I read widely from many genres. Perhaps this blog will feature fewer ratings and reviews, but I certainly intend to write about my reading life - it's the subject I most find myself wanting to talk about.
For me, the sexual humiliation of either the female hero or the male hero is a no-go in mass-market historical romance. I should have known Jane Feather was capable of it, as in an earlier review I critiqued her for much the same reason: http://carissagreen50.booklikes.com/post/1335080/kissed-by-shadows-automatic-dq.
I'm about to spoil the shit out of this book, so if you care about the plot of an almost 30-year old story, stop now. Also: Trigger warnings.
"Venus" was originally published back in the late '80s, when historical romance didn't just mean "Regency era." You were just as likely then to find Victorians, medievals, Scottish, westerns, swashbucklers, and more. This book happens to take place in Restoration England, following the intrigues of a minor noble (that's our male hero) in the court of Charles II.
The male hero rescues the female hero from a London tavern and sets her up in a new life as a celebrated stage actress and up-and-coming courtier. (So already it's kind of a novel story, as most female heroes in romance are "ladies," not lower-class.) The male hero and his buddy recruit her in their plot to take down the evil "Duke of Buckingham" (who was a real figure of the time), and at the same time, the male hero makes her his mistress, with the plan to marry her when the court intrigue is completed.
Unfortunately, the whole darn plan backfires, and Buckingham has the male hero locked in the Tower. His terms to get him back are that the female hero - who already has rejected Buckingham's advances after stringing him along both at the theatre and court - must spend seven nights with him, in a brothel, submitting to his sexual will (which, apparently, involves tying her up and bruising her).
In a proper romance novel, the female hero would get out of such a fate, either by improbably intrigue or last-minute rescue. But in this book, she goes through with it. The entire week. Fortunately, Feather only gives us a scant few pages of explicit description.
So, you hit one of my disqualification triggers here, Feather. Do not sexually humiliate your characters. Big thumbs down. It may be "realistic" to have the plot play out this way, but we all know mass market historicals are about as realistic as a Renaissance faire. So, no. It was a mistake. Not recommended. -cg