I picked up Velvet Song on a recommendation from Lark as a relatively good old-school romance. Since, I have to admit, I have not read that much old-school romance.
It’s the story of Raine, the third of four noble Montgomery brothers, and Alyxandria, the daughter of a lawyer who’s devoted her life to music. The local noble (who is a complete asshole and deserves far worse punishment than he gets) tries to rape her, she flees, and she ends up in the forest where Raine is hiding out. Naturally, despite the fact that she’s disguised as a boy (that noble really doesn’t like her), they fall in love.
On the positive side, I did enjoy the couple and the writing and am seriously considering borrowing the next book from the library (since, you know, the library has it and it’s a little expensive for my taste). I also liked a bunch of the side characters.
On the negative side… it was very old-school.
I really liked Alyx as a heroine, especially once she realized that people didn’t necessarily like her for some pretty good reasons. She was a bit naive, but considering she was a pretty sheltered 20-year-old, that’s not surprising. And ultimately she grew. (I did not like the slut-shaming she used against women she liked. It was very “not like other women” which I dislike a lot. But she did grow past it with some women, by the end.)
I disliked Raine as a hero. He was very alpha, and not always in a good way. Now, I’ll give Deveraux credit here: even though she clearly had to follow the 1980s romance template of a not-entirely-consensual sex scene, she did it surprisingly well: Raine is actually less consenting than Alyx is!
However, he pretty much forces her into a marriage once her pregnancy is revealed and it’s presented as “well, she wanted it, so it’s okay” – when the truth is, Alyx had been worried about their respective classes for a while and didn’t think she could be Raine’s wife. Yeah, she wanted him, but she still didn’t have a chance to properly consent. He also kept pretty much ignoring Alyx, even after they were married, never giving her a chance to argue her case. He was just so damn convinced he was right all the time.
And his apology at the end pissed me off. I turned the last page of the book and literally said, out loud, “That’s it?” I get that it’s a pretty good apology for 1983, but… Austen did the grovel better, and she wrote over 150 years earlier. Men running romance publishing really screwed things up for what women want, didn’t they?
I will give Deveraux credit: she’s one of the grandmothers of romance, and one of the people who changed romance from seriously old-school to the more modern form. It’s interesting reading this for the historical aspect alone – to see her moving as far in that direction as her publishers would allow.
I did like the writing, and I did like the side characters – Jocelin was awesome, Judith was freaking amazing, and Elizabeth, Joan, Stephen, Gavin, Brian, and Roger were all interesting (albeit not necessarily on the side of good). Also, I got what was going on despite being dropped in at book 3, which is always a plus in romance series – I felt like I could go back and read books 1 and 2 without feeling like I absolutely had to.
But there were also a bunch of dropped threads. I get that the Chatworth/Montgomery feud doesn’t get fully solved until the fourth book (and honestly wanting to know all the outcome of that is my main reason for wanting to read book 4). That’s fine, that’s a larger plot. But there was the random Lady Anne who Raine liked and showed up but never appeared again. Pagnell never got a full comeuppance despite being in a lot of ways Alyx’s main villain. All of Alyx’s concerns about why she couldn’t be married to Raine just disappeared. It all felt a little… incomplete.
All in all, it was very old-school, and in a lot of ways a valuable piece of romance history. Since I’m considering getting the next book, it gets
If this is your jam, you can get it here.
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