I'm sure I drive other readers nuts, always picking on issues that others can easily let slide. But sometimes a particular scene or event occurs and I just cannot keep it to myself any longer. I get the overwhelming urge to vent about it. Such as the case with this book. Feel free to ignore me.
I won this book on Twitter about 2 or 3 weeks ago, and since I'd seen some really great reviews about it, I was excited to read it. I haven't been reading a lot of historicals lately, so this really got me ready to get back to the genre I've loved for so long. I was even more thrilled to read it because it sounded delightfully naughty, and that was right up my alley with the kind of mood I was in. It had shades of the forced seduction, which I know is a hot button for a lot of readers, and depending upon how it's written, I can take it or leave it. I was hoping to take it.
The book starts out really well, with a wicked night between the wrong sister and the hero. Charlotte "Charlie" Fallon wakes up and finds herself rather snug - and very naked - in bed with Sir. Michael Bayard, who believes she's his new mistress, and has already taken his pleasure of her. Ooooh, yes, I was loving how wrong this was. Charlotte protests, realizing that Bay has mistaken her for another woman, but he's not having it, and proceeds to take his pleasure of her again. And this time Charlotte cannot help herself as he so convincingly persuades her to enjoy his body and all the benefits that go along with it. The man has mad bedroom skills.
This proceeds for some time, and I'm enjoying the book, although by this point it's gone from steamy goodness to a rather tepid, whimsical mood, but whatever. We're experiencing more of the witty banter between the two characters and applauding Charlie's fiesty rejoinders, which Bay seems to take complete delight in. I'm resigned to the realization that the rest of the story shall proceed in such a fashion, without any more of the explicit carnality I was rather hoping for, given the plot. Oh well, still an enjoyable if rather light, lukewarm reading experience. Admittedly, I didn't feel very connected to the characters, and really, if they all would have died from the fever, I probably wouldn't have mourned their loss for long. This initially frustrated me, feeling as if I wasn't able to really care for either Charlie or Bay, however I soon accepted the fact that this book was not going to cause me to form a strong emotional attachment to it.
Then, something happens. Bay's ex-wife? - no, more like his not-wife, as they were never really married since her first husband wasn't really dead - Anne, shows up. She's now widowed, and decides she wants a baby, and propositions Bay to do the honors, however he refuses her quite firmly. At one time, he would have died to give her a child, to be a part of her life, but Bay no longer is trapped in her thrall. However she's convinced he's the one for the task of knocking her up. And see, well, non-wifey dear is a bit of a loose cannon after suffering at the hands of her first husband - who we get the impression treated her brutally for going off and marrying Bay in the first place, even though they all believed he was dead - so Anne decides she's going to have Bay's baby whether he agrees or not. So she kidnaps him. Drugs him. Ties him naked to a bed. And then, essentially, she rapes him.
The hero has been raped. How, you say? How can a man be raped? Well, let's look at the facts as they present themselves. Woman (rapist) wants a baby, so she needs a man's sperm. The man isn't interested in having sex with the woman so she goes to great lengths to ensure his cooperation. He has to become aroused to have sex, and one way to arouse an unwilling man is to force him to respond, so she has him kidnapped and drugged so that he cannot escape. Because a man can get turned on by a slight breeze, the woman uses her skills as his previous lover to get him hard, which admittedly doesn't take much, and she is smug with her success, subsequently jumping on his erection and riding her way - and his - to the finish line, because the most effective way to get a woman pregnant is to have a man ejaculate inside her. What? That sounds suspiciously like an orgasm. Well yes, in fact, he does come inside her, while thinking of Charlie to get him through it. (This I found most mistasteful).
But then afterwards (it appears it only happened the one time before he gets free) the hero goes about his business as if nothing has happened. No emotional distress, or feelings of being violated. Is it a guy thing? No one will believe he's been assaulted so he toughs it out and pretends it didn't happen, all the while praying to God she's not pregnant? I don't know. Regardless of his reasoning, he goes about his merry way, hooking up once again with Charlie, who'd run from him after she's almost killed by the female rapist, and after more of his effective persuading, takes her away to one of his estates to frolic like dirty dolphins in the sea. All is well with his world again.
Except I wasn't okay with it. As a reader, and as a woman, rationally or not, I feel some type of kinship with the heroine, and not only did I find the fact that the hero's rape was treated as an "unfortunate" event, I also felt like it betrayed the heroine in some fashion. Makes no sense, I get that, but that's how I felt when I first read it, and how I felt later when I re-read to collect my thoughts to write this post. Part of me sympathized with the hero since he had been tied up and drugged, and was unable to escape what happened to him, but another part resented that he was able to enjoy it, even in the most basic, elemental way. But then to have absolutely no real reaction to it afterwards really bothered me. Even if he hadn't really betrayed Charlie - as she was just temporarily his mistress - wouldn't there have been some emotional fallout from "the act"?
And to make matters worse, the bad rapist is still on the loose. Though the hero thought he'd put a tail on her to find out her whereabouts and to keep Charlie safe, no one can find Anne, not until she tracks down Bay and this time with a gun at the ready. He's alone on the beach, and she orders him to strip. Which he reluctantly does, hoping someone will come across them and stop her. Well sure, someone does: it's Charlie. She realizes that what she's seeing is Anne atop Bay as she rides him. So not only does she know about the previous time when Bay had been kidnapped, which was bad enough, but now she has to watch as her lover is acting as a stud for a crazed woman who is bound and determined to get pregnant. Charming. Lady, it's a real shame you had to see your lover with another woman, albeit against his will, but just go with it.
So that concludes my little rant about this otherwise endearing story. I easily could have tamped down my disappointment at the low heat level if I hadn't had to experience the hero's rape not once, but twice, and the heroine's unfortunate witness of the second occurrence. I could have reveled in the clever banter and sweet way they fell in love. Instead, a significant chunk of events puts a taint on the rest of the book for me.
Would I have reacted differently if I hadn't "witnessed" what happened to Bay? Most likely, I have to admit, yes, I probably wouldn't have been as upset. I wouldn't have liked it, but I could have accepted it much more easily. If it happened offstage and was mentioned later, I could have found a way to make it work in my mind. But to watch it happen was disturbing, not just because he had to be aroused, but because he walked away as if nothing happened. In the few reviews I have seen, nothing was mentioned about it, so I feel like I'm overreacting, but the thing is, it bothered me, and I can't shut up about it. Call me a drama queen, because I can be, but I couldn't let this pass without saying something.
Have you read it? What were you thoughts? Am I crazy?
(You don't really have to answer that last one LOL).