Published by: Zebra (March 29th, 2016)
Format: Kindle ARC
Genre: Historical Romance
Reviewed by: Erin
What kind of awesome can you expect inside: A former courtesan, a blind Naval officer, a treasure hunt, secrets, and a delicious tart (or two)…
Plot: As a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Benedict Frost had the respect of every man on board–and the adoration of the women in every port. When injury ends his naval career, the silver-tongued libertine can hardly stomach the boredom. Not after everything–and everyone–he’s experienced. Good thing a new adventure has just fallen into his lap…
When courtesan Charlotte Perry learns the Royal Mint is offering a reward for finding a cache of stolen gold coins, she seizes the chance to build a new life for herself. As the treasure hunt begins, she realizes her tenacity is matched only by Benedict’s–and that sometimes adversaries can make the best allies. But when the search for treasure becomes a discovery of pleasure, they’ll be forced to decide if they can sacrifice the lives they’ve always dreamed of for a love they’ve never known…
Review: Do you like reading about two people who like having sex, are good at it, and like having sex with each other? What about if those same two people shared mutual respect, affection, and just plain liked each other? If you like these things, then Fortune Favors the Wicked by Theresa Romain is totally your jam. Add in a treasure hunt, a terrific cast of secondary characters, and a murder mystery, and you have a seriously fun book.
Charlotte Perry is the daughter of a vicar, recently returned to her village from what most of the villagers believe to be missionary work. She is staying with her elderly parents, who are barely making ends meet thanks to her father being more concerned with spiritual matters than financial ones. What she needs to keep hidden is the fact that she is also Charlotte Pearl, the famed courtesan. She left that life with only the clothes on her back, and now she’s trying to find a missing treasure to buy her independence and provide for her family.
I enjoyed the fact that Charlotte has few regrets about her life; she has made peace with her choices, for the most part, excepting the one that led her to flee London. Through her recollections, we can see how truly restrictive the life of a courtesan is, but how it is no more or less restrictive than many of the other choices available to women at the time. She takes pride in her successes, but mourns the fact that those successes forced the necessary estrangement from her family. She is a bit cooler than the hero, Benedict, but not cold; she’s private to avoid putting suspicion on her parents, but has a wicked, lovely sense of humor when she’s talking to Benedict.
Benedict Frost is a retired Naval officer. After his retirement, he traveled the world and is trying to get his travel memoirs published. He is also blind, and has been for four years. (His story is based on a real person — see the Author’s Notes at the end of the book.) Readers will be relieved to know that he doesn’t have magically enhanced other senses, he doesn’t get miraculously cured of his blindness, and he’s not a pious example of inspiration porn. He’s adapted to his disability for the most part; his biggest regret is the loss of his Navy career. He misses sailing and is at a loss for what exactly to do next. Benedict is warm, good-humored, a badass in a fight, and has his own family he’s trying to protect. I love Benedict. Love him. He’s possibly one of my favorite heroes of all time. He’s emotionally aware and a tough sailor and really, really good in the sack.
A lot of this book has to do with the reveal of various mysteries and secrets; there are many secrets related to Charlotte’s past, there is the mystery of the hidden gold, and there is also a murder mystery to be solved. I won’t spoil any of those sub-plots for you! I will say that I think that there may have been a bit too much going on, because the end feels a little like the ending of the Return of the King movie — this gets resolved, and then the next thing, and then the next thing, and then…well, I think the romance gets slightly short shrift in the end.
However, I can’t complain about the fact that the book takes its time to develop two whole, adult, interesting people facing turning points in their lives. They are thrown together by necessity, but end up coming together by choice, which is something you don’t alway see in historicals. (You usually get the forced marriage, the marriage of convenience, etc.–not that I don’t also love those.)
There is a lovely cast of characters in both Charlotte’s family and in the surrounding town. Charlotte’s parents, in particular, are very well-developed, interesting people. It’s nice to see small-town life outside of the ballrooms and country estates, and there is one scene featuring a Bakewell tart that made me cry a little inside because I was not eating a Bakewell tart right that instant.
This is a happy book, despite some very bad things happening in it. It’s about finding yourself when you’re a little older, that change of course that often happens mid-adulthood. It’s about the complications and connections of family, about the chains and the freedoms that come with fortunes, and it’s about how a wicked sailor with talented hands can turn even the quietest village into a wild adventure.
I also can’t complain about the setup for the characters in the next book — it’s a very effective teaser and I’m SO excited for it.
Things you may not like: There is animal death in this book. It’s not violent or cruel, and it’s not unexpected. But it’s really sad. (I’m crying a little as I type this and I cried when I read it.)
Things you will love: Benedict Frost. I am telling you, you will love him! Also the excitement of the treasure hunt, nuanced secondary and tertiary characters, the sheer fun Charlotte and Benedict have together, and the bad guy getting what he deserves in a very satisfying scene.