Review: The Marriage Bed by Laura Lee Guhrke

Format: E-Bookthemarriagebed
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Guilty, #3
Publisher: Avon
Hero: John Hammond
Heroine: Viola Courtland
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: June 28, 2005
Started On: April 24, 2019
Finished On: April 28, 2019

The only instance that I am glad when I am “too late to the party” is when I discover an author with a treasure trove of books worth digging through. Laura Lee Guhrke has been that for me ever since I stumbled across her title And Then He Kissed Her. Since then, I have been reading her books on and off again, and I have enjoyed each of those reads immensely. Laura Lee Guhrke is the kind of author who does away with the details that are not needed, brings just enough angst to the developing story, and delivers so beautifully on the sexual tension she builds along the way.

I came across this particular title in my continued search for similar books as that of Sherry Thomas’ novel, Ravishing the Heiress. It is a novel that has been on my re-reads shelf since I first read the book in 2012. I wanted a similar kind of story that would deliver a ton of angst, and though both the stories have a great number of differences to them, I loved each in their own way.

It is 1833, and it is common knowledge among the peers of London that Lord and Lady Hammond (John Hammond and Lady Viola Courtland) cannot stand each other. Each goes out of their way to avoid one another, an estrangement that has lasted nine years which had definitely left its mark, especially on Viola who had felt the betrayal anew every single time John had taken on a new mistress in the wake of their separation.

A sudden turn of events changes things overnight, when suddenly John wants an heir from Viola, which means a return to their marriage bed, a thought that scares and repels Viola at the same time. Viola had stumbled head over heels in love with John when she had laid eyes on him at the tender age of 17, and that love she believes has long since died a painful death, buried deep within the scarred remnants of her heart.

John is adamant that Viola return to him, even though Viola makes him work to earn his entrance back into her life, bit by painful bit. John is a man who has never understood or perhaps known love in its purest of forms. Childhood had left its mark on the boy he had been, who had grown into adulthood without understanding the very nature of love and how to reciprocate that feeling in return.

When responsibility of his title had been thrust upon him, he had not been ready to take it on, especially not with the mountain of debt that had come along with it. Marriage to Viola had been a practical decision for him, but the one thing that had not changed is how his wife still has the ability to seduce him in ways he had never forgotten.

What makes The Marriage Bed stand out is how Ms. Guhrke handles everything. Without vilifying any particular character, she does an admirable job of bringing to light the complexities of human emotions and the ties that bind us when all is said and done. Viola had been young, with a heart full of passion and love, which was not reciprocated on the part of John, especially the part on love. A man who keeps his past buried and buried well, John does a good job of hiding from the demons that haunt him, a fact that comes to light as these two come together once again.

While what John had done while married to Viola would not win him any points, he did what any man in his position would have done, especially during the time. His wife had turned him away, and he had been too proud to ask her what it is that had made her do what she did. Viola’s maturity years later and her friend Daphne’s advice played a huge role in changing her perception of John towards the end, and giving their marriage a chance once again. Their marriage had been all about passion at the beginning, with no time taken to get to know one another, to find a common ground – which as Daphne explains, is important for any long lasting relationship.

At certain points in the beginning (since I never did read the first or second book in the series before jumping into this title), I disliked Viola and her at times seemingly impetuous nature. However, I fell completely in love with her at a very significant point in the book towards the end, and I believe Ms. Guhrke made the journey towards that a very worthy one. I absolutely adored the ending. Definitely could not have asked for more after all the emotional upheavals that the story delivered, in spades.

Final Verdict: Unconventional and realistic, with characters who are extremely flawed making the story relatable on many levels. Ms. Guhrke definitely knows how to tell a story!

Favorite Quotes

“Don’t. People are watching us.”
Being John, he ignored that. “If you have forgotten all about passion, and it is my fault, then I need to rectify my mistake, don’t you think?”
“John—” She broke off, forgetting whatever she’d been about to say as he kissed her ear and his thumb began to caress the line of her jaw.
“I could think of all sorts of ways to remind you,” he went on. “If you let me.”

He made a rough sound against her mouth and broke the kiss. He leaned sideways and with a sweep of his arm cleared the desk, sending the stack of books toppling off the side and onto the floor. Then his hands cupped her buttocks and he lifted her to set her on the desk.
He reached for the sash wrapped around her waist, untying the bow with a hard, quick tug. He parted the edges and pulled her dressing robe apart. His fingertips touched her breasts through her nightgown, brushing back and forth over the hardened nipples. Pleasure rose within her, pleasure long forgotten, pleasure that made her gasp and shiver with excitement.

His body was wet, his mouth was hot, and the feel of both disintegrated any resistance left in her. Like a dam breaking, the hunger she had been holding back for years was unleashed in an instant. With a cry, she turned and wrapped her arms around his neck. She caught his mouth with hers and kissed him, a hungry, open-mouthed kiss borne of being so long without him, of being alone and hurting. She clung to him now, kissing him with all the passion she had denied to him and to herself.

He pressed his hips against her, and she felt his arousal, hot and hard against her tummy. She took him in her hand, her fingers not able to completely surround his shaft, and she stroked him, her hand exploring the shape, a shape still so familiar.
He stopped her. “I want to be inside you,” he said with sudden urgency. He grasped both her hands in his and pulled them both down onto the bed. Then he rolled her onto her back and his knee moved between her thighs, urging her legs to part.
“Open for me,” he groaned, settling his body over her, resting his weight on his forearms. “Now, Viola, now.”

He gave a hoarse cry smothered against her hair and slid his arms beneath her, crushing her against him as if he couldn’t get her close enough, thrusting as deep as he could. He shuddered violently as his own pleasure was at last unleashed, and his body went rigid as the warmth of his climax poured from him into her.
He collapsed on top of her, breathing hard against the pillow. His hand came up to stroke her cheek. “Viola,” he groaned. “Oh, God, Viola.” He sucked in deep breaths of air, pressing kisses against her hair and her ear and her temple. “Meant it,” he told her in a hoarse, fierce whisper. “Meant every damn word.”

He made a rough sound and stopped her. He caught her hands and shoved them away. Gripping her shoulders, he pulled her to her feet. He kissed her hard and his hands began tugging at her skirts, pulling them up, quick and desperate, out of control.
Tossing up yards of silk and muslin, he wadded her skirts between them, then he gripped her buttocks in his hands and lifted her. “Wrap your legs around me,” he ordered, and when she did, he impaled her against him as he pressed her back against the wall.
“Oh God, oh God,” he groaned, and thrust into her hard—once, twice. Then he came, tremors running through his body as he climaxed.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: Bitterleaf by Lisa Gregory

Format: Paperbackbitterleaf
Read with: Paperback
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Jove
Hero: Jeremy Delvin
Heroine: Meredith Whitney
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: July 01, 1983
Started On: March 15, 2019
Finished On: March 18, 2019

Bitterleaf by Lisa Gregory aka Candace Camp was first published when I was just barely one year old. Since this book has never been released in the eBook format, I purchased a used paperback copy of the novel sometime back. This book was listed in one of the recommendation threads I had been searching through way back, in my attempt to find novels where plenty of angst is to be had in a story that brings together two strong willed characters in a marriage of convenience.

When Bitterleaf begins, 21 year old Meredith Whitney, considered plain and gawky because she is taller than average and is not considered a beauty that would turn a man’s head, goes to Charleston with her stepfather Daniel Hurley. Meredith’s mother had died sometime back, leaving her with her stepfather, whom she had grown to love and respect in time. Under Daniel’s hands, Bitterleaf, the homestead where Meredith had grown up, had flourished and prospered, making Meredith a wealthy woman in her own right.

It is when Meredith, in her bid to escape the companionship of her vapid cousin Phoebe steps out into the market with her stepfather that she faces the man who would change her life in ways she would never have thought possible. Jeremy Devlin, a member of the aristocracy, whose uncle finally has enough of him and sends him on his way to the colonies as an indentured servant, finds himself purchased by none other than the man accompanied by the haughty woman whom he promises to teach a thing or two, if he ever has the chance.

Even though Jeremy finds Meredith to be plain and lacking in terms of beauty, there is something about her that draws him to the “Amazon” that she is in his mind. Jeremy prefers women who are more comely, but it is Meredith and the way she looks at him, with innocent wonder in her eyes that makes him burn.

For Meredith, laying eyes on the tall and sapphire-eyed Jeremy is the end to life as she has known it. Meredith, who had considered herself above those ruled by their want for pleasures of the flesh, finds herself wanting something that she herself does not even understand. It is perhaps owing to this and Jeremy’s frustration with Meredith that culminates in the resulting events, causing a rift that practically defines the whole story from that point onward, casting a dark shadow on every interaction that takes place between Meredith and Jeremy, especially when they are “forced” into a marriage of convenience.

I wanted to like the story, I really did. After all, this had all the ingredients that should rightfully satisfy my appetite for the less than conventional/accepted romances by readers today. To a certain point in the story, everything did work for me. But from the point where Meredith couldn’t seem to come clean about what was bothering her, how she started to continually grate on my nerves (now imagine poor Jeremy who actually had to put up with her?) was the point of no return for me when it came to my dislike for Meredith as a character.

Meredith turned out to be a tiresome, hateful in some ways, unable to look beyond her own insecurities that are of course ingrained deeply in her psych. However, for me, just like a man’s inexcusable behavior towards the heroine is not forgiven all because of what he may have faced during his childhood, I hold the heroine too to the same standard. I found Meredith wearisome especially when it came to not being able to see Jeremy’s desire for her for what it truly was – desire for the woman he wants above anything and anyone else.

Meredith never gives Jeremy the chance to explain things, which once again puts a black mark against her already laborious character. I dislike couples who detract from the enjoyment of the angst that should rightfully be present in a book such as Bitterleaf, but Meredith’s way of being unable to open her mouth without something scathing coming out of it, her self righteousness above everything else was certainly the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to Meredith and the story itself.

I felt that the story would have been better had Jeremy left and Meredith finally had to face the erroneous assumptions she had made about a man who would would have given her everything. She should have learnt the hard way that Bitterleaf alone wouldn’t give her lifelong happiness. The way one of the secondary characters left the story was also a bit of a sore point. While I understood Meredith’s jealousy, I found her inability to forgive and move on a sore point, especially when nothing had actually happened. For me whatever good that was Meredith was overshadowed in a large way by her critical nature. Her inability to look beyond and see the larger picture.

In the end, I skipped through huge chunks of the story just so I could reach the ending because I had invested a lot of time in reading Bitterleaf, not to to mention the first half of the story that was enjoyable.

Final Verdict: Bitterleaf’s name is synonymous with a character trait that defines the heroine. I expected more from the story than a woman who could not look past her own insecurities.

Favorite Quotes

“Jeremy, what are you doing? Stop this at once.”
He chuckled. “Your voice lacks conviction.”
“You startled me, that’s all.”
An eyebrow quirked in disbelief. He dropped her glove on the ground and placed his hands on either side of her face, imprisoning her head and forcing her to look at him. For a long moment, he stared into her green-brown eyes, and then his face lowered. Meredith closed her eyes and sought to pull away, but his grip held her firm. Jeremy’s lips took hers gently, moving upon them in exploration as if he had all the time in the world before him.

At first his kiss was harsh and angry, more a demand than an expression of feeling, but at the touch of her soft lips it didi not remain so for long. His lops gentled as he tasted the sweetness of her mouth. He worked at her with tongue and lips and teeth, exploring, hungry, until she responded with a whimper and her arms came up to curve around his neck. Her tongue met and matched his, easing tentatively into his mouth.
Jeremy shudderedm hurled violently into a relam beyond reason, aware of nothing but the supreme pleasyre he held in his arms. He rained wild kisses across her face and neck, mouthing the soft flesh of her throat, nibbling her sensitive earlobes. Meredith moved in his arms, unable to absorb the multitude of delights he showered upon her.

Suddenly his lips dug into her fierecely. He wrapped his arms around Meredith, pulling her down with him until they both knelt on the floor. Jeremy pressed her torso against his firm body, savoring the thrust of her breasts against his chest. “Meredith,” he breathed. Holding her, he lay back on the floor, pulling her on top of him. It seemed to Meredith a surprisingly natural place to be.
With one hand he shoved down the bodice of her dress, and his mouth trailed down her neck and chest to explore her breasts. He made asoft, wordless noise as he took her nipple into his mouth and felt it harden at the touch. The sound stirred Meredith almost as much as his caressing tongue. She felt strangely weak and melting, itching, yearning.

Jeremy drew back, panting. “God, you tempt me. But I won’t take you like this, on the floor of the study. Not the first time. We shall splendidly be married and marvelously naked in our own bed. I wanted to give you a taste of what you’re ‘buying.’ Perhaps there will be women who snicker, but you can bet there isn’t one who wouldn’t trade places with you, because you’ll wake up smiling. They’ll pretend to pity you, but in reality it’s envy they’ll feel, thinking about the nights you spend tumbling in my bed, well-serviced, while their own husbands are out wenching at the tavern or sporting with a slave girl or too tired or lazy or old to give their wives pleasure. They yearn, my love, they hunger for a young, healthy male like a mare in heat. Believe me, they’d grab at what you have. They’d pay any price to have the sleepy, well-loved look your face will wear. Maybe you bought me on the auction block, but I’ll give you more than you could ever pay.”

“Jeremy,” she sighed when his mouth released hers.
He nibbled at her earlobe, sending bright shivers all through her. “Say it again.”
“Jeremy?”
“Yes.” His breath came hard, in short gasps, his skin as burning and damp as that of a man in the throes of a swamp fever. “My name. You’ve never said it. Jeremy.”
“Jeremy,” she repeated in wonder that he should want her to say his name.
“Oh, Meredith, Meredith.” His mouth was running wild over her neck and shoulders.

“Oh, Jeremy, you won!” Meredith’s eyes sparkled.
The hand that had lifted her up fastened behind her neck and turned her to him, his mouth sinking into the softness of hers. The warmth that had mushroomed in her belly now shot through her enture body. Meredith didn’t give a thought to the other spectators. Instead, she wrapped an arm around Jeremy’s neck and pressed her lips against his. He was hot, his shirt damp beneath her hands. Her nostrils were filled with the pungent odor of horse and sweat. Boldly, instinctively, her tongue flicked out to scoop up the tiny droplets beading his upper lip. Her movement interruped their kiss, but Jeremy didn’t seem to mind. He made a startled, almost animal growl deep in his throat. His free hand slipped beneath her volumnious cloak, straining her against his body, and he kissed her with even more passion, his tongue raking her mouth.

His hands went to the sash of her wedding gown, untying the knot and letting the belt fall. Slowly, savoring the moment, he shoved back the heavy velvet robe, exposing her body clad only in the almost transparent nightgown. She heared him catch his breath and glanced up. His face was flushed, the eyelids heavy, shuttering the intense blue gaze. The dressing gown crumpled silently to the floow as he studied her. All mockery fled from his face as he looked at the swelling mounds of her breasts, nipples dark against the thin material. His eyes moved downward, taking in the smooyth line of her legs, hazily revealed beneath the cloth, all the more tantalizing for their faint concealment. Meredith watched him, braced for a jest or offensive mark, but none came. She sucked in her lower lip, Jeremy’s eyes darkened to a deep midnight blue. “Meredith.”

He began to move within her, but unlike their earlier lovemaking, he thrust again and again. Instead of satisfying her ache, it seemed to make it grow until Meredith involuntarily rolled her head from side to side. Jeremy pounded into her, and she arched up to take him in more fully. She wanted all of him. And something more. She didn’t know what, but the urge was deep and driving.
But Jeremy knew. At her whimper of frustration, he began to move faster, his hips churning, carrying her with him to a new universe of blinding pleasure. He hurled her higher and higher, until she was gasping for breath and clutching at his back, her nails digging unthinkingly into his skin.

Purchase Links: Amazon | AbeBooks

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Review: Between the Devil and Desire by Lorraine Heath

Format: E-bookbetweenthedevilanddesire
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Scoundrels of St. James, #2
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Jack Dawkins
Heroine: Olivia Stanford
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 06, 2009
Started On: December 31, 2018
Finished On: January 02, 2019

Having finished In Bed with the Devil, the first book in the Scoundrels of St. James series by Lorraine Heath, I was intrigued enough to begin the second title, Between the Devil and Desire. This is the story of none other than Jack Dodger, the infamous best friend of Lucian (Luke), who entices readers on so many levels even as a secondary character.

Jack is a man who has long accepted the fact that he would do anything to get his next coin, to ensure that he would always remain in a place where no one else could have power over him. Jack had been five years old when he had been sold by his mother, something that his young and older self “understands”, because Jack believes that hunger could drive any human to do even the most despicable of things.

Falling in with a notorious den of thieves, Jack had quickly mastered the art of thievery, learnt that practically anything could be stolen, if proper preparations are done in advance. Even though Jack believes himself to be someone who couldn’t care less about another person, meeting Luke, the role Jack plays in Luke’s fate, and how their lives become entwined, places Jack in the role of playing the responsible “adult”.

At the age of nineteen, Jack had come into a lump sum of money through an anonymous benefactor. Jack hadn’t looked twice and asked no questions. He had turned that into his fortune by building and opening his exclusive gentleman’s club. Rich, independent, and revered and disliked in equal doses by polite society, Jack couldn’t care less about ant of it, that is until he is summoned to the reading of the Duke of Lovington’s will by the late Duke’s solicitor.

Olivia Stanford, the Duchess of Lovington, is someone who has always been about duty. Which is why she had married someone 25 years older than her, because her father had arranged the marriage, and that is what respectable women do. Even though Olivia hides a deeply passionate nature inside, she is the modicum of propriety itself, leaving many to believe that Olivia is as cold and haughty as aristocrats come.

When Olivia’s late husband appoints none other than Jack as the guardian and protector of his heir until the child reaches of age or Olivia marries another, that is when true horror dawns on Olivia, leading her to take drastic steps to “save” her son from the clutches of a man who could turn the most respectable of society into the most depraved.

Jack is lured by the promise of a final item that the late Duke dangles in front of him, its value immeasurable according to the solicitor, who remains tight-lipped about what it could be. Even though from the onset, Jack knows that Olivia seethes with anger at the mere thought of sharing anything with him, and even though Jack knows he can charm Olivia if he sets his mind to it, he cannot help himself but irritate Olivia given the chance, all because he likes igniting the slow burning fires deep inside of Olivia which she hides from the rest of the world.

While the Duke’s reasons for leaving Jack as the guardian of his son remains a mystery, and Jack certainly does not like things he cannot add up together, all of that is revealed through the various events that lead up to the culmination of this story. Even though Olivia would rather die than depend on the likes of Jack, as these two are “forced” to spend time together, both of them find in each other aspects of their characters that they are drawn towards. The explosive secrets that come to light towards the end was one of the best parts of the story.

I liked the story. I truly did. Jack was after all, nothing short of fabulous, everything I desired him to be, vulnerable from past atrocities inflicted upon him at a most tender age. His uncaring attitude as most would see it, an image he cultivates with calculated effort, makes him the person every woman would like to blame her husband’s less than savory need to visit his establishment upon.

I had bit of a harder time liking Olivia. Not that she was any less as a character in the story as it unfolded. But because there was a time or two towards the latter part of the story where she was still in doubt over Jack and his intentions. Olivia was also a trifle bit tiresome at the beginning, with her deep distrust of Jack (which was also understandable to a certain level), her inability to really commit to her feelings towards Jack – which at a certain point she finally did make up her mind and did get going.

I also felt that given all the build up of sexual tension between Jack and Olivia, the culmination of it all was just a bit anti-climactic. The way I see it, there is a deep wealth of passion hidden inside of Jack’s projected attitude. Fires banked over what he considers would make him more vulnerable by exposing own needs and weaknesses. I wanted that passion to tumble free, for it to take a hold of both himself and Olivia, who herself dreams of being possessed and dominated by someone as virile and undoubtedly decadent as Jack. Aside from the scene in the garden, which was pretty explosive, the rest of the scenes of passion seemed pretty mundane in comparison.

However, I enjoyed the overall story, the villain and his role in Jack’s life, meeting Feagan who had shaped the live of the main protagonists in the series, and the way Olivia finally accepted the true worth of the man who loves her without hesitation or condition.

Final Verdict: Jack’s smoldering passion meets the reserved and unstoked fires hidden beneath all the propriety that is Olivia. Enjoyed this succulent delight in many ways.

Favorite Quotes

“I’ve warned you not to forbid me,” he growled.
Before her next heartbeat, he’d slid his hand around her neck, holding her still, as he slashed his mouth across hers. He was not gentle or polite. He was almost savage with his desire to deliver what she’d requested. She relaxed into him, offered up no objections when his tongue urged her lips to part and slid smoothly into her mouth. Heat spiraled through her, melting her bones as though they were little more than tallow. He touched her with nothing except that one hand and his mouth, yet it seemed as though he caressed her everywhere, inside and out, shallow and deep. How could a kiss be this powerful, elicit such yearnings?

Suddenly changing the angle of his mouth, he deepened the kiss, his tongue leisurely exploring, enticing her to do the same. As he drew her nearer, held her close, she was not hampered by layers of petticoats or skirts. Quite frankly, there was little more than a few pieces of fabric separating her skin from his. His body responded with a fierceness that she needed no imagination to envision. She knew exactly what he looked like, images of him in the dressing room bombarding her, igniting a fire low in her belly.
She heard a harsh plea and feared it came from her.
Breathing heavily, he tore his mouth from hers. Only then did she realize she’d fairly wound herself around him. She immediately dropped her arms, stepped back.
“You do bewitch me,” he rasped. “Fair warning, Duchess, I fear this is the last time I can settle for only a kiss.”

They walked to the library without touching. As soon as the footman closed the door in their wake, Jack had her in his arms, holding her close, as his mouth swooped down to claim hers. She wanted to laugh from the joy of his eagerness. She’d never felt desired, and with him, it was as though he was hungry, hungry for her alone.
His mouth blazed a trail along her throat. “I was going mad sitting at that table making pleasant—and utterly boring—conversation, when all I could think about was how much I wanted to taste you instead of the chicken.”

“I’m not quite sure how to do this,” she said quietly. “I’m not sure how to go about seducing you.”
“Seducing me?” He released a bark of laughter, saw the hurt flash over her features, and closed the distance separating them in four long strides. He took her soft face between his roughened hands. “Livy, you’ve been seducing me since that first night.”
He kissed her forehead. “I find your defiance exciting.”
He kissed her temple. “I find your temper thrilling.”
He kissed her cheek. “I find your love for Henry humbling.”
He pressed his lips to the tip of her nose. “I find your laughter enchanting.”
He kissed the corner of her mouth. “Your eyes mesmerize me and your kisses have the power to bring me to my knees.”

She felt his mouth brushing over her shoulders and only then did she remember that he had a pickpocket’s fingers and light touch. He’d worked her buttons free from throat to stomach and she’d not even noticed. And now the gown was sliding off her shoulders, gliding to the floor.
She had a second to consider that she should feel a need to cover herself and then she was considering nothing at all except for the wondrous sensations of his mouth playing over her breasts: tasting, licking, suckling. All the while, he murmured that she was “beautiful. So beautiful.”

She gasped as the pleasure spiked.
He lifted his head, studying her. He glided his finger over her, eliciting another cry, her legs squeezing together as though to hold him there or perhaps to urge him on.
“I want to watch you, Livy,” he whispered roughly. “I want to see what the darkness of the garden kept from me. Let go, Livy. Let go.”

Then she felt him pushing into her, inch by delicious inch, the fullness of him stretching her further, increasing the pleasure tightening low in her belly. When she thought she could take no more, he lifted her hips slightly, shifted his weight, and buried himself completely into her, bowing her back with the exquisite sensation of feeling his weight pressing against her.
“Oh, God,” she whispered.
Threading his fingers through hers, he moved her hands so they rested on either side of her head while he rode her unmercifully, mercifully. Her body sang to his tune, pleasures rippling through her, increasing in intensity as his powerful thrusts moved not only her, but the bed.

He rode her hard, the motion of the train whispering at the back of his mind, giving him a cadence that he matched. For some reason, he thought of the people in the open railway car. He covered Livy’s mouth, absorbing her scream as her body tightened, pulsed, and throbbed around him. It was all he needed. His body bucked, the pleasure intense, almost painful. It was always more with her, more than he’d ever had, ever known.
Everything with her was different. Everything was better.

“I want to hear you,” he rasped.
And hear her, she was certain he did. Writhing beneath him, she heard her cries echo low and breathless, hardly aware they were coming from her. She held him close, dancing at the edge of intense pleasure. He knew when to stroke, when to suckle, when to pause, when to thrust with his tongue. He tempted and teased. He of the nimble fingers had a more nimble mouth. It stole her strength, her resistance.
Then she was screaming out his name and before the last of the shudders had wracked her body he was buried deep within her, his gaze holding hers as he rocked his hips against hers, his powerful thrusts causing the sensations to begin building again. She skimmed her hands down his back, cupped them around his buttocks, urging him on.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: In Bed with the Devil by Lorraine Heath

Format: E-bookinbedwiththedevil
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Scoundrels of St. James, #1
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Lucian Oliver Langdon
Heroine: Catherine Mabry
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: June 24, 2008
Started On: December 29, 2018
Finished On: December 30, 2018

In Bed with the Devil by Lorraine Heath is the debut novel in her Scoundrels of St. James series. Lorraine Heath is an author who writes evocative tales of romance, that basically punches you in the gut with the depth of emotions they invoke from the reader. In Bed with the Devil seems to be a favorite amongst readers, which is why I picked this number up to read, after having read When a Duke Loves a Woman and the book having failed to deliver on all those things I expected from a Lorraine Heath.

The hero Lucian Langdon, the Earl of Claybourne (also known as the Devil Earl) is a man who believes himself to be a fraud owing to his childhood, having escaped a life of being part of a gang of ruffians in the London streets. Having no recollection of the events that preceded his life to a certain point, Luke might have grown up by all appearances to become an aristocrat, but beneath the surface, he has remained a scoundrel at heart.

Lady Catherine Mabry seeks Luke’s services for an act that would be considered nefarious by society’s standards. But Catherine is a courageous woman who has single-handedly being taking care of her bedridden father in the absence of her brother who had left and never returned. For Catherine to watch her friend live a life of abuse is something she cannot take anymore, the reason behind her seeking the services of a man who had tempted her senses since she had been an impressionable seventeen year five years past. She cannot explain what it is that had beseeched her to invite him to events since then, invitations that Luke had never acknowledged, and five years later, Catherine finds herself at the doorstep of the man himself, propriety of society be damned.

To find Catherine in his home is the last thing Luke would have expected, especially having returned home after another night of delaying the inevitable; asking Frannie Darling for her hand in marriage, something Luke believes to be his destiny given how their pasts entwine so deeply. Catherine seems to invoke in Luke a torrent of feelings that Frannie does not, but Luke is determined to stay true to his course, even if his heart might say otherwise.

Through the events that takes place in the story, a bond forges between the two, something Luke tries to allude to the fact that they spend so much time together. Catherine’s strength of character is immense throughout the story, the one defining factor in the novel that made me fall so completely in love.

I so adore a heroine who is not constantly trying to prove herself in the story, someone who is comfortable in her place, and shows bravery and courage where it matters. Catherine was that sort of heroine for me. She has no qualms about who she is, what she wants, she has no artifice when it comes to the opposite sex.

Even though Catherine knows that her reaction towards Luke has always been out of the norm, that does not stop her from seeking him when there is a need for it, and even when Catherine knows that her heart is in danger, that doesn’t stop her from giving all the love she has in her heart to Luke, all the while knowing that Luke has a different destiny in mind for himself.

Luke himself was admirable in so many aspects as well. Simply put, I loved him. There was a vulnerability beneath that cool demeanor of his, a soul that needed to belong under that facade of indifference. When the truth comes to light in the final couple of chapters in the book, this is where once again Catherine’s remarkable character shines through.

I so did love the ending, seeing Heath’s evocative and gut wrenching writing emerge.

Final Verdict: Realistic, evocative, and beautiful in prose; In Bed With the Devil was just wonderful.

Favorite Quotes

“Catherine?”  
A warm hand cradled her cheek, turned her head. She gazed into eyes so silver, so filled with concern. “Think about something else,” Claybourne ordered.  
She shook her head, trying. To her mortification, she flinched and released a tiny squeak when she felt something sharp being jabbed into her flesh.  
Claybourne leaned near and then his mouth was blanketing hers, skillfully plying her lips apart. Oh, the fool, did he not fear that she might bite down—
He tasted of the whiskey that he’d ordered her to drink, and she wondered if he’d needed some to fortify himself for what she was about to endure.

He’d covered her mouth with a blistering kiss before he’d thought it through. He could tell himself that he was bored with the dinner, bored with the conversation, but the reality was that it was driving him mad to watch her sip wine, to gaze at her slender throat and shoulders, to see her smiling at Bill when Luke wanted her to smile at him.
As he swept his tongue through her mouth, he knew it was wrong, but he wanted her, wanted her in a way he’d never desired Frannie. He wanted Catherine rough, he wanted her tenderly. He never thought of taking Frannie to his bed. He thought of marrying her, he thought of having her as his wife, but carnal images of them together never filled his mind. With Catherine, he saw a kaleidoscope of their contorted naked bodies.

A fine sheen of sweat coated his throat. Sweat belonged to laborers, not gentlemen, but she kissed his throat anyway, felt his pulse jump beneath her lips. Felt her own pulse leap when he buried his fingers in her hair and blanketed her mouth with his own.
She didn’t know what she’d expected. Something quick, painful, but still somehow exquisite. But this was more than she’d ever imagined. Beautiful in its intensity, frightening because she didn’t know how she’d live without it when it went away.

“Does it hurt?” she asked.  
“God, no.”
She slid down, enveloping him in her silky wetness. He almost spilled his seed then and there. Instead he clenched his jaw, fought for control. He ran his hands up her slender back, slid them back around to her breasts, and began to knead her soft flesh.
Dropping her head back, she moaned. Then she began to ride him as though her life depended on it.

But his body wouldn’t be held back. He bucked beneath her, his deep feral groan nearly drowning out her cry of satisfaction, her back arched, her face carved in an expression of awe and wonder. Shudders wracked his body as the pleasure coursed through her.
She went limp, falling to his chest, spent. He wasn’t sure where he found the strength to wrap his arms around her, but he wanted to hold her close too much not to find the energy. He thought he could lie there forever. If he died this moment, he’d die content.

“Why do you have to be so damned courageous?” he asked as he kissed her neck, her ear, her throat, her chin.   She wondered if he’d want her if she weren’t, but she wasn’t brave enough to ask, so perhaps she wasn’t as courageous after all.  
“Don’t talk,” she murmured as she kissed his temples.
He took her slowly, as though he realized this would be the last time, savoring each thrust, creating memories with each touch. There was nothing frenzied about their joining. Rather it was simply an appreciation that they’d escaped the fire, a celebration of survival, and perhaps in a way, a farewell.

His mouth was hot, desperate, eager. She was more than ready for him when he drove himself into her, like a man possessed, a man running from his past, a man unable to see his future. He pumped fast and furious. She met his eagerness with her own, digging her fingers into his firm buttocks, riding him as he rode her.
His powerful thrusts had the headboard knocking the wall, the pleasure rippling through her in undulating waves. There was madness here, and she didn’t care. She cared only about him losing himself in her, and her losing herself in him.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: Not the Duke’s Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt

Format: E-booknotthedukesdarling
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Greycourt, #1
Publisher: Forever
Hero: Christopher Renshaw, the Duke of Harlowe
Heroine: Freya Stewart de Moray
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: December 18, 2018
Started On: December 20, 2018
Finished On: December 26, 2018

Not the Duke’s Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt is her debut novel in the Greycourt series. Having expected great things out of this series after Hoyt was done writing Maiden Lane (one of my favorite historical romance series ever), it would be an understatement to say that I was excited to pick this number up.

Not the Duke’s Darling takes place in 1760 in London, England. The heroine, Freya Stewart de Moray is 27 years old, and working as an agent of the ancient secret society of Wise Women. She is on a mission when she crosses paths with the one man she has told herself she would never forgive, i.e. Christopher Renshaw, the Duke of Harlowe.

For Freya, even though Christopher is the man whom she had built her childhood fantasies of love around, life had taught her the bitter lesson of what happens when you build castles in the air. Christopher had been the man who had nearly gotten her brother (his best friend) Ran killed, and turned his back on the family when scandal had come raining down on them.

When Freya crosses paths with Christopher, he surprises her by helping her out, without even stopping to ask what it is she is running from. Even though this very fact is jarring for Freya who has nothing but hatred in her heart for Christopher, it does not stop her from planning to exact her revenge when the opportunity to do so lands in her lap.

Christopher is a man biding his time until his time on Earth is up and his life is taken from him. That is basically his very existence until a mysterious woman lands in his carriage, fleeing from suspicious circumstances, bringing a vitality into his life that had been missing for so long.

In the meantime, Freya is being hunted, for her part in the secret society she belongs to. Even that does not deter the woman she is, as she is determined to uncover what could potentially end up risking everyone she is associated with. Plus, the more time that she spends with Christopher, she realizes that she is as vulnerable towards him as she had been when she was a young girl mooning over her first childhood crush. No matter how hard Freya tries to tell herself that she remains unaffected, she knows deep in her heart that Christopher is slowly getting under her skin and into her heart.

While there were elements in the story that worked for me, for the most part, I found the whole story tiresome. I wanted that magic that is strongly present in every single book of Elizabeth Hoyt’s that I have immensely enjoyed. A very few of her titles have been “misses” for me, and I am sad to say that this one belongs in that particular shelf.

There was something elemental that was missing between the hero and the heroine, a connection from which I wanted so much more. I wanted the hero to make an equal impression on me as the heroine did, who was all about her revenge and nursing the grudge from a scandal that had marked her life in a big way.

Freya’s passion for her role as one of the Wise Women was something that perhaps was characterized so broadly to make her stand out, to show the strength of her character. Yes, it does paint Freya in that light, but I wanted to see a softer side to her character, the side that yields to the passion that Christopher unleashes in her.

Perhaps it is because this is the debut novel in the series, but I wished for resolutions and explanations on what had taken place when it comes to the scandal that is such an integral part of Freya’s character. Even though I know that an author would never reveal the full details of a scandal that is to be interwoven throughout a series, I wanted some answers to questions that would have been plaguing me once things started picking up in the story.

When the story began, Christopher made a good impression, made my heart flutter and all that. But all of that headed downhill when it began to feel as if there was no particular aim to his life, no drive to him, except when it came to Freya. Just like I want the heroine to have a life and passion outside of the hero, I want the hero to be driven and capable in his own element as well.

I also wanted more excitement in the suspense plot line in the story. I actually thought that the villain would turn out to be someone rather shocking, but sadly that was not the case. The plot involving the “villain” whose wife had “died” – that was pretty much anticlimactic too.

Given all that turned out to be a disappointment in the story, I am still happy to note that there were several intriguing secondary characters who seem like they would deliver stories worth my while. The one thing that made me glad about the story was the ending; the fact that Freya made the grand gesture and went after Christopher towards the end.

Recommended for fans of Elizabeth Hoyt. Here is hoping that the second installment wows me in all the ways that matter!

Final Verdict: The debut to the Greycourt series hopefully signals better stories in the making. This number paled in comparison to what I expected from Hoyt’s mastery over the genre.

Favorite Quotes

His eyes began to narrow, but she rose on tiptoe, wrapped her hand around his fingers, and jerked him toward her in a single movement.
She ground her mouth against his.
His lips tasted of betrayal and wine. Night and childhood memory.
Love and loss.
The emotion he aroused in her was so profound she almost lost herself in the embrace.
She opened her mouth, licking across his bottom lip until his own tongue came out to tangle with hers.
Then she bit him.

She lunged again, past his guard, the tip of her sword at his throat. He felt the needle prick of pain.
She stood, panting, her hair wild about her shoulders. Her red hair—not dusty brown at all. Red, fiery curls, waving in the breeze as if they had a life of their own, and he saw her as if for the first time.
“Yield,” she demanded, an avenging fury.
His world tipped upside down. “Freya?”
Her eyes widened.
He knocked her sword tip away from his throat. Caught her wrist and twisted.
She yelped and dropped her sword.
Her lips parted—most likely to curse him.
He didn’t care anymore. He yanked her into his arms and kissed her.

She was a lioness—fierce and brave.
She took hold of his shoulders and pulled him toward her. “Now. Please, now.”
He lowered his hips, his cock skidding across her thigh. He nudged between her legs, making her widen them still farther, and his penis caught at her entrance.
She looked at him, memorizing his features in this moment. Feeling wild with expectation and triumph.
He speared her.
There was a burning pain, but she made no sound, and he retreated and drove into her again.
Spreading her.
Filling her.
Marking her.

She fell. Sparking, bursting, filled to overflowing with pleasure.
With feeling.
For this man.
For Harlowe.
She opened wide her eyes and watched him fall, too.

He turned into a small passage, less well lit than the one his own rooms were in, and tapped softly at the last door.
Freya peeked through the crack in the door and then opened it wide, letting him in.
She was wearing only her chemise.
His vow to himself to guard her without touching her fled.
Her breasts were unbound, round and full, the indentation of her waist a curve to incite a man to violence.
To ruin.
He stared at her, his higher reasoning having conceded rule of his brain to his prick. He wanted to touch. To hold.
To devour.
She was a goddess.
She stood still, watching him, her eyes mysterious and knowing.

She took off the chemise and threw it aside.
Freya stood before him proudly, like a Rembrandt nude come to life. Pink and white and red orange. And her flaming hair fell about her shoulders, wild and curling and free.
Like her.
Like Freya.

She rose up on her knees. Placed her hands against his chest and rubbed harder.
His penis slipped to the side and she whimpered at the loss.
“Here, darling,” he said, his voice rough. “Just…”
She felt his hand between her legs, the backs of his fingers brushing against her wet folds, and then something thicker.
He’d placed the head of his cock at her entrance.

His fingers had gone lax as he was suddenly seated, and she looked at him with a whimper. “Please. Please touch me.”
His nostrils flared. “Like this?” His voice was both rough and so very tender as he pinched her nipples—hard.
She arched at the pleasure mixed with pain. “Again.”
He smiled dangerously and squeezed her nipples.
She leaned forward on a moan.
“Hush,” he growled.

He pushed his hand between them and tore his falls open, uncaring at the sound of ripping fabric. His cock throbbed with pent fury and he trailed his fingers down her soft belly, rejoicing when he reached her curls and found them soaked with her desire.
He lifted his hips even as she whimpered in protest and tried to pull his shoulders back down.
His cock slid against her thigh, the touch almost enough to undo him, then prodded at her opening.
So wet.
So hot.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: Dangerous by Minerva Spencer

Format: E-bookdangerous.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Outcasts, #1
Publisher: Zebra
Hero: Adam de Courtney
Heroine: Euphemia Marlington
Sensuality: 4
Date of Publication: June 26, 2018
Started On: November 18, 2018
Finished On: November 27, 2018

Dangerous by Minerva Spencer is her debut novel, the first book in The Outcasts series. I read the second book Barbarous first, right after which, I just HAD to get myself a copy of Dangerous to indulge in. And indulge I did, in one of the finest historical romances that I have read this year!

The Duke of Carlisle is desperate in his bid to get his daughter Euphemia Marlington (Mia) married off to avoid further scandal to their family. Mia’s return home had not been the joyous affair most would think would happen when one’s daughter, who was captured by corsairs, and then later taken into the harem of the Sultan for a long time, for whom she had borne a son has returned home after so many years. Now 33 years old, Mia has only one goal in mind. The sooner she is married, the sooner she can return to her son Jibril, something she keeps secret from even her father and own brother.

It is the Duke’s desperation that drives him to extend an invitation to Adam de Courtney, the Marquess of Exley, to a dinner and ball at the Duke’s residence, for the sole purpose of finding Mia a suitable husband. Adam’s two past marriages leaving him a widower had earned him the nickname The Murdering Marquess, and Adam’s reclusive nature from society is what sets the gossip mill stirring, what makes society want to avoid him in return. However, Adam’s interest in details surrounding the return of Mia is piqued enough to turn up, and to his surprise finds himself beguiled by a woman who he did not think would possess such a charm.

Against his better judgement, Adam proposes marriage, and Mia accepts, at first because she believes Adam would be the person who would unknowingly help her further her goals in getting back to her son. Adam’s condition is that she give him an heir, something he had failed at when it came to his past two marriages.

So begins the charming and sensual tale of two people who are drawn to each other in spite of themselves. Mia with her secrets that she hugs close to her, and Adam keeping the scars left behind from his first marriage that had practically ruined him for anyone else. But Mia seduces more than his body, she takes everything he has to give, and Adam finds that he cannot quite get enough of his newly wedded wife

As their relationship progresses, Mia too finds herself drawn towards the enigmatic man she married. A man who tries to put up a cold front, but shows how fiery and deep his passions run when it comes to her. If it had been just Mia alone, she would have been content to stay with Adam and forget the very reason upon which she had based her decision to take Adam as her husband. But when her past comes calling and gives her a very brutal wake up call, Mia must do everything in her power to leave the man she loves behind in order to bring her son back to safety.

I must say that I enjoyed Dangerous far more than I did Barbarous. I loved the intensity of emotions between Mia and Adam. Mia is someone who is passionate by nature, society’s worst nightmare perhaps, because she is someone who speaks her mind. Her captivity at the Sultan’s palace had also meant that she is far more experienced in the arts of sexual pleasure, something that Adam does not begrudge her for and enjoys. Mia is a refreshing character in many ways. I loved her because she is feisty, independent, and is not afraid to speak her mind. All of that and more endeared her to me in ways I cannot explain. Her love for Adam is one that runs deep, a love that is pure on many levels, because he is the first man to move her enough  to give her heart to.

To fall in love with Adam is so easy. He might show the uncaring facade, put up his daughters at his country estate and plan never to bring them into society, and after all, his past two wives ending up dead does earn him the sort of notoriety that is hard to shake off. But deep inside Adam is a man of immense passion, integrity, and honesty, a man who wants to do right by those whom he love and is responsible for. His skills with swords is one that was hot – I cannot explain why, you would just have to read the story to find out.

I loved the ending. It gave glimpses into the lives of Mia and Adam and their happiy ever after that I could have gone on reading more about. But I am hoping that Jibril is going to end up getting his own story somewhere down the line, and that readers like myself who fell in love with Adam and Mia would get to see the couple in action then as well. I would be remiss if I were not to mention how much I enjoyed Adam and Martin’s relationship that developed towards the latter part of the story. I think I read somewhere that it is going to be Martin’s story up next. Can’t wait!

Recommended, because Minerva writes with a style and wit that draws you in, and does scenes of passion so beautifully well that you cannot help but feel the heat.

Final Verdict: Captivating from start to finish, Minerva’s scrumptious debut novel demands the reader to pick up the next in the series right after! Highly recommended.

Favorite Quotes

He went only as deep as his aching head before stopping. A bead of sweat broke from his temple and trickled down his jaw as he stared down into her slitted green eyes. His control strained at its tether like a rabid dog on a leash. Once he began moving, there would be no finesse.
She smiled lazily, tilted her hips, and took him inside her.
“Ah, God.” The words burst from him like a plea for mercy.
Any vestige of control disappeared, and his best intentions with it. He used her with a savagery he knew would shame him later but he was beyond caring.

His vision went black and his body exploded. He crushed her hips in a punishing grip and held her still as he filled her and claimed her.
Mine.
He exhaled raggedly and rolled over, not wanting to crush her. Her legs tangled with his and she turned with him, a girlish giggle breaking from her when they tumbled onto their sides, still connected at the hips, their faces inches from each other.
Adam looked into her flushed, joyous face and his heart beat a deafening tattoo in his ears.

He came into her slowly and both of them made low sounds of satisfaction as he filled her. “My God, you feel good,” he whispered, his cheek pressed against hers, his breath hot on her ear. “I need to take you.”
She answered by tilting her hips to take him even deeper and then squeezing the length of him until he moaned.
“That was very naughty,” he gasped, drawing almost all the way out of her and then stroking into her hard and fast. The power of his thrust drove her up the bed and he rode her so hard she barely had the breath to cry out when the first climax overtook her.

As her flush deepened one small hand crept between her thighs and found the place that gave her so much pleasure. Adam didn’t think he’d ever been harder in his entire life as he watched her work herself while riding him.
Her other hand moved to her breast and stroked her erect nipples. Her back arched and her eyes closed and that was enough. He grabbed her hips and drove himself home.
She fixed him with an unfocused gaze as he pounded into her. “Come with me, Adam.”
Her words were the last straw and he convulsed against her with the sheer force of his orgasm, yelling out God-knows-what as he spent himself.

“You’ve reached the end of the road,” he said, backing her up against the ornately carved wood. She bent close, rather than trying to get away, flicking her tongue over one of his nipples.
“Witch,” he hissed, his eyes closing.
Her skilled tongue worked his nipples, alternating painful little nips with soothing sucking while his erection pulsed between them.
“You are so beautiful,” she murmured, her sharp teeth catching him and pulling, the pain exquisite. “Ever since the day you kissed me at my father’s house, I become wet whenever I think of making love to you.”

She laid her hands against his chest, looking up at him in a way that did disconcerting things to his stomach. “Will you bathe with me, my lord?”
He released into his gaze all the hunger and lust he had been controlling since their truncated lovemaking earlier in the day. Her face flushed and her lids lowered as he pushed against her, forcing her to take a step back, and then another as he relentlessly advanced on her, not stopping until he’d pinned her against the hard stone wall of the bathing chamber.
“Unbutton me,” he told her, his voice harsh with need. Her deft hands worked fast to free him.
He pulled up the skirt of her traveling costume, his hand moving to what he knew would be waiting for him. She wore no drawers. He shook with desire as he delved into her curls and found the part of her that transformed her into something that was his alone.

While she was still shuddering with pleasure he grasped her bottom, lifted her against the wall, and slid into her, holding very still once he was seated. He braced himself, his feet spread shoulder-width apart, gaining control of himself. She moved restlessly above him, her hips grinding, wanting more.
He pulled back to look at her. Her eyes were hooded, her mouth slack and willful.
“So greedy.” He snuggled her tighter to his body as he worked himself deeper. “You’ve hardly finished one orgasm and you already want another. You’ll not come again until you’ve earned it,” he whispered, punctuating his words with a quick thrust of his hips.

“Turn around and put your hands on the wall.”
She complied without speaking. He trapped her hands with his and pulled her arms taut, roughly shoving apart her legs before stepping between her thighs. He entered her with a thrust so violent he lifted her off her feet. She moaned and pushed back against him and the last vestiges of his sanity burned away.
“You will never leave me again,” he gritted the words into the back of her fiery head as he filled her. “Do you hear me?” He slammed into her. “You are mine,” he said from between jaws clenched so hard it hurt. She arched against him in answer.

“Unbutton me, Mia.” His voice was husky against her taut bud.
She opened his breeches and grabbed him. Colorful blasts exploded behind his eyelids and rendered him speechless as she took him into her body in one long, hard slide.
He held her hips loosely as she rode him, looking down to where their bodies were joined. She knew what he wanted and pulled all the way off him before lowering herself, allowing him the breathtaking view of his shaft disappearing into her body. He thrust with all his might and she cried out, her hands gripping his shoulders while she convulsed around him.
His orgasm left him blind and he shuddered and pulled her against his heaving chest, stilling her body while his heart pounded so hard he thought it might explode.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

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Review: Lily by Patricia Gaffney

Format: E-booklily.jpeg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Leisure Books
Hero: Devon Darkwell
Heroine: Lily Trehearne
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: April 01, 1996
Started On: October 20, 2018
Finished On: October 24, 2018

Lily by Patricia Gaffney is one of those novels that lifelong romance readers will come across, either in a list of books to avoid, or a list that is at the other extreme end. I believe that with Lily, there is no middle ground to be had. You either fall in love with the story, the heartache, the imperfections, the hero who borders on anti-hero material, and the heroine, who is a pillar of strength with courage of the kind that we would all like to possess.

Lily is the sort of book that one has to experience to get the full impact of what the story entails. It is not the kind of story you can read with your emotions detached from what is taking place. It is not light and fluffy, nor is it humorous. But there is love, an abundance of it, especially from Lily’s end towards a man who is deep in denial, a man who has undergone tremendous pain and betrayal, a man who has been bitten once, and is more than twice shy.

Lily Trehearne is caught in a fix when her last male relative upon the death of her father and becomes the executor of her father’s estate and her legal guardian for thirteen more months, winds up wounded from an act of self-defense. Believing that the death of Reverend Soames would probably see her hanged or worse, Lily flees her home, and finds herself hired as a scullery maid in the household of a viscount.

Lily’s paths cross with Devon Darkwell, Viscount Sandown, the master of Darkstone Manor, the very first night that she arrives at his household. The anguish and rawness of the pain that Devon was leaking from his very pores at that moment strikes something deep inside her. But as a mere servant in a household that is run under the iron fist of Mrs Howe, the housekeeper who hires her, Lily believes that there is futile chance of their paths crossing again.

However, life does not prove to be so “fortunate”, as Lily finds herself rescuing the master of the house, taking care of him, and lying for him when the authorities come calling. Even with Devon feeling like he is waking up from deep sleep of the nightmarish variety when Lily is close to him, Devon does not want to believe in the goodness of the human heart, not with a past that keeps mocking him for his reckless behavior and the price an innocent life had paid for it. Devon’s scars run deep, his wounds never did heal, and it is Lily that pays the ultimate price for it all.

There are many occasions upon which any sensible female would have given up on Devon. But Lily sees beyond the anger, heartache, and the unwillingness from Devon to move on. So love him she does, enough for both of them, or so she thought, until the moment arrives which makes it easy for Devon to kick her loose, all because he was afraid of confronting his own feelings that run amok when it comes to Lily.

What Devon does to Lily in the guise of revenge is pretty much unforgivable, but in the end, he does pay the price for it. Lily is no doormat heroine, though I suppose some might see her that way. But for me, the strongest of us are those who can love, and love so deeply, even when it leaves them vulnerable to a wealth of hurt and pain. That is what Lily endures, time and yet again at the hands of Devon, until truth comes calling, and Devon realizes the fatal mistakes he has made along the way. All because he could not move on from the betrayal that had marked his life so terribly.

Nothing absolves or excuses Devon’s behavior towards Lily, especially that last act of betrayal on his part which nearly costs Lily her life. But once again, it is her own strength and the help of kindred spirits along the way that keeps her going, putting one foot in front of the other, to keep moving, until she is able to live again. Lily definitely makes Devon work to earn her forgiveness. I believe as readers, we might never understand how Lily was able to forgive Devon when all was said and done, but I believe that for someone like Lily, whose heart is pure and her love for Devon the kind that blazes from deep within her soul, it was a foregone conclusion.

Like I said at the beginning of this review, Lily is the type of book where you need to live through the ups and downs of the story to become whole again. Its not easy. But then love is never easy. That is the lesson that Lily leaves readers with. I believe that I as a reader, find profound meaning in that message.

Recommended for those readers who don’t shy away from anti-heroes and the heartache and pain they can cause along the way.

Final Verdict: Lily is the kind of book that will crush your soul, break your heart, and oft times your spirit. Through it all, Lily shows the remarkable strength of true love, the kind that never falters, even in the face of the greatest of tragedies.

Favorite Quotes

“But he doesn’t mind kissing, does he?”
“What?”
He caught her up in his arms again. “Your young man won’t care if we do this,” he whispered, and kissed her hard.
Lily’s resistance crumbled at the first touch of his lips. It was as if they had never stopped, as if that interruption had been some perverse mistake they both regretted and were making up for now. She wound her arms around his neck and pressed against him, every sense engrossed and besieged by his mouth and the fervent stroking of his hands on her back. He dragged her cap off again and filled his fingers with her hair, never stopping the kiss, and she moaned her perfect willingness against his lips and into his mouth.

Lily sighed against his lips, and her breath was warm and moist on his skin, gentle as a blessing. “Dev,” she whispered, so amazed. The straining weight of his body on hers felt perfect. She pulled him closer. They kissed with fierce, greedy passion until the last second. Then they just held on to each other, stunned and humbled, while time stopped and they suffered together the tumultuous recoil of an identical explosion. Lily thought she was lost, that it would never end, and the minuscule piece of herself that was still intact knew a second of panic—no more. But the storm subsided, and time started again, and Devon kissed the tears on her cheeks with such tenderness that her heart cracked open and she loved him.

He didn’t have to tell her to fold her legs back and straddle his lap: she figured that out for herself, almost instantly. But she loved his passionate instructions. Were all men so—talkative? she wondered. His volubility gave her courage. To hide her face she kissed him, then murmured against his lips, “I love the way you feel inside me. It’s like everything is melting.”
He dragged his mouth down her throat, her chest. “Lean back,” he ordered in a guttural murmur; when she did, he took her breast into his mouth and suckled her with greed and thoroughness.
Gasping, she clutched at his shoulders. “I’ve never done this with anyone but you! Do you believe me?”
He answered, “Yes,” immediately. Could it be true? He didn’t care, didn’t care.

She pulled back, and they watched each other’s eyes again, spellbound, gauging. He slid lower on his spine until she lay on top of him, her feet just touching the floor. She braced herself with her forearms against his chest and set the new rhythm herself. Nothing had ever felt like this, this wild mix of power and surrender, control and abandon. Finally it was need, raw and burning and urgent, that overpowered her. “Devon, I can’t—I can’t—!”
Hold back, she meant, but he thought she meant the opposite. He clapped his palms to her buttocks and thrust into her again and again, grunting, breath rasping, and suddenly her whole body convulsed. She shouted out something loud and incomprehensible, and he felt her helpless, uncontrollable quivering for a long, long moment before she softened and finally sank against him. He held her tightly—too tightly, he knew, but God! he couldn’t help it—while he unleashed himself and plunged inside her over and over and over. He thought it would never end. When it did, they were both as limp as rags, and he was incapable of moving.

She shifted subtly and pulled her knees up, lodging him higher, tighter. Legs locked around his waist, she began to rock him with the same slow, canny, devastating artistry he had taught her. His face was buried in her hair, but she thought she could hear him grinding his teeth. Patient and passionate, she gave herself to him, daring him to reject the gift this time. She knew the instant his resistance began to disintegrate. He raised his head; just for an instant, behind the desire, she caught a glimpse of haggard suffering in his eyes. Her heart contracted. Cradling his dear face, she touched her lips to his in a soft, gentle kiss. He shuddered, not moving, and then suddenly his open mouth slanted over hers and he returned her kiss with all the wild tenderness she had been afraid to hope for. He only lifted his head to grit out a low, hoarse shout when his climax came. It surged through him with a rough, tumultuous violence that she accepted gladly. She held him tightly, needing to shelter him until the storm passed. Afterward, he lay limp in her arms, sprawled across her, his breath rasping. But she could not tell from the heaviness of his body whether what he felt now was satisfaction or defeat.

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