The Lone City #1. Author: Amy Ewing.
The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.
Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.
Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for. (Published summary).
You know, I thought the dystopia dichotomy was doing quite well, if a little trite, until the completely unnecessary romance came in.
Sexual content: Some kissing. “There is no more powerful weapon of persuasion than a woman’s body.” Girl wakes up naked on a doctor’s examining table. Character mentions that male confidents of the royal women are castrated. Unmarried boy and girl engage in sexual intercourse once – a short scene but fairly explicit.
Violence: Character remembers seeing girl executed – decapitated. Character forces a girl to perform painful magic. One character poisons another, who dies. Slave-girl is impregnated (or they try to) by doctor while unconscious. Character pistol-whips boy’s face.