If you've read Leigh's first book The Truth About Faking, you should probably be warned. This book is a lot more edgy, mature and serious than the YA contemporary romance. This is for the older YA readers.
Leigh took a risk, a risk that takes you on a swooning and raging ride up and down. A risk that every author should take to enhance their writing skills before they hit it big. And this risk is Rouge.
You know you've experienced something so different when you come out of it feeling confused and all together absent-minded. That's exactly how I felt when I finished this book. I was like : Woah. Did I really just read that? And I mean this all in a good way.
I loved how different Leigh's writing was in this one. It was a lot more deep and advanced and I absolutely loved it. I enjoyed all the characters, especially Roland, who is constantly there for our protagonist, Hale, when she gets in trouble. Hale is a troubled 18-year-old who only thinks about how to make her and her "Ward's" (Teeny) life better. She always thinks about ways to escape a life on stage and a life living in a secret Brothel where no one knows when she'll be the next body they'll sell. I loved Hale's determination and strength even though she made me react negatively a couple of times. But hey! All protagonists do that to a reader when they make bad choices. Likewise, I harbored dislike towards Teeny and Beau (Hale's Poor Lover), they were both so frustrating. They were the main reasons of Hale's drama in her life and I can't help but dislike them both.
Despite all the terrible things that happened to Hale. She manages to put on a straight face and continue on living to her best ability even if she doesn't want to anymore. Of course, she had a pillar to hold onto and that pillar was Roland. Her long time best friend and first real crush. Roland was my favorite character, who was the only one with real smarts throughout the story. That guy can get you out of anything with one of his trustworthy plans. I couldn't get enough of him.
The plot as mentioned in the synopsis, had so much depth and darkness that I couldn't believe Leigh wrote it. Makes a reader really stop and think that your favorite authors will always manage to surprise you when you least expect it. My hats (all of them) are off at Leigh's brilliance! (Yes, I'm that impressed).
Overall, Rouge is an unexpected experience of the drama and troubles of a teenage female singer in the 1890's, New Orleans and how she provides for herself and the little girl she took under her wing. The story is deep, dark with enough realism to make you so glad you weren't of that time. Leigh is one step closer to being a master story-teller!