Series: Cheveux Roux #1
Published by: Self Published on November 11, 2012
Genre: Contemporary, Historical Fiction, Romance
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As the rising star of the hottest cabaret in New Orleans, Hale Ferrer has only one goal: Escape.
Escape from the lies and manipulations, from the nonstop work and constant hunger, 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 go without Teeny, the orphan-girl she rescued from the streets and promised to protect.
Freddie Lovel, Hale's wealthy Parisian suitor, is the perfect solution. He says he loves her, he knows nothing of her impoverished background, and he has the potential to sweep her and Teeny far away from their bleak existence in south Louisiana.
If only his touch could arouse her interest like Beau's, the poor stagehand who captures her heart. Beau, who makes her laugh and feel safe, who rescues her from more than one close call, and whose blue eyes are like Louisiana iris flowers.
Denying her fears, Hale is ready to choose love and a life with Beau, until a predator lurking in their theater-home launches a chain of events that could cost her everything—Teeny, their one hope of escape, and possibly even her life.
What initially turned me onto Rouge is how much it sounded like the movie Moulin Rouge. If you’re not a fan of strong similarities, then I probably wouldn’t recommend this book, just because they are so similar. But I personally really like sticking to things I enjoy. I love Moulin Rouge so I was really eager to try out this book!
Ultimately, I enjoyed Rouge. I think the one real bummer is that I wasn’t crazy about the romance, and that’s the main reason I’m not giving this book a higher rating. Just from reading the blurb, I expected the romance to be the center of the book, and I expected to fall head over heels with the emotional torture of having to choose between a passionate love, and a more convenient/”safe” lifestyle. While Hale does struggle with that, I didn’t struggle with it as a reader because I didn’t fall in love with her “supposed-to-be-passionate” relationship. So for me, there was no question as to who she should choose (and the other option—rich Freddie—was so sweet!).
The romance between Hale and Beau is extremely insta-love-y. I wonder if the time period had something to do with it. I’m not a historian, but I feel like in the 1890s people often did meet, feel attraction, and claimed they love each other. Was insta-love more common back then in real life? I don’t know. But either way, I wasn’t crazy about it in the book. Hale and Beau basically meet, feel lust, go on one date, and then proclaim their undying love for each other. There was clearly a physical attraction there, but that’s all I ever saw—physical attraction. For the most part, they only really spoke pleasantries to each other (“Hello”, “Thank you for assisting me”, “How are you?”). They maybe had one intense conversation, but at the end of the day, they barely knew each other. But they were sharing dreams, professing love, and talking about marriage and running away together. I really wished I could have loved the romance because if I had, I would have been so much more connected to this book.
My other annoyance was with Teeny. I feel like I should give her some slack because she was twelve years old, but I just could not figure her out! She was so moody, and so hot and cold. One minute she was talking about how amazing love is and pointing out all these hot guys to Hale.. and the next, she was pissed at Hale for flirting with “her” man… as if Teeny actually had a chance when she flirted with men twice her age! When I was 12, I wasn’t looking at like 20-40 year old guys and batting my eyelashes at them. Again, maybe this was a time period thing? Either way, she was just so immature and all over the place—that made it tough for me to like her and tough for me to encourage Hale to protect her.
Okay, now onto the good stuff!
I really enjoyed the scene in Rouge. Leigh really gave us a scary, creepy atmosphere. The women who are “employed” at the cabaret have to pray to god that they can sing or dance, or else they will end up working at the brothel that it turns into at night. That’s what Hale is afraid of for Teeny. It was pretty intense to always be around that fear, and always wondering who was forced to become the next whore (that sounds mean but I don’t know what other word to use). And then when Hale has a scare of her own, things get even more intense!
I think Roland was by far my favourite character. He was just so… likable! He’s Hale’s best friend, first love, and also happens to be gay. He makes it his first priority to watch out for Hale and ensure that she lives a safe life in this scary underground brothel. Roland’s character was so sweet, funny, charming, and loyal. He proved time and time again that he is an amazing best friend and will always have Hale’s back. I almost wish Roland was the love interest instead of Beau, since I never really liked Beau but I loved Rolan! And speaking of love interests…
I’m totally Team Freddie. Normally I’m all about the forbidden, secret love.. but Freddie was just so goddamn sweet. I never connected with Beau’s character and never really fell for him. But Freddie was so charming, kind of dorky, cute, and insanely thoughtful and generous. I was kind of sad because the whole time I was reading the book, I figured Hale would probably end up with Beau, since the forbidden love always wins in the end—right? So I always felt so sorry for Freddie because he really genuinely cared about Hale and wanted to be with her. He wasn’t just a stupid, stuck up rich guy. He was actually really sweet and doting. That’s why I actually LOVED the ending, since she decided to go with Freddie after all! I know it’s sad she doesn’t really love him, and this is a series so she probably won’t end up staying with him, but for now I’ll live in my zone of happy, blissful ignorance and pretend that she and Freddie live happily ever after!
If only I fell for the romance, this book would get a higher rating from me! At least 4 stars, but maybe 4.5. But since the romance played such a central role in the book and I wasn’t crazy about it, I have to stick with 3.5. But nonetheless, Rouge was an interesting read and I loved the struggles and hurdles that Hale faced.