I feel like at one point last year Scarlett Peckham’s Charlotte Street series was EVERYWHERE and being billed as a subversive historical romance series. I mean just look at the covers. They trade in the usually bright, colorful, swirling dresses for a more detailed desaturated look.
If Scarlett Peckham is the next evolution of historical romance …I’m in. This book takes us far away from ballrooms and parlors and into the den of an infamous brothel on Charlotte Street. Henry Evesham is a God-fearing man and recently appointed Lord Lieutenant tasked by the government to observe and report on London’s e sex trade–work that has him confronting desires he has long since pushed down. When Alice Hull, the Charlotte Street housekeeper and madame’s assistant, finds herself in desperate need to get to the country she joins Henry who happens to be heading in the same direction.
What follows is a road trip of sorts as the two debate and confront their biases against each other. Alice, who has been rejected by the church, finds herself with the impossible task to convince a man with high moral convictions that the lives of sex workers shouldn’t be shamed or hidden in the dark.
This is certainly a darker more emotional romance. It flips a lot of traditional gender norms in that the hero is fighting to repress his desire for the more experienced sensual heroine. Considering Peckham sells Alpha Heroine stickers… I’m guessing this subversion is a large element of her work.
I liked seeing what kind of jobs and lives people had outside the aristocracy. This book takes a hard look at religion and I liked getting a deeper dive into a devout hero. The heroine has a storyline involving her with her mother and being forbidden from playing church organs that didn’t really work for me, but I’m intrigued enough by Peckham’s work to go back and read the earlier book in the series.