Masquerade by Joanna Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group UK
Publication Date: August 4, 2015
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***
Summary (from Goodreads):
A street-girl and a lord? London is poised for scandal ... Bestselling author Joanna Taylor delivers captivating historical romance.
Can a street-girl fool Regency London?
Lizzy Ward never meant to end up working the streets of Piccadilly. So when a mysterious lord pursues her, it seems her fortunes are changing.
But Lord Hays wants feisty Lizzy for more than a night. He needs her to masquerade as his companion.
So can a street-girl navigate the fashion and faux pas of London society? And will Lizzy’s wild heart be too much temptation for Lord Hays?
What I Liked:
This book was so cute! Cute is probably the best way to describe it. I knew it wasn't going to be the bodice-ripping types, like we get from Avon (imprint of HarperCollins). This is a UK-published book, so it's also not too well-known here in the States. Still, I saw it on NetGalley, asked my LB UK contact about it, and certainly enjoyed the book!
Lizzy is a former girl for hire at Mrs. Wilkes house. She hated working in this whorehouse, and ran away with two other girls. Now free, she is very poor, and simply looking to secure the protection of a wealthy lord, so that she won't have to search for opportunities from different men. When a chance with the Lord Hayes comes up, Lizzy does not hesitate. She'll please him in whatever way he wants for fifty guineas. A week of masquerading as his lady companion? No problem! Street girl and former girl at Mrs. Wilkes meets high society London in this fun and startlingly deep historical romance novel.
One of the things that surprised me and delighted me was the protagonist - Lizzy is a former girl at the well-known whorehouse of Mrs. Wilkes. She was ruined by a gentleman, who then took her to Mrs. Wilkes house, where she would do her duty and sleep with the men paying for a girl. It's rare that you read a historical romance novel featuring a prostitute, girl for hire, whore, whatever you want to call her. But the thing is, Lizzy OWNS her profession. She is in total control, and doesn't feel sorry for herself, or heartbroken. She is shameless, and will do what she needs to in order to pay bills and debts. Lizzy has no fear or shame, and is good at the freelance type of work she's doing, now that she is free of Mrs. Wilkes.
Nevertheless, Lizzy shows an outward and inner strength of character that is uncommon in historical romance novels. She is already so different from highborn ladies, as she was a country girl before she was ruined, and now she is a street girl. She takes Lord Hays' offer to be his companion for a week, and learns much about society during this time. But fancy dresses and jewels won't make her forget her former life, who she is.
I really like Edward. He is a thoughtful, careful, kind man. He is out to save his family's fortune, to make trade deals and buy a ship to trade guns. He hires Lizzy to be his companion (for good reason), but soon he grows to care about her. She is brash and brazen and outspoken, no matter that he is paying her. She attends to his needs but never worries about her own. She takes care of him, yet he takes care of her. The two of them are a great pair, as he is rational and calm, and she is wild and boisterous.
The setting is very authentic! Very historical, in terms of location, time period, treatment of women and women's rights, class differences, societal norms. There are so many historical aspects that Taylor captured very well!
As the story goes on, more is revealed about Lizzy and her past, as well as more about Edward's life. The week passes, and Lizzy and Edward have decisions to make. Their relationship grows beautifully, and they have grown to care for each other a lot. The ending of the story was unexpected, but quite satisfying. I don't think I could have seen that ending exactly as it is, but I couldn't have it any other way.
What I Did Not Like:
This book didn't get nearly into the chemistry side of the romance as I'd hoped. I am well aware that this is an Alyssa problem and really has not much to do with what the author wrote, but I was totally expecting more from the romance. Don't get me wrong, Edward and Lizzy are intimate pretty often. It's just not explicitly told, which bothers me. As a historical romance junkie, I love steamy scenes between the couple. It's all part of the allure of an ADULT historical romance novel, no? This book didn't have that allure. While I still very much enjoyed the book, I expected something else.
This book was really lighthearted, but also to the point where it seemed like there was a layer or two missing. Everything was on the surface, laid out in front of you. One thing after the other, like a string of episodes on a sitcom. I'm not sure if I'm making sense, but it felt a little underdeveloped.
I expected a little more resolution from Lizzy's friend Kitty. It seemed like the debt collector in the beginning of the book would come back into the plot at some point, maybe the climax. That plot device was not employed, which was kind of sad, because I expected that. It would have made sense to bring that back into the plot. I think?
Would I Recommend It:
This is a really "clean" historical romance novel, if that makes sense. It's also pretty lighthearted, on-the-surface kind of story. Not much depth, and again, not much steamy stuff explicitly written out. So, if you're new to the historical romance game, and want something light to start out with, I'd recommend this one! But if you're like me, a die-hard historical romance novel fan, this probably isn't the best selection for you.
3.5 stars -> rounded down to 3 stars. But really, it should be 3.5 stars. I liked this novel! I'm glad I had the chance to read it. I'll be interested in more of Taylor's historical romance novels in the future.
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