I have just finished reading four outstanding, exciting, thrilling, edge-of-your-seat, 5-star historical mysteries and I wanted something light, humorous, entertaining, and romantic to read next. From the description in the book blurb, I decided this would be the perfect book to read next. Unfortunately, for me, it fell far, far, far short of being light, humorous, entertaining, or romantic. I was okay with the male lead, Jeremy – I didn’t love him, but I didn’t dislike him either. The female lead, on the other hand, is one of the most despicable, conniving, and sly mean-girls I’ve ever read – and I’ve been reading a very long time. If you took this same story and made it about bullies in school who were picking on and conniving against someone who couldn’t really fight back because they didn’t know what was happening behind their back – you wouldn’t find it the least bit funny. To me, Diana is that lead bully and she does some very despicable things to Jeremy. I absolutely cannot believe he could come to love her.
I really struggled with how to rate the book. I was confident in my 2.5-star rating, but since I could only go with a 2 or a 3 on Goodreads, my conundrum was whether to round up or down. The only way I could convince myself to round up to 3 was because of the last 15% of the book and I just didn’t feel as if that made up for the first 85%. Diana was one person during the first 85% of the book and a totally different one during the last 15% of the book. The author tries to convince us that the person we met in the first 85% of the book was just a mask that Diana wore in order to ‘protect’ the real person. I could have almost bought some of that if she hadn’t done such hateful things to people who were not harming her in any way at all. It wasn’t only that she did hateful things – it was that she was gleeful and thoroughly enjoyed what she did and gave absolutely no care whatsoever about the life she was trying to sentence two innocent people to. I’m sorry – I couldn’t find even a little bit of liking for her. Her reason for needing to protect herself with a ‘mask’? She and her brother were orphaned and then raised by an aunt and uncle. Diana and her brother had no money, but they were well-clothed, well-fed, warm, and lived in a comfortable home where friends were welcome to visit. However, she felt ‘unwelcome’ though nobody ever actually said so – they did comment, however, on how expensive it was to raise her. She must have been a really insecure individual to have developed such complete trauma over being raised that way.
One of the despicable things she did was to try to trap Jeremy with a vile woman and force a marriage. Why would anybody want to do that to another person? Yet, not only was Diana slyly and gleefully trying to do that, her friends were going along with it – even Jeremy’s friends weren’t calling her on it.
Another despicable thing was that Lady Helen discussed a very, very private and dangerous secret with Diana – because Diana intimated she already knew the secret (she didn’t). This secret was one that could get Lady Helen hanged in that period. So, what does Diana do? Why she heads right in to share it with her friends – after swearing them to secrecy of course. Later, she tells Jeremy – though he already knew.
Another thing I disliked about Diana (and her friends) was their total disrespect and disregard for males. There are many, many, many mentions of how stupid and useless the males of the species are. It just goes against my grain because I think there are very intelligent females and very intelligent males – and I think there are also very unintelligent females and males as well. Why does it always have to be winners and losers rather than respect for each other?
Why did I think Diana was gleeful in the harm she was trying to cause? Here are only a couple of quotes, but keep in mind I had an ARC, so these may not all make it into the final cut of the book. There are LOTS of them, but here is a couple.
“Diana, being a naturally devious person by nature, occasionally took advantage of this fact in her conversations with Emily…”
“Lady Helen seemed to be just as odious as she appeared. Which, in turn, begged the question: how was Diana possibly going to convince Willingham to marry the lady?”
“Diana thought that it was a great shame she had been born female, for she would have made an admirable general. All the people around her were players on a chessboard, moving about the board according to her plans.”
I really, really wanted to love this book because I was in need of a lighthearted, humorous, happy, and romantic read. I just couldn’t get there no matter how hard I tried. I definitely wouldn’t read this book a second time – and even though Emily seems like an interesting character, I won’t be reading her book either.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.