CW: Lesbophobia and lesbian erasure, ableist language and fat shaming.
I had even forgotten that I had requested the ARC of this book more than an year ago, when it suddenly got approved this month. I obviously wasn’t interested anymore, but I also didn’t wanna abandon it and it has a lot of gushing reviews calling it an empowering feminist novel, so I wanted to give it a try. And wow was I absolutely wrong to do so.
The MC who is a narcissist dominatrix with a superiority complex, is a seduction expert and calls herself The Baroness. We never even get to know her actual name – surprisingly, not even her fiancé refers to her my her name once in the book. She is a self proclaimed devout feminist who utilizes her superior skills to provide services for women who are suffering due to their lying, cheating partners. She wants power and wants to rule over everyone, and she will resort to all sorts of intimidation tactics to gain the money and power, including manipulating and marrying a billionaire. I guess I could understand how her character could feel empowering because she was taking down men who were destroying the lives of women without any care for consequences, but I just didn’t like the execution of it all.
The story might have worked if it had stuck to the true nature of the main character, without her having to assert over and over again that she was a feminist. But except her lip service about being in the business of helping women, none of her thoughts ever reflected that. She is completely judgmental about every single client who comes for a consult, is utterly disdainful about the problems these vulnerable women may be having, and it’s very clear in her internal monologue that she is only tolerating them for the money and power trip they can provide. She calls her own employees (who are obviously female) little people, looks down upon them, is completely indifferent to their issues or maybe even enjoys the fact that their lives are not as sorted as hers, and expects them to be completely submissive and grateful to her. I’m not saying that female characters can’t be manipulative or power hungry, but I just found it very ironic that she would just assign all her narcissistic behavior to her feminist principles despite having no respect for any other woman in her life (except probably the ones who are totally onboard with her machinations and are powerful and important for furthering her interests).
The only good thing I found about the book is that it’s short and very quick to read. If it was any longer, it would have definitely been a DNF. The way it’s written also feels very formal and sometimes, quite high handed which didn’t work for me. For a book espousing to be empowering for women, it has a good dose of lesbophobia and lesbian erasure. There are multiple instances where the main character questions why anyone would want to be a lesbian, she has a very sneering response to someone when she realizes they assumed her to be a lesbian, and at one point she says that women who don’t find their Mr. Right inevitably end up falling into lesbianism. I was just horrified when I read this all. There is one instance of a sex addict being referred to as “psycho” which goes unchallenged despite the other character acknowledging that it’s a mental illness. But what pissed me off most was one particular incident of blatant fat shaming where our delightful MC mockingly thinks if another particular character needed two seats in the flight and if her office furniture is sturdy enough to seat her. If this wasn’t an ARC, I would have stopped reading right at that moment.
After reading all the gushing reviews for this book and it’s high rating, I’m just confused if I even read the same book. Despite the main character’s assertions, I found her to be exactly opposite and even downright insulting to be called a feminist, and I would definitely not recommend this book to anyone who wants an empowering feminist read. I found it to be full of harmful stereotypes and it could even feel triggering for some readers. I also find it very very wrong to refer to this book as a romance, because there is nothing but manipulation in this story and it doesn’t belong in the beloved romance genre. I’m not sure what audience this book is trying to cater to, but it definitely wasn’t for me and I call myself a feminist and am all for gender equality and women empowerment. I have also never ever written a rant review before, but this book made me very angry and I just wanted to share all my feelings about it.
PS: Thank you to Netgalley and VSP Publishing for providing me with this advance copy. All opinions expressed here are unbiased and solely mine.