When she was a child, Zoe Octavia Lexham frequently ran away. Despite that, her father took her to India when she was 12, where you guessed it, she vanished. After twelve years of searching and many fakes, Zoe finally escapes the harem in which she has been imprisoned and returns to London. She’s immediately recognized by Lucien de Grey, the earl of Marchmont, one of her childhood friends. Lucien has lost everyone he’s ever loved in his life, and he thought Zoe was one of them. After only a short while back in her presence, he realizes that he can’t let her go again.
I was hoping to enjoy this book like so many others have, but it let me down a lot. And that’s down to a single problem, which is the complete unbelievableness of Zoe. I’ll grant you that most historical romances are not exactly realistic and probably would never have happened within their own time periods, but often the emotions and situations of the characters resonate perfectly with modern readers like me. This was definitely not the case here. Zoe seems almost completely unaffected by her time in a harem. She’s technically a widow but of course she remains a virgin, even though we learn how she’s sexually experienced from attempting to seduce her former husband. Wouldn’t that sort of thing carry emotional scars? Instead, she seems to think it’s perfectly acceptable to fondle a man in her father’s house, rather than carrying any scars from being forced to attempt engagement in sexual acts with a man she didn’t like very much. They’re interrupted at least twice; where on earth was their sense of propriety? Why does no one care? It’s like her entire imprisonment is a mere excuse to make her a little bit less inhibited than a normal heroine would be, but without any drawbacks that a woman of her time period should have experienced.
It’s overall a very strange book; Zoe fits perfectly into society again when it suits her, like she’s never been away, but her lack of inhibitions doesn’t match. When she is reminded of her imprisonment, it’s on something completely unrelated, simply the concept of being unable to leave her house. I couldn’t understand why she was perfectly happy to use her harem skills to seduce Lucien but then cried when she couldn’t leave the house because her life was in danger. It made no sense at all to me, and as a result I just couldn’t like her. It would have honestly been a DNF if I didn’t know I could read it in two hours; I mostly just finished it because I figured I might as well.
It’s a minor point as well that unfortunately I don’t really like Loretta Chase’s writing. It always seems far too stilted to me, the dialogue unrealistic, and as a result I couldn’t believe in the love story either. I’d quote an example but unfortunately I’m at work without the book. It’s a shame because in theory I like the idea of Lucien’s personal journey, from his constant heartbreak to his ability to love again, but the rest of the book didn’t work for me. I just don’t think I’m interested in reading another book by Loretta Chase – not even the famed Lord of Scoundrels. Something about her writing doesn’t work with the way I think, so I’ll be avoiding her in future.
In short, Don’t Tempt Me shouldn’t tempt you at all.
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