I did not like this book. At all. It made me low-key uncomfortable and I’m high-key disappointed in Anna Harrington—I tend to enjoy her books. But this book was just so…so…icky. I can’t remember the last time I disliked a hero so much and the heroine wasn’t much better. The power dynamics in the book (which followed the trope of a ward and guardian) made me uneasy: our hero was incredibly controlling and our heroine incredibly immature, which resulted in a situation that seemed mildly emotionally abusive.
Our “hero” is the Duke of Swarthmore, Edward Westover, who has spent the past few years of his life attempting to destroy the life of Phillip Benton, who killed his brother and sister-in-law while racing his phaeton completely trashed. In order to do that, Edward has bought up all the man’s debts and, in the process, unknowingly received a ward—Benton’s daughter. When he discovers his guardianship, he goes to meet his ward assuming she is a young girl enamored by dolls.
She is not.
Kate Benton is actually 21 and has zero patience for the fact that her rights were just signed over to a man she has never met. While she thinks he is handsome, she values her freedom, her passion for medicine, and her role at Brambly House—a small estate left to her by her mother. While at first glance, Kate seems like she would be an amazing character she is quite honestly one of the most immature and annoying heroines ever. Honestly, for most of the book, she acted like she was twelve. She was whiney, made some terrible decisions, and just generally came across as ungrateful and incredibly irresponsible.
However, my dislike for Kate pales in comparison to my disdain for Edward. Ugh. What an awful controlling, boring, and manipulative man. Literally the definition of a chauvinist. He never listened to Kate’s requests, lorded the guardianship over her, and micromanaged her life like she actually was a child (which honestly she sort of acted like sometimes). However, what bothered me the most was his treatment of Kate: he flip-flopped between lusting after her and treating her like she was the devil herself through slut-shaming and accusing her of using her sexuality to manipulate him. It was just disgusting.
The result? A relationship that lacked mutual respect, trust, and, from what I could see, love. The ward-guardianship trope only highlighted the deeply disturbing dynamics in the relationship. I kept on reading, hoping it would get healthier, but it never did.
Anna Harrington, I normally like your books, but this one left a horrible taste in my mouth.