Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: February 18, 2019
Received From: NetGalley
He’s her ticket into high society…
Banking heiress Ursula Nunes has lived her life on the fringes of Philadelphia’s upper class. Her Jewish heritage means she’s never quite been welcomed by society’s elite…and her quick temper has never helped, either.
A faux engagement to the scion of the mid-Atlantic’s most storied family might work to repair her rumpled reputation and gain her entrée to the life she thinks she wants…if she can ignore the way her “betrothed” makes her feel warm all over and stay focused on her goal.
She’s his ticket out…
Former libertine John Thaddeus “Jay” Truitt is hardly the man to teach innocent women about propriety. Luckily, high society has little to do with being proper and everything to do with identifying your foe’s temptation—an art form Jay mastered long ago. A broken engagement will give him the perfect excuse to run off to Europe and a life of indulgence.
But when the game turns too personal, all bets are off…
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: heteroromantic
TROPES: fake dating/fake engagement, age gap
TAGS: adult, historical, romance, Jewish characters, ownvoices
WARNINGS: ableism, antisemitism, addiction, cancer mention, parental death mention, emotional abuse, institutionalization mention, cissexism/trans exclusionary language, heteronormativity, mental illness (panic attack), misogyny, anti-sex work, anti-sex worker, rape mention, prison rape mention, slurs, gendered slurs
I used to be a voracious reader of historical romance, and indeed, there was once a period where it was literally all I read. But as I discovered new books and genres, I started expanding more, and so I haven’t read any hist rom in a while. But this book…oh man. The cover immediately caught my eye, the blurb sucked me in, and I knew I had to read it. I had to have it. So I preordered and requested on NetGalley, holding out hope I’d get an early copy. And luckily I did.
I’m so happy I did, because this book is just stunning.
APPETITES & VICES is the first historical romance I’ve read featuring a Jewish character, which is largely why I was so excited for it–other than fake dating, which is one of my favorite tropes–and the fact that this representation is ownvoices made it even more enticing. I, of course, cannot comment on how well done the rep was as I’m not Jewish. However, I very much enjoyed the glance into the past highlighting a marginalized group that is underwhelmingly featured in media, and often misrepresented at that. In my opinion, Grossman did a wonderful job recreating the Jewish reality in the 1840s. She highlights how they’re simultaneously their own community and intertwined with non-Jewish society (and scorned for both); the struggles and lack of rights they faced in Europe, and how that compared–similarly and differently–to their experiences in America; how they strove to stay true to themselves, their culture, and religion while adapting in ways to ensure their safety. And Grossman perfectly achieves the balance of making the reader both want to protect the characters and want to act as their own personal cheer squad and encourage them to mercilessly defend themselves.
Grossman brings a similar balance to the addiction representation within the book as well, making the reader sympathize with Jay’s struggles at the same time as they gently but firmly root for him to stay the course and away from the drugs. Jay’s addition was not an aspect of the story that I was expecting, as it’s not alluded to in the blurb at all, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it incorporated into the story. As with Jewish characters, finding characters with addictions in historical romance is a rare feat, and it’s even rarer to find ones in which the character isn’t constantly demeaned on page. I mean, have no doubt, there’s plenty of self-recrimination from Jay himself, and there are a couple people in the novel who express negative opinions about both Jay and his addiction, but those are largely undercut by Ursula’s acceptance of this part of Jay and her efforts to help him. She discovers the secret fairly early on, and at no point does it change her opinion of him or make her like, and eventually love, him less. In fact, she sticks her neck out on several occasions to protect and defend him, even when it means putting her own precarious reputation in further danger.
And speaking of Ursula and Jay, I truly adored the two of them together. From practically the start, it’s impossible not to want them to be together. They are both sarcastic and funny, and they challenge each other in ways others never have before. Additionally, they are both kind and generous and always willing to do whatever it takes in order to help the people they care about. They both mesh really well and play off each other in the most picture perfect way. Ursula and Jay are easily a favorite couple I’ve read about.
I enjoyed everything about this book, and I cannot wait for more from Felicia Grossman, especially the second book of this series!
Felicia Grossman is a historical romance writer, originally from Delaware, who now lives in the rust belt with her spouse, two children, poorly behaved puppy, and perpetually disappointed elder dog. She is an RWA member (NEORWA chapter), Broadway nerd, and lover of eclairs. Her high school superlative was “most salacious,” and she hopes her books live up to that title. She can be found on twitter at @HfeliciaG and her website is https://feliciagrossmanauthor.com.