I can't wait for your rant review!


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Finally done! DAMN, it made me angry again to wite it.


message 5: by Susana (new) - added it

Susana Hell, this type of so-called romance makes me sick :/


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Susana wrote: "Hell, this type of so-called romance makes me sick :/"

Me too :(


message 7: by Marla Mei (new)

Marla Mei Reading this review made me so angry. Thank you for writing this even though it made you mad too. SERIOUSLY, WHY DO PEOPLE READ AND ENJOY THIS? I hate, hate, hate it when people romanticize abuse. I just.. ugh. I AM LIVID THAT THIS KIND OF BOOK EXISTS OKAY.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Marla Mei wrote: "Reading this review made me so angry. Thank you for writing this even though it made you mad too. SERIOUSLY, WHY DO PEOPLE READ AND ENJOY THIS? I hate, hate, hate it when people romanticize abuse. ..."

You're welcome, Marla, and thank you. I completely agree with you and fail to see what is appealing in that kind of books. I mean, really. He rapes her. Threatens her. All the freaking time. It's unforgivable. And he doesn't even try to apologize (not that it would change something, but come on). It really, really made me sick.


message 9: by Carmen (new) - added it

Carmen Amazing review.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Carmen wrote: "Amazing review."

Thank you so much Carmen ♥


message 11: by Lucy (new)

Lucy Well, I'll tell you one thing : I'm proud of you, you finished it :-)


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Lucy wrote: "Well, I'll tell you one thing : I'm proud of you, you finished it :-)"

Aww thank you :D Yeah, when I saw how it was and how high it was rated I wanted to finish it to write a full review, even if it made me rage.


message 13: by Vanessa (new) - added it

Vanessa J. Jesus Christ, this book seems awful. I hate romantizicing of rape and abuse in general. Fantastic review. I will definitely stay away from this. (view spoiler)


message 14: by Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ (last edited Jul 18, 2015 11:25AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Vane wrote: "Jesus Christ, this book seems awful. I hate romantizicing of rape and abuse in general. Fantastic review. I will definitely stay away from this. [spoilers removed]"

Thank you so much, Vane. It crushed me, really. Sick experience. UGH. (view spoiler) This one took me by surprise because of its awfully good rating and the fact she is an author whom A LOT of readers rec'd to me. Nope. I won't read her again. EVER.


message 15: by mich (new)

mich omg, this 'hero' sounds like a total dickbag.


Evelyn (devours and digests words) This book deserves no fucking stars at all. I feel so pissed and sick right now.....


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ mich wrote: "omg, this 'hero' sounds like a total dickbag."

He is a total psycho, for real.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Evelyn (devours and digests words) wrote: "This book deserves no fucking stars at all. I feel so pissed and sick right now....."

I know... Here we can't otherwise it won't count for the ratings but on our blog I rated it 0 stars. I feel you, really. I felt physically ill after this.


message 19: by Milica (new)

Milica Great review, Alienor. I heard about this book some time ago and it's been on my mental never-gonna-read list since than. It's horrible how rape's romanticized in this book, but what is even worse is that I read YA book in which rape is treated in the same awful way. And it too has pretty high rating on GR.


message 20: by Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ (last edited Jul 18, 2015 02:31PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Milica wrote: "Great review, Alienor. I heard about this book some time ago and it's been on my mental never-gonna-read list since than. It's horrible how rape's romanticized in this book, but what is even worse ..."

Thank you, Milica. I know, unfortunately we can't always trust GR ratings when it comes to this kind of issues, and that's a pity, because in my opinion it's really important to make a difference between romance and abusive behavior. I often look at 1-star reviews before starting reading even if the book has 4.5 average, and I didn't do that with this one. It shows :(


message 21: by Milica (new)

Milica Alienor ✘ French frowner ✘ wrote: "...in my opinion it's really important to make a difference between romance and abusive behavior."
I totally agree on that, and I have had my share of mistakes too when not reading 1-star reviews in the first place.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Harriet wrote: "Omg no wonder you felt sick after reading this!!!!!! What an amazing and honest review, Anna! I'm sorry you had to go through this cluster fuck of a book! That guy needs to be stabbed lol!!!"

Thank you so much Harriet! GD I know, I wanted to stab him. What a psycho, and the girl who wasn't bad kept forgiving him I was like but stoooooop :/


message 23: by Kathe (new)

Kathe L this sounds AWFUL!! I'm sorry you had to go through this, but your review is fantastic :)


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Kathe wrote: "this sounds AWFUL!! I'm sorry you had to go through this, but your review is fantastic :)"

Thank you so much Kathe ♡ Yeah, it made me sick :(


Chelsea ❤Peril Please❤ Yikes. Sexy indeed....

I'm so sorry you had to go through this lol but on a lighter note-I'd have over to be a fly on the wall...

Great review, lovely


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Chelsea ❤Peril Please❤ wrote: "Yikes. Sexy indeed....

I'm so sorry you had to go through this lol but on a lighter note-I'd have over to be a fly on the wall...

Great review, lovely"


Thank you lovely ❤ OMG it was frightening >.<


Jen ♥Star-Crossed Book Blog♥ Wonderful, honest review, Anna! I will definitely be avoiding this book and like I said earlier I completely agree with you - this type of story isn't love.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Jen wrote: "Wonderful, honest review, Anna! I will definitely be avoiding this book and like I said earlier I completely agree with you - this type of story isn't love."

Thank you so much Jen ♥ I completely agree, THIS isn't love. UGH.


message 29: by Alja (new)

Alja (alyaofwinterfell) Ugh that's why I so rarely read historical romance... I was recommended this book by a friend and I'm so glad to have seen your review before getting it. In what twisted world are controlling and abusive psychos supposed to be "romantic"?? It makes me worried that some women may read this and believe that this clearly abusive and unhealthy relationship is in fact they should wish for (just like with 50 Shades, Twilight and so many other books out there).


message 30: by Daniella (last edited Jan 20, 2016 03:34PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Daniella Amazing review, Alienor! OH DEAR GOD THIS BOOK IS AWFUL. I just read it. Damn.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Daniella wrote: "Amazing review, Alienor! OH DEAR GOD THIS BOOK IS AWFUL. I just read it and I want to pour acid on my eyeballs. Damn."

OMG NO!!! I feel you really. I HATED this crap so bad. It is SO offensive and disgusting. Ugh. Thank you!!


message 32: by Gi's Spot Reviews (last edited Jan 21, 2016 02:04PM) (new) - added it

Gi's Spot Reviews OMFG! Thank you so much for the review and warning, Alienor! It's beyond words... Despicable POS male MC... :-/


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Gp wrote: "OMFG! Thank you so much for the review and warning, Alienor! It's beyond words... Despicable POS male MC... :-/"

Thanks so much!! It means a lot - this is why I spent the time writing it, the rating average is so huge O_o


message 34: by Gi's Spot Reviews (last edited Jan 21, 2016 03:08PM) (new) - added it

Gi's Spot Reviews Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ wrote: "Gp wrote: "OMFG! Thank you so much for the review and warning, Alienor! It's beyond words... Despicable POS male MC... :-/"

Thanks so much!! It means a lot - this is why I spent the time writing i..."


Unfortunately and sadly it's true, and why I never let myself be fooled by the ratings! Thanks again! ;)


message 35: by April (new)

April Mitchell Rapes her on the wedding night? Thanks for the warning. That's one screwed up guy. Definitely skipping this one.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ April wrote: "Rapes her on the wedding night? Thanks for the warning. That's one screwed up guy. Definitely skipping this one."

Yeah :/ You're welcome!


Luzia Bielefeld *BookWhore BR* Great review!


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Lu wrote: "Great review!"

Thank you Lu!


message 39: by Kaye (new)

Kaye I don't understand all the anger at this book. This book was written at a time that this was the norm. What we consider rape now did not apply then. Have views & book styles changed? Hell yes! But this is what you got back then. And to be quite honest...the attitude Jason had towards her was probably pretty accurate for the time period of the book. Quite honestly, instead of getting upset about the content, just don't read it.


message 40: by Carmen (new) - added it

Carmen Quite honestly, instead of getting upset about a content of a review that disagrees with your viewpoint, just don't read it.


message 41: by Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ (last edited May 06, 2016 07:23AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ @Kai :

1) This book was written at a time that this was the norm. What we consider rape now did not apply then. REALLY? This book was written in 1990. I think that what we consider as rape was the same at the time.

2) the attitude Jason had towards her was probably pretty accurate for the time period of the book. Perhaps, but it still doesn't mean that I'm supposed to be okay with that.

3) Quite honestly, instead of getting upset about the content, just don't read it. Carmen perfectly answered to that. If you love this book so much, please feel free to write your own review to express YOUR opinion. This is MY review, and so, MY opinion.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Carmen wrote: "Quite honestly, instead of getting upset about a content of a review that disagrees with your viewpoint, just don't read it."

Thank you, I couldn't have said it better <3


message 43: by Carmen (new) - added it

Carmen Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ (of badger and SNAKE) wrote: "Carmen wrote: "Quite honestly, instead of getting upset about a content of a review that disagrees with your viewpoint, just don't read it."

Thank you, I couldn't have said it better <3"


Any time. :)


message 44: by Jaela (new)

Jaela Ouch! This looks disturbing. I'm so glad for these honest reviews. I prefer them to the "brilliant" 5 star ones.
Great job, btw :)


message 45: by Cris (new)

Cris Sadly, a lot of Historical Romances are like this, and get equally high ratings on Goodreads. The perfect example: I suggest you not to read anything by Kristen Ashley either. Her Golden Dynasty book nearly game an apoplexy.... and it has a 4.49 rating.....


message 46: by Cris (new)

Cris edit: ** "a lot of the EARLY Historical Romances are like this"
The genre has gotten a lot better (imho) this past decade or so, specially with authors like Courtney Milan or Sherry Thomas :)


message 47: by Ayesha (new)

Ayesha Great review!Tbh this doesn't half as bad asWhitney, My Love, another gem by the same author. (which I dnfed at 35% after numerous spankings, forced kisses and 4 love interests).

Ahem I also couldn't help but notice a comment saying that this book was written at the time when it was the norm. WTF. This is like the most false statement ever. Take any Nora Roberts book even from the seventies, they are sexy, with a actual story and women empowered. This is the loosest justification for rape I've ever heard.


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ ♔ Jaela ♊ Killer ⚔ QUEEN wrote: "Ouch! This looks disturbing. I'm so glad for these honest reviews. I prefer them to the "brilliant" 5 star ones.
Great job, btw :)"


Thank you!! The worst is, I don't think I ask too much to romance novels... Only not to be complete crap, for fuck sake >.<


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Cristina wrote: "Sadly, a lot of Historical Romances are like this, and get equally high ratings on Goodreads. The perfect example: I suggest you not to read anything by Kristen Ashley either. Her Golden Dynasty bo..."

Ooh I read ONE book by her and it was a 1 star rating (TSTL heroine, asshole and controlling hero, UGH).


Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘ Ayesha wrote: "Great review!Tbh this doesn't half as bad asWhitney, My Love, another gem by the same author. (which I dnfed at 35% after numerous spankings, forced kisses and 4 love interests).

Ah..."


I KNOW RIGHT?! This argument is BULLSHIT through and through. I will never reread anything by her, EVER.


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