Member Reviews

Raya Darwish unexpectedly inherits her late cousin's castle, much to the displeasure of Anthony, the Duke of Strickland. Stick's father should have passed the castle onto him, but instead chose to leave it to his wife, who left it to Raya, an American interloper. Now Raya and Strick are forced to work together to bring the crumbling castle and the lands surrounding it back to life...

My review:
First, as a daughter of Asian immigrants, I deeply appreciated the Arab-American rep we got with Raya and her aunt. Raya was born and raised in Brooklyn and is pretty American in her attitudes (as Strick derisively points out every time she brings up ways to monetize the estate), but she also holds onto the Palastinian culture of her parents. I appreciated the references to the food she enjoyed back home, as well as her describing how her parents took care to protect their daughter's modesty, something that is culturally very important from my understanding. Raya's Auntie Majida reminded me fondly of all the aunties in my life, particularly in the way she melds her Arabic and English when speaking (Diana Quincy also wrote Majida's accent into her dialogue), as well as her attitudes towards certain, uh, *improprieties* lol.

Regarding the romance of it all, I enjoyed this variation on the enemies to lovers trope. The management and ownership of the castle and its surrounding estate is the main point of contention between Raya and Strickland— which is not so lighthearted as a petty grudge, but neither is it something super intense or horrific. And it makes sense: Of course Raya's entrepreneurial American spirit would clash with Strick's aristocratic English attitudes, but they're forced to work together anyway. Which leads to an abundance of sexual tension between them.

There's this particularly great period of time between them where there's just.... unmitigated horniness on both their parts (but of course they don't act on it minus the time he's like "show me your tits" and she's like "...yeah why not") where Strickland keeps trying to use his sexual wiles on her to persuade her to marry him, and Raya keeps inadvertently turning him on by using business lingo. He delivers what might be the most and yet the least persuasive proposal in HR history which goes something like this: "I want to fuck you so bad it hurts. I cannot wait to be inside of you. Ergo, marry me."

Luckily, Raya is a smart gal and before agreeing, she takes care to secure her legal right to the castle using an actual solicitor thanks to property right laws that have changed recently. See, this is why I like historical romances set in the Victorian era (this is set in the 1880s): there's far more potential for racially diverse characters, as well as feminist themes, even if they're subtle. Raya getting a legal agreement on paper and making Strickland sign it to protect her rights absolutely counts.

There is also a mystery aspect to the plot, though it doesn't pick up until more than halfway through the book. Raya's late cousin died under mysterious circumstances by falling off the top of the castle, and this is related to Strickland's missing artifacts (which he's passionate about excavating and collecting). In addition, there's a bunch of will-related issues which also serves to drive a wedge between the couple. Does Strickland also attempt to use sex to grovel? Absolutely. Speaking of which—

The sex:
This book has solid sex scenes, and Diana didn't skimp on the foreplay (I'd argue the foreplay was the best part). I really liked this scene where in order to "seal" their bargain, Strickland asks to see Raya's tits (like I mentioned earlier) and goes to town on them. Specifically, the wording here is that he "clawed" at her bodice and tbh I find that level of desperation very hot.

The standout sex scene is probably when he covers her in Anglo-Saxon-era gold jewelry and then proceeds to finger her while making her watch them in the mirror. That being said, the unsung hero sex-wise might be Strickland's dirty talk. Like, man has some hits including "your quim wants to be friends", "I'm going to enjoy your sweet tits every day until we're old and grey", and "I'm going to keep burying myself in you until I'm too old to move". The future-forward dirty talk really did it for me. Bravo Anthony.

I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone, and specifically anyone looking to start their historical romance journey. This is your quintessential "enemies to lovers" historical romance complete with a smart, plucky heroine, a hero that's initially arrogant and suspicious of the heroine but falls HARD for her later on (and that's after him panting after her for a good chunk of the story), and a plot that really makes you reassess the role of the aristocracy by this time period. Like, no longer are dukes infallible beings; they have to deal with money loss, railroads buying them out, possibly opening their homes up to tourists, and so on. For me, it was this aspect of the plot, combined with the dynamic between the hero and heroine, that really sealed the deal for me.

Thank you to Avon and Harper Voyager and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my review.

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Anthony Carey, Duke of Strickland, has been frustrated yet again in his hopes to reclaim Castle Tremayne, the castle his family held until his father let the entail lapse and left it to Deena, Strick's stepmother. Now that Deena has died, the castle has been bequeathed to Deena's American cousin, Raya Darwish, an independent-minded and savvy businesswoman who doesn't particularly want the crumbling old place but can see ways to make money from it. The two butt heads repeatedly, sparking both frustration and passion, until they find their way to a compromise.

This first book in the new Sirens in Silk series features what I loved from a couple of Quincy's previous books: a fiercely intelligent, headstrong, independent woman of Arab heritage, something rarely seen in romance novels, let along historical romance. Raya definitely knows her worth and is supremely unbothered that she apparently doesn't meet the standards of a proper British lady. Her ideas for making money to invest back into the estate are remarkably modern and highlight the cause of the 19th-century decline in aristocratic fortunes and how they could be reversed. She was a great heroine, and I wanted her to get everything she wanted.

Strick, however, didn't seem quite as well developed a character, swinging between disdain and lust for most of the first part of the book. His realization that he loved Raya seemed a little abrupt, though it helped that once he realized he needed her in his life, he gave her his full support. I did appreciate that he had an outside interest (archaeology and Anglo-Saxon artifacts) but he seemed a little slow to recognize the potential for adding that to the castle business. (Yes, I know that's due to the whole "aristocrats don't WORK" ethos.)

Overall a good romance with good historical bones, a strong female lead, and a duke who eventually learns to step up his game. Can't wait to see what else Quincy does with this series. 4 stars.

Thank you, Avon/HarperCollins and NetGalley, for providing an eARC of this book. Opinions expressed here are solely my own.

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The premise of the book was very interesting. Strickland and Raya both have strong personalities and like to be in charge. This starts out as enemies to lovers. Along the way they learn how to trust and become friends. Overall, I really enjoyed the book.

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Librarian review: I would absolutely recommend this book through reader's advisory and for purchase. Romance is always a popular genre, and the desire for more diversity in romance is always there. Quincy does an excellent job of making space in the historical romance genre for people often erased, or at least not highlighted, in popular titles.

Reader review:
I am obsessed with Diana Quincy's historical romances featuring a British Arab family and now an Arab-American family. The women she writes are strong working women who value their families and culture, but also actively strike their own path. I. Love. Them. 10/10.

Raya was an amazing heroine and easy to root for. She is resourceful and relentless in her quest for independence. She is proud of her Palestinian identity, and isn't afraid to call people out when they try to denigrate her for it. (As a 21st century woman, I would have loved to see her shut people down a little harder, but I understand why in this context she would choose to be more diplomatic when possible.)

Strick on their other hand was meh. He was fine, I guess. I wasn't rooting for him in the same way I was Raya. He was often a jerk, especially his villainization of Deena. To be honest, compared to how he treated Raya, it did feel out of character, and I don't feel it was truly resolved in the conclusion of the story. I would have liked to see him come to terms with his treatment of Deena and a more realistic view of who she was--and the fact that it didn't happen made me as a reader assume at least some of his claims were supposed to be correct, which could be the author's intention. I also found a lot of his dialogue and inner monologue that was supposed to be hot/sexy really cringe. It's a no for me. His character would have been greatly improved, I think, if he had a greater redemption arc. Though I do love that he was a simp.

Plot-wise, I adored the first half of the book. Quincy's writing is fantastic, and she set the story up well. Unfortunately, though it wasn't bad, the second half felt like a bit of a let down. The tension and obstacles felt contrived and it was easy to guess what would happen next. In some ways it felt like throwing everything at the wall and seeing what would stick. The story would have been much better, for me as a reader, if Quincy picked one source of antagonism to their future and stuck with it. It was good, but it could have been great, and that was disappointing.

Finally, I think there should have been an epilogue. Maybe there will be in the final version, just not the ARC, but I think I needed a little more conclusion to their story, and I would have liked a set up for the sequel.

There's very little diversity in Regency, Edwardian, and Victorian romances, though fortunately for readers that is changing. In recent years I have enjoyed Quincy's Arab heroines, Courtney Milan's Asian lead characters, and the first book in Liana De la Rosa's new series about a Spanish/Mexican woman and a Black/Scottish man. I hope they keep coming and I can't wait to read the rest of this new series--which I assume will continue with a sequel about Hawk and Naila? We'll see.

My favorite Diana Quincy book is still The Viscount Made Me Do It, which, despite its strange and ill-chosen title, is one of my favorite historical romances of all time. Though overall, I sincerely enjoyed this one and will be purchasing it when it is released.

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