Romance Review | Harlot by Victoria Dahl

After two years of work in the gold fields of California, Caleb Hightower has come home to marry his childhood sweetheart, Jessica Willoughby. But when he returns, Caleb learns his refined bride-to-be is now a whore. Enraged by her betrayal, he can’t reconcile this shameless woman with the sweet innocent he once deeply loved--but Caleb knows what to do with a harlot. He’s determined to get everything from her that she’s sold to other men. And he’s prepared to pay for the pleasure of his revenge. 

Left penniless after her father’s death, Jess made a deal with a devil. Now she must face her childhood sweetheart, whose scorn is no match for her regret. To make amends, she’ll let Caleb quench his rage with her body. Their bargain strips them down to searing passion and naked vulnerability, and Jess can still glimpse her loving Caleb buried deep inside this rough cowboy. In the end, an unbearable truth emerges that could push them toward forgiveness…or could destroy their fragile bond forever.

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Publishing Date: October 26, 2015
Stars: 3.5 
My Review: I found this novel, like the last few I've read, to be a bit rushed. Maybe it's just me but that's what it felt like. I did, however, love the premise of this novel. After reading it I loved the undertone of empowering females especially placing it in a time when women really didn't have much power regardless of race, social class, and so forth. I give Harlot a deeply rooted 3.5 stars. 

Caleb and Jess had young love but that wasn't enough for Jess to hold onto the belief that he would be back for her. Jess did what she had to do in order to survive with the death of her father, the debts he left behind, and having nothing and no one to rely on but herself. She sold off her virginity and was thus branded a harlot by the same people she knew all her life. 

Caleb comes back into town and finds he was deceived by his step-father, Jess hadn't moved on with another man but was selling herself instead. Caleb is angry and tells Jess he'll pay for what she's given to others. His anger gives way to flood his system with how much he cares for her. He begins to get the answers he needed and the truth of the situation falls into place. 

The two lovers tangle together and Caleb does whatever he can to have her with him. He wants to marry her but he'll take whatever she's willing to give him because he loves her. There's a moment where Jess tells him she had sex involving money because she needed the money to survive while men have sex with whoever they want and aren't viewed as less than anyone. In that moment the reality of being a woman left with nothing seeps into Caleb and he's a genuinely good man because he is able to see it from a different perspective. In a time when women were more property and baby makers than anything, Caleb is able to realize how unfair society is and how he wrongly treated Jess after learning she was no longer a virgin and sold her body in order to survive.