I ended up liking this one way more than I thought I would, but the last twenty percent dropped my rating from a 3.7 stars (4 stars) to a 3.3 stars (3 stars).
Because the truth was that women in Britain in 1833 did not have options. They had the path upon which they tread. Upon which they were forced to tread. Upon which they were made to feel grateful they were forced to tread.
I flew through the first 40%, loving the snark and back and forth between Sophie and King. Did King's comments sometimes hit too close to meanness? Yes, but I liked how the author internally showed his remorse at times to what he had said. Also, I complain enough about insta-love that I won't stop myself from acknowledging and enjoying a couple who don't know each other and are a bit naturally porcupine-ish, and therefore act in a more natural progression way.
Sophie's feelings of not belonging will probably find many a kindred spirit in our more book loving community and I felt for her. She, of course, wasn't perfect with her feeling alone and out place making her even more contemptuous of aristocracy society and giving her a touch of better and above it all. I found her immaturity with her idealistic views and memories of her hometown more annoying at times but the girl was lonely and feeling like a misfit and if it hadn't been dragged out so long, I probably wouldn't even be mentioning it now.
She pursed her lips at that, her gaze setting longingly on the steaming bath. "You mustn't look."
"I wouldn't dream of it." It might have been the most obvious lie he'd ever told. Somehow, she believed it, nodding and throwing back the coverlet to step out of bed.
King, for me, didn't really grab my attention outside of his interactions with Sophie; he came to life through her. His self-loathing was overdone and dragged on way too long. The last 20% I mentioned had everything to do with him. He becomes a super baby and creates an angst segment that was supposed to provide the ever present and more often than not tiresome overblown angst-y climax romance ending. The scene he talks about wanting, a romantic engagement in the Minotaur garden, would have been immensely better; these two already had their contentious moments, didn't need more.
This couple's repertoire was on key for me but in the second half, I was waiting for the development of feelings to catch up, it didn't quite fully make it there to my satisfaction. There was a bathtub scene that was full of tension but the sexual aspect was slightly lacking and I think this was due to the emotional aspects not being fully developed. I didn't like the life and death situation to show a character how much they really do love someone and the milkmaid lost love storyline, the reason our hero can't ever love again, was handled a bit clumsy. These authors build up these crazy family betrayal storylines (15yrs!) only to give them a five minute conversation that says, "Nope, sorry, everything you thought and have based your non-loving, non-marrying life on, is a LIE. Spend the night grappling with that and then admit to yourself in the morning that you love someone and marry them in a week or proper banns reading time, depending on what type of story you're in."
Overall, I did like this story, King and Sophie had a type of discourse that roped me right in and I have to appreciate how their first intimate scene wasn't a chaste kiss or full blown sex, their sexual scenes built up nicely. And this probably isn't a popular opinion but you all, my god am I dying for Seraphine's (Sophie's sister) story. The dark deep emotion that I'm thinking (and hoping!) will come from Seraphine and her husband has me salivating for their book (
She offered a little smile. "Not so boring after all, am I?"
He was all seriousness. "No, I wouldn't call you boring. At all."