Time for some Help a Bitch Out fun, where we have plot details and all manner of WTFery, but no title or author. Maybe you can help?
Amy is looking for a book she read on vacation several years ago:
Huge fan of the site; I come here for the reviews and interviews, stay for the (very plentiful) laughs and thoughtful discussion, and somehow always leave a few bucks poorer from the book recommendations (really Amazon, your one-click buy mechanism is deviously effective indeed!)
I've been trying to find a book that I read part of on vacation about 7 years ago (it was a house-rental deal-io where there was a library that I perused to escape post-dinner clean-up). I only read the first chapter or so before we left and was never able to finish, which of course guaranteed a very persistent feeling that I MUST read this book. Predictably, I don't remember the author, cover, title, or any other useful info, and googling key themes/tropes has been zero help.
So I thought I'd shake the BitcheryPhoneTree and see if anybody remembers a book with these details:
It's a Regency romance set in London (that really narrows the field, I know) and I'm pretty sure it opens on a scene between the female protagonist and her family. She's saying goodbye to them because she's embarking on a career of prostitution to save her family from financial and social ruin. I think her family is minor gentry or something and their dire straits have been kept hush-hush as they just won't survive if it comes out; as the oldest daughter, she's gonna fall on her sword (or someone else's “sword”…too crass? Just a little) so her beloved younger sister will be able to marry well and have the Regency equivalent of the picket fence.
As she's leaving (forever, because they're “disowning” her publicly and/or faking her death, can't remember), her dad makes a memorably unhelpful comment about how “gee, it won't be too bad. If you play your cards right, you could actually maybe lead an comfortable, independent life…maybe you might be able to retire early?” and she's all like “hmm, pretty sure we both know you're lying to yourself about that but let's smile for the fam” in her head.
Cut to the male protagonist who's an honorable, upstanding gentleman of the Ton, who's on the trail of…someone or something (or maybe he's a spy?). I have a vague impression of a stalwart hound on the trail, which puts him in an exclusive brothel right at the moment that they're auctioning off the female protagonist's virginity (of course it does: Romance novels have taught me that investigative/spy work is just one big meet cute oppo after another).
He doesn't want to get into it because he's Busy Hunting and Doesn't Have Time but something about her speaks to him and he ends up bidding. And presumably winning, but I dunno because that's about the point I can't remember/had to stop. If this sounds familiar to anybody, PLEASE let me know! I know it's not a whole lot to go on, but would love to be put out of my misery and finish the dang book. Thanks a bunch and happy new year!
I can think of several different books that have pieces of this plot, including Seven Nights to Forever by Evangeline Collins, but that's not it. Do you recognize this story?