[Review] Rouge by Leigh Moore: NA Historical Romance Hits and Misses

Brooke Banks | 12:09 PM | | | | | | | |
Rouge follows mixed-race orphan Hale Ferrer as she performs in a New Orleans cabaret circa 1890. At 17, she’s been taking care of Teeny, another waif young woman who's approaching puberty. Soon Teeny’s talentless state will leave only one-way to make ends meet: backroom prostitution. Hale’s inching towards completing her plan of marrying rich for their survival until a stagehand begins making moves of his own.

From inception, Rouge drew me in with its shadowy, sparkling setting brought to life by Hale’s brave yet vulnerable voice. Its denouement surges forward, leaving my heartbeat racing and ready for more. It’s the middle--where stale, fair-weather love reigns--that drags ass across carpet seeking relief from blockage.

My first impression was similarities with Moulin Rouge. It’s not just its musical backdrop, but certain details like descending via swing and their secret affair songs. However, this isn’t necessarily a blow. Both works superbly showcase women surviving with little opportunity or hope yearning towards freedom. 

It’s resemblance is sensible without pushing into wannabe status. For one, Moore’s protagonist is the opposite of Satine. Satine’s been around the block and dreams of becoming a real actress while just coming of age Hale wants, above all else, to protect her at risk ward.



Series: Cheveux Roux #1
Genre: Historical, Romance
Age: NA
Format: Ebook, 302 pgs.
Source: Won from Bookhounds
Rating: 3 Stars
Recommendable? Yes
CW: Rape. Graphic attack scene, forced prostitution, underlying and pervasive threats against women,  POC, and LGBT.

QUARTERFINALIST, 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards

Romance, velvet, sequins, and murder...

Hale Ferrer is the rising star of the hottest cabaret in New Orleans. And her one goal is escape. Escape from the lies, from the crime, and from her growing fear that one day she'll have to earn her living in the secret back rooms, where the dancers do more than dance.

But she won't leave behind Teeny, the orphan-girl she promised to protect.

Freddie Lovel is rich, handsome, and in love with Hale, and he's ready to sweep her away with him to Paris. But her heart is captured by Beau, the poor stagehand with eyes as blue as Louisiana iris flowers.

Denying her fears, Hale is ready to choose love and a life with Beau, until a predator hidden in the wings launches a chain of events that could cost her everything--Teeny, their one hope of escape, and possibly even her life.

Content Warning: Rape & Bigotry. 

Graphic attack scene, forced prostitution, underlying and pervasive threats against women,  POC, and LGBT.


The Good The Bad & The Other
Liked Hale, Teeny, and Roland High-school-y insta-love
Loved finding out about Hale’s parent’s past Her wavering over decisions was irritating
Their guardian/ward bond was compelling Middle section drags
Reminiscent of Moulin Rouge Predictable: didn’t see its outcome happening any other way
The beginning and ending were captivating After reading, feel a bit mislead by the blurb

Trigger Warning IconNew Adult IconHistorical IconRomance IconInsta-Love IconSexy Icon



Plotting Through Longueurs


Plot-wise, discovering her parent’s past was my favorite part; I wish there were more than mere scattered pieces. It's obvious who the antagonist is early so I missed this “mysterious” predator promised.

Further, their struggle over Teeny doesn’t take center stage until midway.
Before that, it’s a young woman playing Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe to pick a partner. Even afterwards, Hale waffles depending on how the wind blows. Eventually, circumstances conspire to force her hand. Throughout, I worried about quality of life rather than death-dealing injury, rendering its blurb zero for two.

Dragging out romantic indecision left me waiting for something to happen while reading most of Rouge. Realistically, there’s little choice for Hale and series direction, so plot felt stalled. When events finally unfold, it’s enjoyable yet predictable. I missed that shocking tension built resulting from unexpected revelations. Perhaps I’m too cynical though.

The Charismatic Characters


Surprisingly, my favorite character was someone who worked within the system rather than subverting it and encouraged Hale to stop safeguarding Teeny at her own detriment, in spite of disagreeing. Enter Roland: gay black man that writes the cabaret’s songs. His loyalty and practicality won me over. Hale’s noble instincts needed a sensible soundboard. His straightforwardness gave Hale an opening to do right even when her friends didn’t agree. He maybe a voice of reason but not one of conscience.

As realistic as it was, Hale’s “omg you’ll burn in hell for being that way” worrying made me sigh. Thankfully, she doesn’t come up often or hound him. But it's clear she's not the best friend, and it's not just her homophobic beliefs either.

 She’s a compelling character, besides that and the Weeble wobble dance between beaus. Otherwise, she’d probably be my favorite. I liked Teeny in all her troublesome little sister-ness.

Hale and Teeny’s relationship is fundamental; this story wouldn’t exist without it. Hale maybe an orphan but she’s fairly fortunate, considering everything. Teeny represents what could’ve been though. While unable to enact change, at least one small girl can be saved from the horror stories Hale’s heard.

It’s admirable, intense, and charming. Of course, that doesn’t mean every motherly decision was agreeable. At first, it’s annoying how sheltered she kept Teeny because staying naïve is risky. Later, this revelation dawns and so begins worrying whether to educate or not. Thinking, “what if I’m causing my child harm or doing it wrong?” cemented her parenthood status for me.

Romantic Disinterest


Under such heavy responsibilities, it was hard cutting Hale slack although she’s young and clueless. I’ve been a single working teenage mom, seeing her gravitation towards an unfixed fling while spurring a secure relationship was irritating. Her snipe hunt made me feel vicariously embarrassed. At no time did I believe Beau’s prince charming act would come to fruition.
"Next time, don't let your guard down
because of a pair of big goo-goo eyes!"

Oh, look at his pretty eyes and cute smile! Add in sneaking around for make-out sessions and a jealous little sister, it’s no wonder the whole debacle felt high school-y. Beau gave the Charlie Brown football gag try, Hale got tingly as if he cuts off her circulation, and then they tangoed. The occasional tender moment with roses or the morning after wasn’t getting my motor running.



Bottomline:


3 stars for being an intriguing read with a likable heroine but instant noodle sweethearts and predictability left me wanting more.

Recommended for:
New Adult or Historical Romance readers, especially fans of Moulin Rouge’s sort. It’s a perfect chance to cheer on underdogs creeping towards their happily ever after by crossing a minefield. Be wary if high school-y love tropes aren’t your bag. Comes with a trigger warning for rape and bigotry.

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