Raised to be a surrogate for rich families in the Jewel, the rich innermost ring of society, Violet Lasting believes she will be part of wealth, royalty, and beauty while also giving her family some measure of security. Violet is one of the most talented and desired surrogates, a fact that attracts the attention of the most powerful in the city. Sent to be made beautiful, a talented designer Lucien is kind to her before her Auction, and Violet is made stunning but true to her personality. The matron of one of the most important of the four houses, the Duchess of the Lake, buys her to be a surrogate for her new daughter, and though trapped and forced into obedience, Violet is treated well by the Duchess, unlike her other surrogate friends. One, the surrogate of the Electress, is practically murdered at the table, and Violet’s friend Raven isn’t herself. Plots and poison surround her, and Violet rebels against the Duchess’s scheming. In punishment, the Duchess begins to have Violet tested for her magic in preparation for the impending baby. Violet turns to Lucien one day and tells him of her suspicions, that she is being groomed to birth a princess at a much faster rate than the rest. Lucien promises to save her, and just as Violet gets closer to her freedom, she falls in love and promises to stop at nothing until she saves her friends from their surrogate hell as well.
After events of the last novel, Violet has been caught with Ash, the male companion (read male escort), who faces death while she gets punishment that earns her handmaiden Annabelle a swift death. Awaiting almost certain torture, Violet is saved by Garnet, the Duchess’s wild son, and makes him save Ash as well. Reuniting with a very sick Raven, Violet and Ash must travel out of the Jewel to a safe haven known as the White Rose. At any moment they could be caught, executed, or forced back to the Jewel and their owners, taking knowledge of the secretly murderous plans of the Electress with them. They must survive to fight for their peers, families, the country, and their future freedom.
I did not expect to like this series as much as I did, partially because of the generic “girl in dress” cover and the unenlightened titles; however, I actually loved this series. Plot twists kept surprising me, and I was unable to predict how certain events would happen. Fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, but mainly The Selection series will love these books. One would think that for a series that deals with surrogates, medical implantation, “companions”…that sexuality would be more graphic, but actually, I thought it was very well done for the topics it handled and/or avoided.
Totally 4 out of 5 stars.