Review: Appetites and Vices
Appetites & Vices is the first book in The Truitt's series by Felicia Grossman and her debut romance novel! This is a fake engagement historical romance set in Gilded Age Philadelphia, featuring a Jewish autistic heroine who just wants to marry her best friend and a rake with a complicated past who just needs an excuse to run away from it all. I listened to the audiobook, which was very enjoyable, and I really liked this book overall. It was about a 3.5 star read (rounding up to 4 for Goodreads), and I'll definitely be picking up the next one in the series before book 3 is released later this year.
Ursula Nunes is always saying and wearing the wrong things. Not that those are the real reasons she's isolated from the most exclusive parties in Philadelphia or why her best friend says he can't marry her. She and Hugo had decided years ago to marry one another if they didn't have any better prospects, but now that Ursula is of marriageable age, Hugo is caught in his father's plans to marry him to someone "more respectable."
Someone who isn't Jewish.
Jay Truitt is charming--when he wants to be--and rich, but even his family name can't completely absolve him of his reputation as a rake. But the seven-year-old trauma he's been carrying around is a secret he's managed to hide even from his own family. A secret even better kept than his opium addiction that he once relied on to numb him from the worst of his pain. All he wants to do is run away to Europe and escape it all--an outcome he believes possible when he offers Ursula a fake engagement.
He'll get her into every exclusive party until she can win over Hugo's family and prove that she has just as much access to society as they do. She'll "break his heart" badly enough that his parents will finally let him escape the life that's planned for him.
Along the way, Jay can't help seeing all of the wonderful things about Ursula that no one else ever takes the time to notice, and Ursula can't help realizing that Jay is quite a bit smarter and more genuinely compassionate than anyone gives him credit for.
teach me how to kiss
gambling to teach social skills
new money vs status
gambling for hand in marriage
I don't read many historical romances, but reading one set in Gilded Age Philadelphia was an interesting change, especially with a Jewish heroine. This book was recommended to me by Shoshana Rain and I wish it were on more readers' radar. Fake engagement only really works for me with the right stakes, and I liked the way it was laid out in this book. It made a lot more sense to me on Ursula's end than why Jay really needed the engagement, but I'm fine suspending my disbelief for a fun premise that forces two characters together.
Jay and Ursula had great chemistry, and I loved watching their internal thoughts about the other grow and change. She was so charmed by him once she started seeing the parts of him that he'd been hiding for years, and I'm always a sucker for a hero who gets upset because, "ugh, why is she being so cute?"
Jay's backstory was really well-developed, and the way it came together was very satisfying and heartbreaking to read. It made me root for him and his HEA, and the third act in his character arc was possibly my favorite part of the whole book. Ursula's backstory is pretty well foreshadowed throughout the book, and though it felt a bit rushed, once her secrets are all revealed they really free her from the last of her societal inhibitions and expectations. And the way she uses that as something powerful instead of crumbling was so perfect for her character.
Overall Rating: 3.5 Stars (rounding up to 4 for Goodreads)
Really enjoyed it, 10/10 recommend it, will be picking up book 2
Romance Rating: 3.5 Stars
Characters had compelling backstories & great chemistry. I wouldn't quite die for them, but I loved the way they helped each other grow
Heat Rating: 3.75 Stars
A pleasantly surprising amount of smut for a Gilded Age romance
Kink Rating: 2* Stars
1 mild bondage scene but overall vanilla by design
Dark / Taboo Rating: 0*
Not dark or taboo at all by design
Let me know if you've read or plan to read Appetites and Vices by Felicia Grossman!