I received a complimentary copy of this book from Edelweiss+ but all opinions provided are my own.
There’s an unorthodox path to HEA in Sophie Jordan’s The Duke’s Stolen Bride. Every chapter’s exciting, unpredictable, & entertaining, probably a natural state of affairs given the book’s fantastic author and the book’s premise, which brings together two leads with totally opposite personalities & values into a temporary sexual arrangement that’s so consuming/delicious/seductive it takes over their lives.
Marian, whom we met in the previous Rogue Files book as Clara’s companion, is beautiful & well-mannered, a former woman of privilege who’s now poor and responsible for herself & her siblings. When she’s offered marriage by a wealthy but reprehensible man, she decides that her “freedom” is more important & the best way she can find that & provide for her family is to embrace a life as a great courtesan instead.
Only, she’s innocent & inexperienced. As part of her overarching courtesan strategy, she approaches the Duke, aka The Depraved Duke, aka Nate, to train her in seduction.
Jordan writes an asshole hero well. She shares the circumstances that help explain how Nate got to this place, and those are the potential seeds for redemption that make it possible to connect with a hero who, at the beginning of the book, is condescending & rude, & frequently levels cutting remarks at an admirable woman doing what she can to keep her family afloat.
Fortunately, Marian's up to the challenge, and the ways that she jars him throughout the book—with her sharp wit & spirit and later, her passion, kindness, & beauty, give the book a sweetness, as well as a sexiness (that first seduction scene!) that captivates.
Nestled into this story of who’s-seducing-whom is also a consideration of how poverty limits options for Marian & other women. While that’s not a new observation, Jordan writes Marian as someone who’s really self-aware of her previous privilege (in a manner that I loved), what the current stakes are, why she’s doing what she's doing, & what could possibly go wrong for herself & her family at every step.
The Duke also shows (necessary) growth, though he’ll likely always be rough around the edges when it comes to warmth & approachability with those who aren’t Marian & their family.
Very sexy and peppered with surprises, The Duke’s Stolen Bride is a delight. But where the book falls a bit short for me is in terms of the development of their relationship. Marian & Nate are intimate with each other in some big ways, but I missed conversations about both the basic things and the deeper. Their HEA rang true for me but I wanted more.
Give me that HEA, please.
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