This isn't the stuff of an even halfway decent historical romance for me. The guy (Hepplewood) is a sadist, gets his kicks using a riding crop, spanking her until his hand hurts, etc., all because he had no control in his youth and has low self-esteem. Well, boo-hoo. The heroine, Isabella, is turned on by his abuse. Why? Because there was no discipline in her childhood. What? Where I come from, that usually results in a spoiled brat, not a goofus getting all hot and bothered when she's whipped. Then there's Everett, the cousin, a pedophile who had raped a 12-year-old!!! I read this genre for dreams, not nightmares.
What was Ms. Carlyle thinking? She said it would be dark.....okay, I can handle dark. I knew there'd be sex aplenty.....okay, let the good times roll. But THIS??? I've enjoyed other novels by Ms. Carlyle, I like her writing, I like her style. But this one? How am I supposed to like and identify with these people? We're never given solid, plausible reasons for their behavior. We're seldom made privy to their thoughts in this regard, only on a superficial level. They showed character in other facets of their lives, but turn the page and here come the riding crop and dildos, in private. And that private part took up most of the novel. So. Little insight into the characters. Instead, we're just given the aberrant behaviors. Furthermore, there were only short snippets of what could reasonably be recognized as "story."
The goal of this novel seems to be its shock value in lieu of competent writing.
In retrospect, I don't think Ms. Carlyle intended the story for readers like me. I'm just not hip enough. My mistake. A $7 mistake.
Edited to add: I've just returned this book like bad fish. I felt like I'd been blindsided. It should be advertised as erotica, not historical. The only things "historical" in this were crinolines and carriages.