Read with: iBooks for iPad
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Hero: Gray Chalmers
Heroine: Stephanie Chalmers
Date of Publication: August 1, 1988
Started On: November 29, 2015
Finished On: November 29, 2015
To think that I was barely six years old when Substitute Lover was initially published, and I am enjoying this book after so many years have passed since then, attests to the talent that authors like Penny Jordan wielded in the romance genre. Though Penny Jordan is no more, I read her older books with the fondest of memories, memories of how her books used to spin and weave magic for me, which made me want to read more of the same. My reading did move onto other circles, especially given the fact that most Harlequin titles of today just seem lackluster in comparison, few giving a reader their worth in money spent.
Substitute Lover tells the story of 28 year old Stephanie Chalmers, a widow going 10 years, who has to force herself to return to the place of her “wedded life”, a marriage that had done a number on the innocent and naive girl that Stephanie had been back then. The one thing that should calm her in the midst of the storm that is blazing to life inside of her at the mere thought of going back should be Gray Chalmers, the man who had stood by her all these years, pushed and prodded her to move on with her life, offering her the shoulder of friendship when she had needed it the most. What she doesn’t count on this time around is for her feelings towards Gray to turn towards murkier waters, surprising her by the ferocity of what strikes her, when she has an aversion to being touched by the opposite sex after the number her brief marriage had done on her.
Gray was done being patient, standing on the sidelines and watching Stephanie remove herself from even the possibility of a shared life with another. Thus brings about the charade about Gray needing Stephanie to ward off the unwanted attentions of another woman, a task to which Stephanie takes to all too well, leaving her floundering in the wake of the emotions that being up close and personal with Gray brings about.
Substitute Lover is a novel that was full of the angst of the kind that I love and revel in. I treasure old Harlequin titles for this reason. Even though miscommunication and sheer stubbornness on the hero or heroin’s part to see the truth is not what I am talking about, there is a certain kind of lure to the kind of angst some of these books deliver and Substitute Lover managed to deliver just the right touch of it. The agony that Gray himself goes through to keep his end of the bargain, the scars and horrors of the past that Stephanie has to deal with to move on were the reasons the pages kept turning into the wee hours of the night.
Stephanie’s short lived marriage is the kind of stuff nightmares are made of. To think that she had suffered through it all alone, blaming herself for failing to be the woman her husband had required her to be was one that struck an emotional chord deep within me. Gray’s pain and the secret he has held on for so long made the story that much more delicious and I loved every single moment of this wonderful story. Reading and revisiting books by an author who made me fall in love with a genre I continue to read 15 years on is my way of giving tribute to someone who has illuminated the world of so many romance readers with the wonderful hues of bright and colorful lights of lust, angst & ever lasting love.
Final Verdict: Penny Jordan definitely knows how to deliver on the angst. Recommended!
A thrill of some dangerous and alien emotion raced through her. Without being aware of the provocation of what she was doing she touched her tongue-tip tentatively to the dry outline of her lips.
Someone shuddered. Herself, or Gray ? She looked up at him, and trembled beneath the expression in his eyes.
‘Do that again and I won’t be responsible for what happens next,’ he warned her in a curiously rusty, hoarse voice, that trapped her attention, focusing it on the shape of his mouth.
‘I want to see what you’re feeling when I kiss you.’
Gray. No . . . don’t…’ She struggled to free herself, squirming against the almost painful hardness of his body, until she realised the effect her frantic movements were having on him.
He watched the hot colour scorch her skin with cynical detachment, demanding acidly, ‘You’re not that naive, surely, Stephanie. Rub yourself against any normal man like that and you’d get exactly the same response.’
When her embarrassed colour deepened he smiled sardonically and bent his head to her ear and mouthed softly, ‘I’m a man, Stephanie, and not a machine, and what you’re doing to my body right now is driving me right out of my mind.’
Quite when her lips parted to the subtle persuasion of his tongue she didn’t know.
It seemed as though one moment he was kissing her as though he was comforting a hurt child and the next the touch of his mouth had aroused such a storm of passion within her that she was clinging helplessly to him, responding to every passionate movement of his mouth against her own with a responsiveness that her conscious mind could only observe with awe and disbelief.
His robe had come open and her breasts were pressed against his chest, only the thin cotton of her nightdress between them.
His hands moulded her body, caressing her back, his touch making her spine arch, making her …