[TW: discussion of a non-consensual sexual situation/sexual assault]
I am now going to write the kind of post I hate to write. Because I hate to write negatively about any author’s work.
But I’ll just start here: I could not read Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed. I didn’t even make it a quarter of the way through the book. The premise of the overall plot hinged too much on the non-consent of the heroine and, for me, I was uncomfortable with that.
Will a week of seduction…
Desperate to save her sister’s life, Sidonie Forsythe has agreed to submit herself to a terrible fate: Beyond the foreboding walls of Castle Craven, a notorious, hideously scarred scoundrel will take her virtue over the course of seven sinful nights. Yet instead of a monster, she encounters a man like no other. And during this week, she comes to care for Jonas Merrick in ways that defy all logic-even as a dark secret she carries threatens them both.
…Spark a lifetime of passionate surrender?
Ruthless loner Jonas knows exactly who he is. Should he forget, even for a moment, the curse he bears, a mere glance in the mirror serves as an agonizing reminder. So when the lovely Sidonie turns up on his doorstep, her seduction is an even more delicious prospect than he originally planned. But the hardened outcast is soon moved by her innocent beauty, sharp wit, and surprising courage. Now as dangerous enemies gather at the gate to destroy them, can their new, fragile love survive?
Sidonie doesn’t want to be there. She says so out loud to Jonas. He rejects her wishes and we are supposed to swoon when she does come around and see that he is an okay guy?
The first night that Sidonie is at Castle Craven, she learns that she is to share a room and a bed with Jonas. We see the scene through her point of view so we, the audience, know that she is confused by her feelings toward Jonas: she fears him but is also intrigued by him. He, though, doesn’t know any of that. Instead, he sees a woman in a big flannel nightgown who basically tells him in all ways possible that she does not want to have sex with him despite him demanding sex as payment for her sister’s gambling debt.
Jonas says to Sidonie:
“Good Lord, Miss Forsythe, you desperately need advice on your wardrobe.”
“It’s only my…my nightdress.” She refused to look at him.
Uneasiness crammed in her throat when he prowled closer. “There’s room in there [her nightgown] for six.”
She shot him an annoyed glance. “Did you expect me to wear nothing at all? The night’s too cold, apart from anything else.”
Mr. Merrick subjected her to a thorough and searing inspection. She just knew he pictured her naked and it was her fault for mentioning the possibility. All her life, people had warned her that her impulsive tongue would get her into trouble. Not just because Mr. Merrick’s manner had within an instant transformed from nonchalance to interest. That fleeting accounting of her body extended mere seconds, yet every inch of her skin burned. Her belly clenched with a painful mixture of shame and reluctant excitement. She met his eyes, then heartily wished she hadn’t. The predatory glint was unmistakable.
“There’s room for maneuver between nakedness and that tent you’re wearing.” His gaze sharpened. “Did you think I’d quail at all that flannel?”
“I took what defensive measures I could,” she muttered, staring upward again. Although truthfully it hadn’t occurred to her to pack anything other than her usual nightwear.
“You underestimate the stimulating power of imagination,” he said drily. “I’m intrigued to discover the treasures beneath that billowing fabric.”
In wordless horror, Sidonie turned her head to stare at him. His shell of carelessness disintegrated and she read raw hunger in his saturnine face. The air vibrated with blazing sexual awareness. In the bristling silence, the sound of rain sheeting against the windows was a jarring intrusion.
“Take it off,” he said softly.
The emphasis is mine.
He is a predator. She is uneasy and on defense. She meets his innuendo with “wordless horror.” She blames herself for escalating the situation by not saying the right things.
And then he tells her to take her clothes off. Once she is naked, Campbell describes him as looming “above her, tall dominating” and that his “stance conveyed hunting readiness.” And Sidonie’s response to Jonas, while lying naked on the bed? “Dread coiled in her belly. Dread and unwilling curiosity.”
To her humiliation, her nipples tightened. An aggravatingly knowing expression narrowed his eyes and a smug smile curved his lips. He knew he didn’t repulse her, much as she wished he did.
As his perusal of her body continues, she says, “Stop it” and Campbell describes this “demand” as “thick with tears she refused to shed.” Then: “He seemed not to hear. Instead he stepped nearer and slid his hand behind her back.”
His reaction to her saying “stop it” and fighting back tears is to touch her. No.
He goes on to fondle her breasts and call her beautiful. She jerks away, “her face…drawn with fear and determination.” At that point, Sidonie tells Jonas to just have his way with her (rape her, essentially) and he instead flees, saying, “I find tonight my taste doesn’t run to martyrs.”
That was basically it for me. That was a scene of sexual assault. The heroine was incredibly afraid and at the total mercy of a man who used that to his advantage to touch her despite her plea for him not to. Are we supposed to feel relief that he stopped before raping her?
Sidonie can leave. She can choose to walk out the door and away from Jonas, in theory. But the price she will pay is her sister taking her place. And Sidonie fears that if her sister does that (to pay off her own gambling debt), her sister’s husband will beat her and possibly kill her (he has a history of hitting her, apparently). Non-consensual sex as payment for a gambling debt that will lead to domestic violence and possibly death.
This is why I could not read Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed. I am putting this in the DNF column.