Avid reader, blogger, compulsive one-clicker, genre-omnivore.
*I received a free copy of Harlot from Selfpublished via Netgalley in exchange of an honest and unbiased review*
He came home to marry an angel...
After working in the gold fields of California for two years, Caleb Hightower has come home to marry his childhood sweetheart, Jessica Willoughby. But when he returns, Caleb learns his refined bride-to-be is now a whore. Enraged by her betrayal, he can’t reconcile this shameless woman with the sweet innocent he once deeply loved—but Caleb knows what to do with a harlot. He’s determined to get everything from her that she’s sold to other men. And he’s prepared to pay for the pleasure of his revenge.
But all he found was sin.
Left penniless after her father’s death, Jess made a deal with a devil. Now she must face her first love, whose scorn is no match for her regret. To make amends, she’ll let Caleb quench his rage with her body. Their bargain strips them down to searing passion and naked vulnerability, and Jess can still glimpse her loving Caleb buried deep inside this rough cowboy. In the end, an unbearable truth emerges that could push them toward forgiveness…or could destroy their fragile bond forever.
Harlot was a very short, hot story, and I think it was a little too short. The story was a bit rushed, and the characters were not exactly complex.
Harlot is a good story, and it especially shows how it was difficult for women to be empowered and take charge of their own lives and destinies in the past. When Jessica’s father died and left her with only debts, she didn’t know what to do. The house would have to be sold, as would most of her other possessions. Caleb had been gone for two years already, and she hadn’t heard from him in a long time, and had to find a way to get through this on her own. When someone presented her with what seemed like the only possibility to find a place to live, and enough money to live with, she took it. Even if that possibility was to give her virginity to a man in exchange for a house…
When Caleb got back to town after learning that Jessica’s father had passed away, the first thing he heard about her what that she was a whore now, working from her very own whorehouse on the outskirts of town. And to say he was angry to find his angelic girl opening her legs to strangers for money is an understatement!
Harlot is about more than the relationship between Caleb and Jessica, though. It is about women having the power to choose their own life, about not judging others, about being able to feel safe, and having enough to eat and a place to live. I get what Dahl wanted to do with this story, and it was well done, however, I would have enjoyed it more if the story had been a bit longer, so that the character development could have been a little deeper. The hypocrisy of a man going to pay for a whore being OK, but the whore taking his money being dirty is definitely something that is addressed – and it should be!
The writing is really good, of course, this is by Victoria Dahl, you know! Written in third person point of view, past tense, and peppered with well-done dialogues. If you enjoy historical romances that have a somewhat realistic and feminist goal, Harlot could be the perfect book for you! I was left with a feeling of needing just a little more.
And it was easier this way. If they knew about the awful, gnawing agony in his chest, he’d have to add humiliation to the pile of hurt. He’d never asked her to marry him. No one knew they’d been anything more than childhood sweethearts. No one but Jessica and Caleb.
It terrified him that he could still feel this way for her, but it awed him, as well, because maybe their love was bigger than anything else. Bigger than hurt and jealousy and stupid decisions. It was just… right.