Price of Privilege

Price of PrivilegePrice of Privilege by Jessica Dotta
Series: Price of Privilege #3
Genres: Historical Romance
Published by Tyndale on January 1, 2015
Pages: 464

 

Sometimes books can easily be classified—love, like, dislike, hate. Sometimes genres are easy to choose—romance, historical, mystery…but sometimes books do not fall into any category or label. And those books are the ones that readers continually go back to; those are the ones that haunt us in the night or make us question what book to choose when we visit Barnes and Noble or our favorite second-hand bookstore. Jessica Dotta’s Price of Privilege is one of those books because the myriad of emotions and plotlines that comprise the author’s final novel in the series prevents any clean-cut answer to classification. Three days after finishing Price of Privilege I still do not know what to make of the story. While having an answer to where this novel fits would be helpful to placing it on my bookshelf, the fact that I still do not know whether I liked the book testifies to Dotta’s ability to keep her readers thinking about her stories.

Price of Privilege causes a myriad of emotions.

Price of Privilege continues Julia Elliston’s story of life, love, family, and friendships. After a dubious murder traps her in a marriage in the first book of the series and finding her birthright in the second book, Dotta completes her Price of Privilege series by giving Julia the chance to outwit Chance Macy in the final novel. But instead of easily severing ties with Macy and finding happiness with Edward Auburn, Julia finds herself trapped in marriage conflict that pits Victorian England’s society against her in a scandal that threatens to rip apart all she knows. Dotta masterfully finds ways to continue Julia’s agony as with every turn of the page—just when readers will think nothing more can possibly go wrong—another death, mistrial, manipulation, or arrest threatens to bring Julia down. Dotta sprinkles romance throughout her Price of Privilege series, but be warned that Price of Privilege the novel is much more than another nineteenth-century love story. This novel is a story of redemption that offers romance within mystery, death, and darkened circumstances. There is very little happy-ever-after in Price of Privilege; Dotta’s novel instead focuses on how Julia, the first-person narrator protagonist, can find her happy-ever-after through her faith when God tests her in challenging circumstances.

There is very little happy-ever-after in Price of Privilege

As the third book in Dotta’s debut series, it is not recommended to read Price of Privilege without reading the first two books in the series beforehand. Dotta’s final novel of the series is challenging to read when the reader has the background from the other two books. The author’s writing is gorgeous, lyrical, and prolific; however, this flowery—and sometimes vague and wordy—language, can make even the most well-versed readers of British literature struggle with the story. In addition, while this style of writing is unique, different, and beautiful, the prolificacy of it distances readers from the characters. Tried as I might, I could connect in any way with Julia, Edward, Jameson, or Issac. I found all of them immature or strange, and even though Dotta made great efforts to bring readers into the story, I still was unable to empathize with any of them.

I don’t like or dislike this book.

Nevertheless, I find myself in a situation unlike any other I have encountered upon finishing a book. I don’t like or dislike Dotta’s third novel—there are aspects I like and dislike, so I cannot say indefinitely which category my opinion on the book falls into– and upon continued contemplation of Price of Privilege I still would read another of Dotta’s books. She is a superbly talented writer, and I do look forward to seeing what other series, storylines, and characters she creates. I have no doubt after reading the Price of Privilege series that this author is one who readers will come to upon personal opinions—not so much because of the author’s talents, because she is a terrific writer—so, regardless of whether or not one likes British literature, Dotta’s books are ones every reader should try at least one time.

–Marisa Deshaies


Having managed to escape the clutches of Chance Macy and wed her childhood love, Edward Auburn, Julia hopes that she may finally have the simple country life that she always longed for. But her wedded bliss is cut short when her husband’s family and congregation shun him for his alliance with Julia, whose reputation and association with Macy has now spread far and wide. Soon Julia and Edward are forced back to London to seek the assistance of Julia’s father. In spite of their desire to keep out of the public eye, news of the Emerald Heiress’s marriage is quickly leaked to the papers—bringing Julia back into Macy’s sights. It won’t be long before the public discovers that Lord Pierson’s long-lost daughter is also the runaway bride of Chance Macy. Will Julia be able to convince the courts that she was merely a pawn in a much larger game? Or will her marriage to Edward be cut drastically short as she is thrust back into Macy’s arms?

When I picked up the first novel in Jessica Dotta’s Price of Privilege series, I had no idea that I was going to be sucked into such a dark and dramatic story. I will admit, I picked up Born of Persuasion because I was intrigued by the comparison of Dotta’s writing to that of Austen and the Bronte sisters. These claims are made so often, and on very few occasions have I actually come across a novel that really can lay claim to these assertions. The Price of Privilege series is one of the few exceptions. What starts out as an intriguing story about a girl with an unhappy childhood, who enjoyed holidays with her friends in the countryside, rapidly takes a much darker, sinister turn, with characters that readers will struggle to peg as truly good or evil. The claustrophobia of Julia’s life, as well as the seemingly doomed relationship between her and Edward, were definitely evocative of the Brontes, and reminded me of Wuthering Heights in particular. As for the Austen claims? The humour and social commentary injected by the character of Jameson in this book definitely took the edge of the darkness, and who can forget Mrs Windham’s theatrics?

I’ve said this in reviews for the other books, but it needs repeating—these novels truly encapsulate just how difficult it was to be a woman in this time period.

After her mother dies, Julia has to rely on the men around her to protect her—a task particularly perilous, given that she doesn’t know if she can trust her guardian and biological father. Believing that she can no longer rely on her childhood friend, Edward, she even goes as far as engaging the help of a matchmaker, hoping that marriage will provide the security that she seeks. There were times when I felt frustrated at Julia, because she couldn’t fix the messes she found herself in, and I had to force myself to remember that there was literally nothing she could do. Even a woman of fortune such as Julia was still at the mercy of her father, husband or brothers. The court case that takes place in this novel has as much to do with deciding who Julia belongs to (Macy, Pierson or Edward) as it does charging anyone with a crime.

I have to admit that Edward isn’t my favourite romantic hero. Julia spends two books longing to be with him, but since we don’t get to spend a lot of time with him, Isaac (Lord Pierson’s protégé) ended up capturing my heart instead. That said, you don’t have to be particularly enamoured with Edward to care about the fate of his and Julia’s relationship. I appreciated that Jessica Dotta was able to make the reader care about characters other than the protagonist. Isaac, Jameson, Evelyn, the Dalrys and even Nancy all have their flaws and endearing qualities. Julia and Edward are perhaps the most flawed characters of all. In spite of my continual frustrations with Julia (her rashness and temper particularly aggravated me at times), I can’t deny that she was fantastically realistic. Maybe even I would have thrown plates around if I felt as helpless as she was.

The last quarter of this book really amped up the drama and the emotional impact of the story.

I was reading this book while I waited for my five-month-old son to fall asleep, and I will admit that I sat with him asleep on my lap for a full half hour because I could not put this book down once I entered the final quarter! I don’t want to spoil anything, but Jessica Dotta definitely took a wrench to my poor heart. Julia’s situation is truly helpless, and various characters are forced into situations that they wouldn’t otherwise find themselves in, testing and proving the true strength of their love for our heroine. Julia is also tested, and forced to find solace in God when she realises this situation is completely and utterly out of her control—and that had she taken different steps in the past, she could have avoided this mess entirely. My heart truly hurt for her. You may require tissues for the ending of this book.

Looking at the covers for this series, you might be mistaken in thinking that these are light, sweet romances. Don’t get me wrong—there are some humorous moments, some sweet ones, and definitely some romance. But not every character will get a happy ending, and some will be broken in ways that will be incredibly hard to fix.

Difficult issues are dealt with within the pages of Price of Privilege, and while important lessons are learned, I wouldn’t want to be in Julia’s shoes for all the pretty dresses in London.

I’m grateful that times have changed, and that I will never feel as hopeless as Julia Elliston, even if her story is fascinatingly addictive.

–Rachel Brand

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