Read with: iBooks for iPad
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Warner Vision
Hero: Jared Lockett
Heroine: Lauren Holbrook
Date of Publication: July 1, 1982
Started On: November15, 2011
Finished On: November 16, 2011
First published on my birth year, Hidden Fires by Sandra Brown is a romance that stands true to the test of time. Trust on Sandra, one of my all time favorite authors to deliver a romance as sizzling as hot coals and a story that is so engrossing that I couldn’t bear to let this one go even for a minute. Even being the second time round that I was reading this, I was completely riveted on the events that took place in the novel, a woman’s hatred and vindictive and controlling behavior that drives the story together with the sensual and beautiful romance Sandra delivers.
The year is 1903 and 20 year old Lauren Holbrook travels to Texas from North Carolina on the invitation of one Ben Lockett who has all well placed intentions regarding the beautiful Lauren. Lauren having lost her mother at the age of 3 and father at the age of 12 had lived since then with Reverend Abel Prather and his wife Sybil. Naive and innocent, Lauren has no idea of the hornets nest she is stepping into when she disembarks from the train to make her way towards Coronardo, Ben’s hometown.
Jared Lockett is a man who is notorious throughout the state for his whoring and drinking. A Harvard graduate and a cowboy, Jared is a character who stirred up my senses even right from the start. A mass of contradictions is what he is; brash, harsh and coldly controlled one minute and tender and teasing the next. His parents marriage being an unhappy one is an understatement and Jared had borne the brunt of their unhappiness with one another that had shaped him up to be the person he is.
When Jared’s mother, the beautiful and vindictive Olivia Lockett schemes to arrange a marriage between Lauren and Jared both find themselves agreeing to the marriage of convenience for a period of two years. Though Jared would have loved to storm out of the discussion and turn his back on his mother’s wishes, her manipulations turn out to be more well placed than Jared could counterattack and thus finds Lauren and Jared being bound by holy matrimony and little does Jared know that Lauren is the woman who would bring him to his very knees before their marriage is through.
Lauren who is an innocent babe in the woods when it comes to carnal desires is misjudged right from the very start by Jared and thus makes her life miserable from the onset of their marriage. But for Jared, Lauren is not as easily dismissed from his mind as he would like as her innocence and beauty keeps creeping up on him at the most unexpected of moments, his personal vow to stay away from Lauren a much harder one to keep than he thought.
Lauren is drawn to Jared right from the very start, the cravings that hits her whenever Jared is around a foreign one to her but one she knows instinctively that only Jared can fulfill. Sandra keeps the sexual tension mounting until all I could do was practically squirm in my chair from wanting the explosive culmination of the desire between Jared and Lauren, something Sandra is very good at delivering on! And I wasn’t disappointed when their relationship progressed to that stage and all but welcomed the beauty of their coming together with open arms.
What I loved most about this novel was Lauren’s character. She is naive and innocent to a fault when she steps on the rugged land of Texas, but having an instinct that guides her to judge people easily saves her from a lot of hurdles. In Olivia, Jared’s mother Lauren finds a woman who is bitter to the very end, who loves people only to gain the upper hand and to further her own goals in whatever notorious scheme or plan that she cooks up. It is Olivia’s doing that separates Lauren and Jared and drives a wedge between them one right after the other, for the fear that Jared might not be as easily controllable if Lauren were to work her healing magic on him.
How Lauren grew throughout the story, her gentleness and giving nature together with that stubborn streak of hers when it comes to those she loves and considers dear to her are her best characteristics. The way she faces and weathers one storm after the other in her relationship with Jared, the man who so effortlessly steals her heart for good and all time to come is one of the reasons I admired her character. She gives as good as she gets, but knows instinctively when its time to let go in order to heal the tortured soul that is Jared’s.
Jared is the type of ruthless alpha hero that I absolutely adore and love. Sandra certainly knows her way with male lead characters and even when they are rakes of the most notorious kind, you can’t help but be drawn towards them like a moth to flame. Jared’s entrance to each and every scene in the book makes it come alive with his sheer magnetism alone and if I were to talk about the effect he had on my senses; I tell you this is going to end up a long, long review!
The one thing that stopped me from giving the 5-stars that this book so very well deserves was what happened towards the latter part of the book. I found that Jared’s “cruelty” towards Lauren to make his mission a more believable one was something that could have been done away with. But somehow it all serves its purpose, the villains get what they truly deserve and Jared and Lauren find a love so worthy of slaying dragons over that I just heaved a huge sigh of pleasure once the book was done!
Sandra’s mastery is such that not even one iota of my emotions remain aloof when reading, my whole being focused on the sensations that courses through me right from the very start. Her ability to paint a picture so vividly with words and make you feel as part of the story that unfolds is how remarkable an author she is and that is one reason why I would continue to buy her books as long as she continues to publish them.
Lauren whirled her head around so quickly that the motion hurt her neck. Jared’s hand came up and clamped the hat more firmly over his face. He adjusted his long body to another position, contracting and relaxing muscles that Lauren didn’t know existed. But then, she had never seen a masculine physique like this before. His languid movements were repelling and thrilling at the same time. It was like watching some pagan god who was beautiful even in his decadence.
Jared hadn’t planned it, had never even thought about it, but he couldn’t control taking complete possession of her mouth with a bruising kiss. He wanted to insult her, to further humiliate her, to shatter her damned poise. But her body was so female, her lips so soft, warm, virginal, that what had been hurtful and brutal became tender, seeking, questioning.
Lauren could smell the starch that kept Jared’s shirtfront crisp, which blended intoxicatingly with tobacco and champagne. When he spoke in confidential tones to the silly woman, Lauren could feel the vibration of his voice in his chest. The bank director’s wife moved away, and still Jared retained his possessive hold on her. His hand trembled slightly as his thumb moved upward and lightly stroked the side of her breast. Or did she only imagine it? Lauren thought she would die from the constriction in her chest that pounded up into her throat and sought release in a small moan.
Another guest walked toward them. Slowly, reluctantly, the strong fingers were withdrawn, leaving behind an imprint on Lauren’s skin as scorching as a brand.
Rosa wasn’t far from wrong. In her naked loveliness, she appeared to be an angel.
But Jared was mortal, and he wanted her as he had never wanted a woman before. He carefully lowered his head and kissed the pulse in her throat. Then his lips traveled with a blissful laziness over her breasts, nibbling and licking lightly so she wouldn’t ever know that he had worshiped at this temple of her body. She was forbidden to him. It was a self-imposed denial, but that made it even more binding.
Don’t be afraid of loving this man, Maria had told her. Don’t be afraid. Her slender fingers closed around the warm shaft with its velvet skin stretched smooth. Gently her fingers played over him, curious, wondering fingers, fingers made exultant by their discoveries.
Reflexively Jared arched his back. His head went back in a gesture of exquisite feeling. Then his chin lowered and he was searching her face again. His golden eyes shone bright with emotion. “Touch me, Lauren. Touch me until I die from the pleasure of it. Know all of me.” His voice was breathy and uneven.
Her fingers dug into the flesh of his hips as his own passion peaked. His face was buried in her neck and her skin felt his rapid, moist breath as he chanted her name.
He didn’t leave her. He couldn’t forsake the paradise just yet. Nestled within her body, he raised himself on his elbows and looked down at her. Tenderly he kissed each feature of her face.
“Is this possible?” she breathed, referring to the enormity of her rapture.
“Yes, yes,” he murmured against her lips.
He raised his head and his eyes searched her face once again. His expression was difficult to define, but it closely resembled love.