Ok, I admit I picked up Discretion partly because of the cover model with the wavy hair and smouldering eyes. I also wanted an escapist read with lots of luxury, decadence and fantasy.
While there was certainly a lot of wealth and fantastical elements in this story, I found myself disappointed overall.
The thing I did love was all the soap opera-ish drama around Olivier and his wealthy family. The Dumont family is split into two factions: on one side is Olivier, his sister Seraphina and their father. They respect the family legacy of elegance and taste, and want to maintain the quality and integrity of the Dumont brand. On the other side is Olivier’s villainous uncle and his equally cruel cousin Pascal. (Pascal does get a shot of humanity later on, with a sad childhood story involving a guinea pig, but the uncle is clearly beyond redemption.) Their main claim to villainy is wanting to commercialize the Dumont brand, such as adding online shopping options and finding cheaper workarounds to stuff. The uncle also blackmails Olivier about a decade ago, after Olivier does Something Bad.
The family drama is deliciously campy and over-the-top, and honestly, I found it the most entertaining part of the book. The one gripe I have about this plot thread is that when the story begins, Olivier basically agrees to hand over his share of the Dumont company to his uncle in return for the uncle keeping his Big Secret. Given that kind of build-up, I’d expect the Big Secret to be something truly horrendous, or — given that as the romantic hero, Olivier can’t be too irredeemable — at least truly embarrassing. The thing is, the Big Secret doesn’t seem like that big a deal to me. Certainly not worth handing a family business worth millions over without a fight. Olivier is also 20 when he makes this agreement, which, while young, should at least be old enough to know his uncle doesn’t really have that much of a hold over him. The author later tries to explain this further by painting the uncle as some kind of mob boss, and Olivier’s capitulation as a genuine fear for his safety rather than just concern over his family’s reputation, but if that was the case, it should have been more obvious from the beginning.
The romance, sadly, fell short for me. Olivier’s relationship with Sadie felt more like super-lust than even insta-love, and for all that the author told us Sadie and Olivier were in love, I couldn’t really understand why. Both characters also make major life-altering decisions for their relationship, which is fine, but when their connection feels mostly physical, their decisions are a bit hard to believe.
Partly, it may be because I never really warmed to Sadie. She seems super naive and — for all her whining about how poor she is — also super privileged. While reading this book, I realized that I’m tired of the trope of ‘poor American student’ who somehow can afford to travel around Europe and leave behind her real life for a full month with no consequence. It’s a fairly common romance trope, so this is not the author or the book’s fault in this case, but more a personal preference. It’s a major privilege to be able to backpack around Europe and also not have to go home for a job / apartment / family responsibilities as Sadie did in this book, so her whole “I’m so poor and broke” thing just annoyed me. I realized I prefer older heroines who actually have responsibilities that they need to consider / sacrifice in order to enjoy being swept away by the wealthy hero.
The other part is that while I enjoyed reading about Olivier dealing with his family drama, I never really warmed up to him as a romantic hero either. His idea of a term of endearment is calling Sadie “my rabbit”, and while there’s a cute childhood story attached to that, I couldn’t quite bring myself to find it romantic. The other thing is that while Sadie fails to acknowledge her privilege, Olivier can sometimes be an outright jerk about his. There’s a scene where Olivier wants to show Sadie that money isn’t an issue at all, and so he just breaks an expensive plate in the hotel room. It was a throwaway scene, but such a turnoff.
Still, the family drama and all the thrillerish elements are over-the-top escapist fun, and I enjoyed meeting the Dumonts.
Thank you to Thomas Allen Ltd for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.