Top critical review
Even ignoring the male rape scene it’s still not great
Reviewed in the United States on October 23, 2020
Hoo boy. I used to read regency romance novels in college all the time and there’s a few books that are genuinely well written and I still occasionally reread them. I heard about the upcoming Shondaland series, which sounds exactly like something I’d love, and decided to check out the books. I had high hopes with all the positive reviews.
I’ll get to reviewing the quality of the material after this big thing that completely destroys this book and entire series for me: the main character Daphne rapes Simon and no one cares and there’s no consequences. One review I read also gave a bad review because of this but I genuinely thought they were wrong because there’s no way this would happen in an internationally best selling book with 1000 good reviews, right??? Nope, apparently I discounted how poorly understood male rape is in our society esp with female perpetrators. Was it “violent” or was he “forced”? Not really. Did he “””enjoy it”””? Technically, yes. But he was absolutely wasted, had no idea what was going on (which, drunk sex, it happens and can be fine) and then she (trying not to spoil??) very specifically decides to take advantage of his drunken state and do something to him he has EXPLICITLY said no to, multiple times over several instances. Is his reasoning on why not to do the thing stupid? Yes. More on his ridiculous character later. But it doesn’t matter if his reasons are dumb. He has said no to this many times and she has to sort of hold him down to get him to do it??? It’s very icky and was hard to read. He then, unsurprisingly, freaks out and is very upset and sort of has a mental breakdown? But he’s over it in about one chapter, there are no real consequences whatsoever, and Daphne explicitly thinks to herself “she’s not ashamed of what she did” afterwards. WTF??? I am so surprised more people aren’t taking about this with the adaptation announcement and I really hope the series drastically changes this.
Separately from this, is the book good? No, not really. I mean it’s readable, and I was entertained at least in the beginning. The family dynamics are cute and some scenes are funny but I read this 3 days ago and can’t remember anything else good about it. I can barely even remember Daphne’s personality. The pacing of the plot is a bit awkward alongside the pacing of the romantic development. Some scenes just stretch on into awkwardness with cringey dialogue but not in a funny, tongue in cheek way. Simon’s character is ridiculous and melodramatic to the point of exhaustion and the book leans heavily on the whole “tragic backstory” cliche but it barely even makes sense when you find out all his “secrets”. I love cheesy romance cliches and ridiculous characters in regency novels when they’re done well, when the cliches are cheeky and self aware and the book isn’t taking itself too seriously. This book fails at that. And I have no issue when characters act like a-holes or irrationally because of terrible things in their life. They’re only human. But Simon’s whole schtick is just ridiculous and so dragged out it's almost painful. Romance novels often get a pass for having not great or even bad writing, but I’ve read some genuinely fantastic and well written regency romance novels that are just so much better than this.