Some of you may remember Yash, one of the bloggers from The Book Wars. Well she's back to join me in our newest co-review of:
For writer Jade Yeo, the Roaring Twenties are coming in with more of a purr—until she pillories London's best-known author in a scathing review. Sebastian Hardie is tall, dark and handsome, and more intrigued than annoyed. But if Jade succumbs to temptation, she risks losing her hard-won freedom—and her best chance for love. -- [X]
Y: There are only four to five major characters, including Jade Yeo herself. They are all introduced in different capacities and social rank in relation to Jade, and given that society—and Jade’s own inhibitions—restrict how/how much Jade interacts with them, I think they are all pretty well-fleshed out. Of course, none of them hold a candle to the brilliance that is Jade Yeo. Maybe I’m only making this comparison because I’ve read Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, but Jade’s personality reminds me of Prunella. She is practical, almost to a fault, but she is not without heart. I kind of love her. A novella full of Jade was simply not enough.
E: Ahhh! These characters! Particularly Jade, of course. Jade was refreshingly honest, practical, and very, very funny. She feels so different from any other romance heroine I’ve read! It’s hard to really describe her because she feels so very unique and so...very much herself. And the other characters (even the ones who never appear on the page) were really, really interesting too. The premise is one we’ve seen many times before (as is usually the case with romances), but the characters all react in such unusual ways that it really feels completely fresh and new. And I loved Ravi from the moment he stepped on to the page - other than rogues (who are my #1) Ravi hits all my other favourite things in a love interest (the sweet, intelligent man). Besides, I’m predisposed to like characters named Ravi.
Y: This is so different from the last two romances I’ve read. I mean, maybe the structure is familiar, but somehow this novella packs so much intrigue and surprise. From the start, it is apparent that Jade and Sebastian are attracted to one another—something that Jade has a near-clinical curiosity about—but there is something in their relationship that Jade clearly feels is missing. And the aftermath of her dalliances with Sebastian may well affect her chances at a love that is deeper than what she shares with Sebastian.
E: SO different! There a lot of things that I really, really loved about this...that would basically be major spoilers. Pretty much everything Yash has to say - Cho manages to really pack in a lot of surprises in such a short time! And of course I shipped the main couple, even though I felt like the novella was less about her ending up with someone and more about her doing things on her own terms (which is exactly how I like things!) [SPOILERS] (highlight to read) This felt completely different than any other romances I’ve read for a few reasons. The biggest one being that no matter what happened, Jade never felt like she was helpless. She did everything on her own terms and was pretty ok with the choices she’d made - even if they were “bad” ones. I also thought it was really interesting that you get the brief sex scene with Sebastian - but he’s not the one she loves or ends up with. Usually if a heroine has been with another man (rare in romance novels) it’s referred to, never described much and usually he ends up being some sort of villain. (Of course I would have also really liked if she and Ravi had gotten some romance time in too). Instead of just being a rake, as Sebastian’s originally set up to be, he and his wife have a legitimately happy free love relationship, which was not what I was expecting at all![END SPOILERS]
PLOT & MISC.
Y: As I mentioned above, the narrative structure isn’t surprising, it’s the way that every character behaves that interests me and, I feel, sets this story apart from others of its kind. I don’t really have much to add here. The writing flowed smoothly and the pacing was fine. It lagged a bit towards the end, but if you’re anything like me, sheer hope will carry you through.
E: Exactly. The characters really, really set this novella apart from other romance novels. The responses and behavior are surprising, but didn’t make it feel like you were reading a story where modern characters had been transplanted into a historical setting.
Y: Oh, where to begin! Every other line is an absolute gem! Hm. Maybe this one:
“Fortunately here nobody thinks I am pretty, so my thinking I am pretty is almost an act of defiance; it makes me feel quite noble.”
The reason I love this quote so much is that I find things haven’t much changed. Whiteness is still seen as the epitome of beauty, even in countries where white people aren’t in the majority. Women of colour have internalized a sense of shame and unhappiness regarding their bodies; which is why I really believe that selfies are a lovely form of celebrating one’s confidence and beauty … but that is an essay for another time. Basically, Jade speaks the truth.
E: Can we take a minute to talk about how funny the writing is? I know I already said Jade (who is the narrator) is funny but….this writing is so smart and so on point. And so, so funny. It reminds me a bit of Gail Carriger’s writing what with the matter of fact heroine and witticisms, but more socially relevant.
"I must not feel ashamed, I must never feel ashamed. One must be true to oneself, and taste as much as one can of the varied buffet of life: that must be the guiding principle."
I think this speaks to me because she just takes ownership of her decisions and what's come of them. She is in a situation where she would be tarred and feathered by society, but she doesn't regret doing what she's done - the only reason she would be ashamed is because it is what she's expected to feel. And I really love that.
WHY YOU MAY LIKE IT
Y: 1920s! London! Chinese protagonist who loves reading—all kinds of books—and is a professional reviewer! So smart, so snarky, so freaking awesome! An exploration of sexuality! And beauty! Still relevant to us today! Interracial romance! Ladies fighting the Man! Social commentary that Jane Austen would have approved!
E: I also think people who don’t like a lot of sexy times in their books might enjoy this. Hear me out - yes there is a sex scene, but it’s brief and easy to skip ahead if it’s not your thing. (This may also be a reason you’d be less inclined to like it if you’re in it for the sexy times). But if you want a romance novel that doesn’t have a picture perfect heroine, and is funny as hell, you’ll like this. Add in all of what Yash has said, and you’ll understand why this one is officially in my top ten favourite romances.
WHY YOU MAY NOT LIKE IT
Y: I don’t know how to talk about this without giving away quite a bit, so …
… I kind of wish Jade got to have fun, sexy times with [coughs]. The only sexual encounter that we read results in something, um, serious? I guess? I just would have liked a scene with Jade and [mumbles] that was genuinely sexy and romantic for Jade? [END SPOILERS]
E: What I mentioned above. And it is a novella, which is usually a turn-off for me (in fact, if Yash hadn’t suggested this, it’s highly unlikely I ever would have picked it up on my own), but while I would have been very happy to get another 100 pages, I don’t think the story suffered for it. But I think pretty much anyone who likes historical romance at all will like this one.