After a reread, I bumped it up from 4 to 5 stars. The only thing I truly didn't care for was the secondary romance. The main story was so potent and multi-layered that anything else paled in comparison. And, yet another reread, this time on 6/19/12: I turn to Sherry Thomas whenever I hit a reading slump. I cringe at my innocuous review above - but can't really put into words how much this book delights me. It's so funny and sharp and sad and sexy - and there is real care taken with setting and historical details. Plus, there is a sense of true oppression in the conflict - though the villain is over the top, it fits well with the story, and explains the motives behind Elissande's desperate action. But most of all, I just adore Elissande and Vere, inside and out. They are imperfect, but perfect for each other. And what could be more romantic than that?