Review: The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne

Format: E-Bookthehighlander.PNG
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Victorian Rebels, #3
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Hero: Lt. Col. William Grant Ruaridh Mackenzie
Heroine: Philomena St. Vincent
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: August 02, 2016
Started On: August 17, 2019
Finished On: August 20, 2019

The Highlander, the 3rd book in the Victorian Rebels series turned out to be my first sampling of Kerrigan Byrne’s stories. Discovering a new author that speaks to you on so many levels is rare and so very treasured, and I intend to go through the back-list of her books in its entirety to sample each and every one of her published works over time.

The hero, 40 year old William Grant Ruaridh Mackenzie (Liam), comes from a place of violence. The fact that his childhood had been a difficult one would be an understatement. With an abusive father who had cared naught for the physical and emotional well-being of his children, legal and otherwise, Liam had been the big brother who had taken most of the physical brunt to protect his younger siblings. But that had not been enough to prevent them from witnessing the horrors of a childhood better left in the darker fringes of one’s memories.

The main story begins 20 years later, with the opening chapter focusing on the heroine, Lady Philomena St. Vincent (Mena), Viscountess Benchley, who has been institutionalized by none other than her husband and his family. Mena who grew up with a father who thought the world of his daughter and brought her up to be an intellectual, kind and generous soul, the horrors of her marriage that are revealed in stages to the reader is something that is as old as time itself.

The mental asylum, which was a norm in the past for husbands to commit their wives to just to get rid of them, is the mother load of horrors. Tortured in ways that really leaves a mark on the reader, some may find those particular scenes to be too disturbing for them to continue with the story. However, that particular aspect of the book does not set the tone for the rest of the book as the author brings to readers the stunning and vivid portrayal of a love that was so worth delving into.

When Mena is rescued and her well meaning and newfound friends sends her away to Scotland to evade the clutches of her husband, it is to the keep of Liam she is sent, where the very first moment she lays eyes on the strong, deeply masculine, and beautiful man that he is, something long forgotten stirs to life inside of her. Liam too is shaken by the very physical and visceral reaction he has towards Mena from the onset, but even though both of them might think to avoid each other hoping that the yearning for the other is a fluke on their part, things of course do not work out that way.

Liam’s haunted eyes that bespeaks of horrors and regrets of his life draws Mena to him like a moth to flame. Mena’s gentle strength and wit that had remained unbroken by the violence she had experienced in her adult life speaks to Liam on a level that he cannot comprehend. However, old enemies stirring in the darkness, tempting and beseeching to turn on Liam might prove to be the undoing of what blossoms to life between him and Mena, if her husband’s search for her does not bear fruit first.

I enjoyed my very first novel by the Kerrigan Byrne. Mena was glorious. Beautiful, kind, and soft, with just the right touch of authority to her which made her appealing on so many levels. I rooted for her with every fiber of my being, wanted the best for her because she deserved nothing less.

Liam’s soul is a broken one, even though he does not let it on. Betrayed and widowed, there is a wealth of unspoken pain in his heart. His inability to get through to his own children is a source of continued frustration for him, that is until Mena comes into his life and shows him what that entails. Drawn to each other by the kind of tangible connection that leaves the reader breathless, Byrne does a marvelous job of crafting both characters and bringing them to life.

The sexual tension that is interwoven into the very fabric of the story was just as enticing, and Byrne definitely delivers without leaving the reader hanging. Absolutely loved this gem of a novel and would recommend it for readers who love historical romances with characters that speaks to you. These are two very broken characters who meet and find their way to a happily ever after. Don’t let the barbarity depicted in the first couple of chapters deter you from reading. I believe we have to take the bad with the good to achieve a balanced nuance in order to deliver a story worth sinking into.

The epilogue was super cute and healing in so many ways. Perhaps, Byrne may write a novella depicting two secondary characters who definitely deserve their story to be told somewhere down the line. A reader could always hope!

Final Verdict: There is a rawness to Byrne’s story that speaks to me. A ruthlessness to her heroes that does things to this wanton heart of mine. The Highlander is marvelous in every sense.

Favorite Quotes

Then she saw him.
Her mouth became dry as the desert, and a tremor that had nothing to do with the cold rippled through her.
Though he wore a soiled kilt and loose linen shirt beneath his drenched cloak, he sat astride a black Shire steed with the bearing of a king. Dark waves of hair hung long and heavy with moisture down his back, and menace rolled off the mountains of his shoulders in palpable waves.
Whoever he was, he was their undeniable leader. She saw it in the way they looked to him, in the deference they used when speaking. If not by birth, then by physical laws of nature, surely. As the largest, the strongest, and the most fearsome of them all, he towered above the brawny men as he scowled through the window at her.

“Och, lass.” Liam beat her to it. “These roses are a jealous flower.” Cupping her hand with his, he pressed a thumb into her palm to secure it before plucking the thorn out quickly, to cause her the least amount of distress.
A tiny drop of blood welled from her fingertip.
Liam had no other handkerchief to offer her, and didn’t want to use the one on the ground, so he did the only other thing he could think of, and slid her finger into his mouth. Closing his lips around the insignificant wound, he watched her reaction with rare pleasure.
She froze, her eyes growing round as two glowing moons.
His body’s reaction was just as astonishing, and just as instantaneous.

Liam sprang toward her, grasping her wrists and pulling her back down to him. He sank his fingers into her luxurious hair, loosening the intricate coiffure there, and pinned her head between his two strong palms as he took her wicked mouth with his own.
It was in the joining of their lips that Liam found what he’d come to the chapel seeking. He kissed Mena with a reverence he’d never felt in the entirety of his life. Driven by a hunger that welled from the darkest, most heretical depths of his soul, he knew he’d finally found something worthy of his worship.

He swallowed her shocked gasp and plundered her with his tongue as though she were a lifelong conquest. Digging his fingers into her ribs to keep from taking what she did not offer him, he deepened the kiss, using his tongue to convey what he could not find the words to say.
She wasn’t the only one who was afraid. Liam was terrified.
Of losing her.
Of loving her.
And at this moment, he was in mortal danger of both.

“Kiss me, Mena,” he moaned against her mouth, his hot, sweet breath fanning over the moisture on her lips. “Touch me. Teach me to keep the demon at bay.”
She could only see the whites of his eyes in the dim light, circling the obsidian of his pupil and iris in such a way that truly seemed demonic.
With trembling fingers, she reached up to softly test the shape of his masculine jaw. Bristle scraped against her fingertips as they explored the raw, hard features that she’d always wanted to study, but didn’t even allow herself to look at for too long, lest she be lost.

Then his hand was there, clever fingers slipping into the wet cleft and touching a place no one had ever before paid attention to. He somehow ignited frenzy into her blood with infuriatingly slow strokes. A curious heat unfolded in her core and quickly caught into a blaze of sensation.
Mena writhed helplessly against him, riding his strong thigh as more heat created more friction, which in turn built the flames even higher. What sort of pagan magic was this? How could hands so rough and raw create such smooth, silken sensations against her most tender skin?

“I can’t,” she cried, feeling her knees melt.
His lips left her with a wet, wicked sound. “Ye will,” he breathed against her most intimate flesh.
“I’m going to fall,” she warned weakly, her hips undulating toward his mouth with mortifying wantonness.
“Fall apart in my arms, lass,” he soothed, his hands caressing around to fill his palms with the flesh of her backside, making a cradle of her hips. “I’ll not let ye go.”

“Can ye take more of me?” he panted.
Mena’s eyes flew open. How could there possibly be more? He withdrew yet again, gazing down at her with dilated eyes as he surged forward. He touched a place inside her she’d not known existed, and Mena tossed her head from one side to the other, letting out a high cry of ecstasy.
“Yes,” he whispered fervently. “I knew ye would take all of me, Mena.” He drove forward again. And again.

When another climax blinded her with pure bliss, she locked her legs around his pistoning hips, pulling him impossibly deeper. Shivering pleasure assaulted her in wave after unrelenting wave.
He roared her name to the sky as her pulsing body gripped and stroked at the swelling length of him. Hot spurts of his release spilled inside her. His great body locked with spasms as he crushed her to him and joined her in that place where right and wrong no longer mattered.

Then they said nothing at all when he pulled her above him and split her legs over his lean, sinuous hips. They’d communicated only in gasps and sighs as she’d ridden him with sensual rolls of her body. He’d palmed her breasts in his warm hands and said wicked things in his people’s native tongue while she pleasured herself upon his sleek and magnificent body. Then, when he could stand it no more, he’d dug his strong fingers into the flesh of her hips and driven upward until he’d bowed with such shocking pleasure, Mena had thought his back would break.

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Review: Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Guhrke

Format: E-Bookguiltypleasures
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Guilty, #1
Publisher: Harper Collins
Hero: Anthony Courtland
Heroine: Daphne Wade
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: January 27, 2004
Started On: June 26, 2019
Finished On: July 06, 2019

Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Gurhke is testament enough as to why I adore her books. In the debut book to her Guilty series, Ms. Gurhke certainly does not disappoint readers with her take on a plain Jane heroine with a hero who is a self-assured duke, oblivious to the upheavals that is forthcoming, all to reach that sweet and soul satisfying destination called the happily ever after.

24 year old Daphne Wade has been in the employment of Anthony Courtland, Duke of Tremore for five months and counting. The 29 year old Duke had been Daphne’s saviour even had he not realized it at that point in time when he had taken her under his employment. Left bereft in the wake of the death of her father, Daphne had nowhere to go but turn up on the Duke’s doorstep, hoping against hope that Anthony would not mind hiring her services as an artifact restorer instead of her father.

Daphne’s secret vice since then, has become observing Anthony in every setting she could find him, engrossed in the work that is more than just a hobby for the Duke. Little does Anthony know that the timid and unassuming woman under his employment as he sees her, has fallen for him, and fallen hard.

Things change abruptly on the night that Daphne overhears how Anthony views her as a woman, something that hurts her significantly enough to make her give a month’s notice to quit and leave. Anthony has absolutely no idea as to why Daphne does something that is so out of character for her. However, Anthony is determined that he would persuade Daphne to stay with him and see it through to the end of the one year project, just as much as Daphne is determined to leave when the time is up.

So begins a clash of wills and a time during which Anthony begins to discover a woman who makes his head spin with desire and his heart do the unwanted. Anthony is a man deeply scarred from his childhood, not in the usual fashion, but something that readers would have to discover for themselves to understand where he is coming from.

There is such heady desire in the sense of discovery that unfolds between Daphne and Anthony, and to see Daphne emerge from her shell through Anthony’s eyes was one of the best aspects of the story. When a hero realizes that he had been underestimating the heroine all the while, and finds that he is head over heels in lust at the very sight of her; there is nothing more enjoyable to a romance reader than that. I absolutely reveled in the feels of the story, of that whole journey of especially Anthony coming to terms with how he feels about Daphne.

There is a sweet ache in the agony of wanting someone and pushing them away at the same time. Because humans by design are programmed for self preservation, and we at times tend to do that at any cost, sometimes at the cost of losing our chance at happiness with someone who is deserving of us. Anthony’s tale is as such, he could have easily taken the easy way out, but then the heart wants what it wants, even if Anthony takes a while to accept that truth.

The ending to this story was such a beautiful one. I believe that was what did it for me in this novel. The beguiling courtship of Daphne by Anthony towards the end, and how everything just came together was devastating to the heart, all in a good way.

Definitely recommended for all romantics out there, especially the ones who root for the heroines who are usually overlooked; beauty even though it lies in the eye of the beholder, sometimes takes a while to get there.

Final Verdict: Laura Lee Guhrke is an author who knows how to deliver a romance that packs a punch; a hero who makes you swoon, a heroine that makes your heart ache, and a love that is all encompassing.

Favorite Quotes

“It is so hot in summer that the air shimmers over the horizon in waves, so hot it’s hard to breathe. The heat makes your skin feel stretched so tight over your bones that it hurts.” She closed her eyes and rubbed her wet cheeks with the tips of her fingers as if in remembrance of the hot desert sun. “And all you feel is your own sweat turning the dust on your face to caked mud. Your mouth is dry, and you keep licking your lips over and over, but it doesn’t help. They are so chapped and dry.”
Anthony lowered his gaze to her mouth, watching as she ran the tips of her fingers back and forth over her moist, parted lips. Though they may have been chapped in the desert, there was nothing but softness to them now. Lust hit him with such unexpected force that he could not move.

The skin of her cheek felt warm and satiny beneath his fingers. How? he wondered. How did a woman who had lived in deserts all her life have skin as soft and fine as this? He touched his fingers to her lips as she had done. How could her lips be so velvety as this?
She was looking at him, her eyes wide with shock, but in their depths, there was also something else, something that reflected what he was feeling. Yes, desire was in her eyes and in the rapid wisp of her breath against his fingers. It was in the way she stood so still, tense and poised like a deer about to flee. If he slid his hand down, he would feel her heart pounding as hard as his own.

His hand touched her cheek, he brought his mouth closer to hers, and she felt a queer, weightless sensation in her stomach as if she had just dived off a cliff. His lips pressed to hers.
Pleasure unfolded inside her like a butterfly opening its wings to fly. Never in her imagination had she experienced anything so piercing and sweet as this.

He tore his lips from hers and trailed kisses along her jaw as his hand shaped and caressed her breast. Her soft curves burned him wherever her body was pressed against his. Her hips moved, arching against his weight, and shudders of pleasure fissured through his body.
All he wanted was to pull her down onto this hard, dusty floor and feel her hips move like that beneath him, feel those long legs wrap around his body. He wanted her to say his name, over and over while he made love to her.

“I tried to stay away,” he said, pressing quick kisses to her lips, her cheek, her forehead, her chin. “Because if I came back to say good-bye, I would not be able to stop myself from doing this. Daphne, you have been like a shadow beside me for six long weeks, and everywhere I went, I could see you. I am not made of stone. I am just a man, and God help me, I cannot stop wanting you. Do not torture me anymore.” His tongue ran across the crease of her lips. “Kiss me back.”
Her lips parted beneath his, and she closed her eyes, groaning into his mouth. So long. He had been away so long, and she had forgotten how it felt to have his mouth on hers.

“Say my name,” he breathed against her skin. “Say it, Daphne. Say it.”
He touched her with his thumb, and that tiny movement unlocked something inside her, released all the repressions and restraints she had imposed on herself ever since she had first met him. With the force of a river breaking through a dam, pure, indescribable pleasure rushed through her, and she could no longer stop herself from giving him what he wanted. “Anthony,” she cried, “oh, please, oh, yes, yes.”

“Daphne,” he said, sliding his hands behind her shoulders, pulling her to a sitting position. She slid to the edge of the table, and the feel of her, moist and inviting against the tip of his penis drove away any thought but the need to possess her. With one hard thrust, he entered her.
She cried out, and he knew he had hurt her. He stilled, but she wrapped her arms around his neck and tightened her legs around his hips, pulling him deeper into her, and he lost any semblance of sanity.

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ARC Review: Scandalous by Minerva Spencer

Format: E-Bookscandalous.png
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Outcasts, #3
Publisher: Zebra
Hero: Martín Etienne Bouchard
Heroine: Sarah Fisher
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: September 24, 2019
Started On: September 16, 2019
Finished On: September 26, 2019

Scandalous by Minerva Spencer is the much anticipated and awaited third installment in The Outcasts series. The hero, Martín Etienne Bouchard is a character that has intrigued readers of the series for a long while. Martín is exotic in a way that is hard to put into words (Spencer has no such difficulties), but there is an impact his character makes on you from the very first moment you lay your eyes on him.

It is during one of Martín’s missions that he comes across the strait-laced Sarah Fisher, who has been brought up in a religious household, who had basically found her calling in helping the less fortunate. Sarah has never known anyone like Martín and she does not particularly understand why it is difficult for her to keep her wits about the man.

24 years old and with relatively zero experience when it comes to pleasures of the flesh, that does not stop Sarah’s inquisitive mind from wanting to explore more when it comes to Martín and the way he makes her feel. However, that is not entirely possible given that Martín would like nothing better than keeping her as far away from him as possible.

Martín tries hard, and I mean really hard, to fight the spell that Sarah seems to have cast on him, to no avail. Giving in however does come at a price, at the cost of his past which makes a comeback, putting all that he holds in danger, and perhaps in the process make all his nightmares come true.

When I finished turning the last page of the story, I could understand some of the reviews that I had skimmed through, before this book landed in my hands via Netgalley. Martín is a character that has fascinated most readers like myself, who have gone through the last two books in the series. Yet, in his own book, Martín materializes to be half the man he has been projected to be, the man I have pictured in my mind for so long, especially when you connect the dots together.

I did enjoy the bits and pieces in the novel where Sarah was driving Martín mad with want and jealousy. There is a special kind of anticipation that runs through you when an author gets the tension factor just right and for the most part, Scandalous delivered that in spades. I also understood why Martín felt that the likes of Sarah weren’t for the likes of him, a man who has a sullied past, a past that shames him, even though it has in a large way shaped him to be the man he is.

My disappointment in the story stemmed from the fact that Martín and Sarah spends so much more time apart than they did together throughout the story. The second book in the series, Barbarous was so wonderful in this regard, and perhaps my favorite installment in the series altogether. Now that, proved to be a breathtaking read, and to catch glimpses of the couple in this story was just as good.

But the moment that a couple from a previous book does more to a reader than the actual protagonists of the story is where things start to head south in my opinion. For a man like Martín, who is a hedonist in many senses, to read a book where he fell in love with a woman with whom he had very little contact in the physical sense, someone whom he tried to keep at a willful distance all throughout was a bit jarring.

That was out of character. Perhaps that was what Ms. Spencer was going for and if that is what she intended, she has achieved what she set out to do. But for me, I like a character who keeps true to his nature, someone who does not start doing the opposite of the very thing that is in his nature to do from the moment the heroine/hero enters their life.

Though Sarah was crafted in a way that should have made her a favorite, she just did not elicit the kind of love and warmth in my heart for her she deserved, because I quite could not relate to her on anything. While she seemed lovely and driven by noble causes, I just could not seem to muster up the enthusiasm that was required to fall for her. Perhaps once again this circles back to Martín, I always saw him as someone bolder than what he was in this novel and envisioned him ending up with someone who is his equal, in every sense of the way. I failed to see Sarah as that in the long term.

Even though Scandalous (which turned out to be not so much) did not live up to my expectations (perhaps this is where everything went downhill), I am still excited about Gabriel’s story. I hope Gabriel materializes to have the fire, humour, and warmth of his mother, and dominance that comes from his father’s lineage, without the cruelty in the mix.

Final Verdict: While Scandalous delivered on many fronts, what I had hoped for Martín did not materialize from within. I wanted more for him. Much more.

Favorite Quotes

“Do you even know what bargain you made?”
“I am not ignorant in such matters. I know what I have agreed to.” Her voice was low and breathy and made him throb.
He chuckled at her bravado. “Oh, I doubt that, mademoiselle.” He tongued the tender flesh between her neck and collarbone before stopping over the pulse that pounded at the base of her throat. She was so fine-grained and smooth; he had a burning need to consume her.

The rough pad of his thumb rested against the satin seam of her mouth, and her lids flickered open, her eyes wide and confused. He pressed and her lips parted. Her chest rose and fell in ragged jerks, and her eyes became almost black. Martín held his breath as he waited, wondering what she would do.
The first touch of her tongue was so light he barely felt it, but the slight graze of her teeth as she took him into the incredible softness of her mouth made him gasp. Her eyes never left his, and the sight of her fragile pink lips stretched around him made him so hard it hurt.

A hand grazed the bare skin of her thighs, and Sarah startled. The voice that had been muffled by desire rose again to the surface. He’d managed to insinuate himself beneath her skirts without her even noticing.
“Captain—”
“Martín,” he murmured, taking her lower lip in his mouth and gently sucking it before running a path of kisses across her cheek, stopping at her ear. “Say it,” he ordered softly.
The name fit him perfectly—exotic and beautiful.

He cupped her sex over the fine fabric, the touch of his hand shocking yet somehow right. Sarah dropped her forehead on his shoulder, a sob of pleasure breaking from her.
“Shh, ma belle, I will give you what you need.” He gently stroked a single finger into her.
Sarah bucked violently and bit his shoulder to keep from crying out.
“You are drenched.” His voice was hoarse, as if he were having trouble speaking.
Sarah felt the same, incapable of saying anything, incapable of thinking anything, incapable of doing anything other than shuddering each time he stroked.

“And this?” He pointed to something else on the page.
His hair was made up of hundreds of shades of gold, each strand so thick she could see the hairs individually.
He turned when she didn’t answer, and Sarah found herself staring into eyes the color of old gold. She would later tell herself that she leaned closer to get a better look at those eyes and he misunderstood the action.
His arms snaked around her, and he bent her body into an almost painful arch with the force of his embrace. He captured her mouth, parted her lips, and stroked into her in one fluid motion. She sucked his tongue deeper and he moaned before tightening his grip on her body until she gasped.

“Sarah.”
She looked up at the sound of her name.
“Take me in your hand.”
She wrapped her palm around him, and they both gasped.
“Bloody hell.” He slumped back against the wardrobe door with a thump. One of his hands closed around hers, making her fingers into a tight fist, far tighter than she would have believed pleasant. He guided her, demonstrating how to pleasure him. A low growl broke from him when he released her and she continued her stroking, her eyes riveted to the sight of so much masculine arousal in her hand.

Sarah wanted to run from the cabin at his words, but his eyes held her in place. She let her thumb drift over one nipple, and it hardened instantly. She gasped at the unexpected sensation of pleasure.
He muttered something and closed the distance between them in a blur. His hot, soft mouth covered the stiff peak, his hands replacing hers. He commenced stroking her far more skillfully than she had with her awkward fumbling, using his tongue and fingers to tease, his teeth to nip, his lips to suck, until she was floating somewhere outside her body.

“I can’t stop now, Sarah,” he gritted, his hands digging into the flesh of her hips. She pushed herself against him, thrilling at the effect she had on his body.
The raw power of his climax was unlike anything she could have imagined. He held her hips in an unbreakable grip, shouting her name before abruptly leaving her body and spending himself in hot ribbons across her belly.

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Review: Secret Desires of a Gentleman by Laura Lee Guhrke

Format: E-Booksecretdesiresofagentleman
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Girl Bachelors, #3
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Phillip Hawthorne
Heroine: Maria Martingale
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: October 06, 2009
Started On: May 16, 2019
Finished On: May 17, 2019

29 year old Maria Martingale is looking for the right place to set up her very own patisserie, when she runs smack-dab into none other than Phillip Hawthorne, the Marquess of Kayne, the man who takes her back on the memory lane from 12 years back.

Maria had been at Phillip’s mercy when he had interfered with the relationship that had blossomed between her and Phillip’s younger brother. Phillip who had always been the proper one, nary a button nor hair out of place, the man who had always taken his responsibilities seriously, a man who in Maria’s eyes would probably have ice running through his veins instead of blood.

An arrangement is struck between Maria and Phillip which puts both of them in close proximity with one another. And thus tumbles forth a story that was beautifully moving in a way that I have almost forgotten that romances could be. Because it has been that long since a book moved me as much as this one did.

Phillip’s ironclad restraint is sorely tested by Maria, who is the very opposite of what he is, bringing forth memories he had thought were no longer his to revisit and enjoy. Upon the death of his father and the debts under which his family was reeling at the time, Phillip had been forced to grow up and assume responsibility way ahead of his time. Perhaps that is the reason why he is such an excellent match for someone like Maria, who is all fire and warmth – a combination that I enjoyed so very much.

There is a poignancy to this story that stemmed from the fact that the main protagonists had a shared past. The memories of it from Phillip’s viewpoint were what moved me the most. It is usually the heroine’s emotions and musings that wreaks havoc on the reader’s emotions and provides a well spun romance with that angst factor that I love so much.

However in the Secret Desires of a Gentleman, it was the hero’s thoughts, desires, and memories that sucker-punched me with a ferocity that shook me to my core. The deep wealth of passion and desire Phillip has held in check for so long which tumbles forth, giving readers tantalizing glimpses of a man who would hold his own when it comes to a woman like Maria; beautiful, vivacious, and full of life was the best aspect of this book.

The groveling towards the end by Phillip was well done. Or I must say, the proposal. I read from a book recently that love is when you are ready to make a fool out of yourself for the one you love and don’t even realize it. That was in essence what Phillips was at the end. The epitome of gentlemanly behaviour, laying himself bare for the world to see, his love unmistakable, his desire for Maria everything she had ever wanted it to be.

I believe that this would be my favorite from the series thus far. Perhaps my favorite book from Laura Lee Gurhke herself. There is nothing more that I love than a hero that unravels so beautifully, given the right woman. Enjoyed this delightful tale in so many ways. I’ve missed books such as this, wildly evocative and emotional in depth, that one cannot help but want more.

Definitely recommended. For the emotional angst, for Phillip himself. Darling Phillip, oh how I love thee!

Final Verdict: Unraveling Phillip is a journey I would gladly go through all over again. There is just something about a buttoned up hero letting loose that speaks to this wanton heart of mine.

Favorite Quotes

Phillip tensed in his chair as she slid her fingertips beneath her braid and began to rub the nape of her neck. She was clearly unaware of his presence, and he knew that in such a situation, offering a slight cough was the appropriate thing for a gentleman to do.
He did not do it.
Instead, he remained perfectly still as she tilted her head to one side and began massaging the muscles of her shoulder and the side of her neck.
She groaned, and with that tiny sound, lust washed over him, an inexorable wave of heat and hunger that was so powerful, he could not move.

His fingers curled around the nape of her neck and his thumb pressed the underside of her jaw, lifting her face. His free arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her hard against him. She sucked in a startled breath, but she had no time to react before he bent his head and captured her lips with his.
The kiss was not tender. It was hard and hot, bruising her mouth, and yet, she felt a thrill like nothing she’d ever felt in her life before.

“What’s wrong, Phillip? Don’t you trust me?”
“I don’t—” He stopped and cleared his throat. He tilted his chin down and met her gaze in the dim light. “I don’t trust myself.”
“I do,” she whispered, and before she even realized what she was doing, she turned in his arms and pressed her lips to his.
“Then you’re a fool,” he muttered against her mouth. His hands gripped her arms as if to push her away, but then, with a groan, he pulled her hard against him.

Kneeling on the floor, he hovered above her. He was breathing hard, but he did not move.
She opened her eyes. His face above hers bore a harsh expression, almost as if he were in pain; a frown creased his forehead, drawing his dark brows together, and his glittering gaze pinned her to the seat. “Maria.”
It was a hoarse whisper. It was a question. It might have been a plea. Whatever it was, she had no time to respond before his body came over hers, the weight of his much larger frame driving the air from her lungs.

When he slid his hand inside her shirtwaist and his fingertips touched her bare skin, she jerked in sharp reaction, for just that light caress sent shards of tingling sensation through her body. When he spread his palm over her breast, shaping it through the layers of her clothing, she arched upward into his hand. “Phillip,” she moaned, “Phillip, oh, yes, oh, please, yes.”
She was pleading for more. More of what, though, she did not know. She could not even guess.
“Damn,” he swore, his lips brushing her skin, his hot breath making her shiver. “Damn, damn, damn.”

“Maria,” he ground out through clenched teeth. “For the love of God…”
He slipped his fingers inside the opening of her drawers. And then he touched her in her most intimate place, and she cried out at the sharp, piercing pleasure of it.
He began to caress her with the tip of one finger in light circles that seemed like torture. She moaned in protest of this exquisite teasing, and pressed her hips up toward his hand.
“Maria, you are so soft, the softest thing I’ve ever felt,” he murmured against her ear. “I knew you would be. I’ve always known.”

He tried one last time to warn her. “I won’t be answerable for my actions.”
“I know.”
He cupped her face, his thumbs touched her soft, soft mouth. “I’ll take your virtue.”
“That’s all right,” she whispered, her lips brushing his thumbs, sending that lust spreading throughout his body. “I won’t tell on you.”
With those words, his reason dissolved. His honor crumbled. Like a dam breaking, the hungry need for her that he’d held back for so long broke through his resolve and poured through his body like a powerful, raging flood.

Shirt and cufflinks hit the floor as she flattened her palms against his chest, and the warm touch of her hands sent his control slipping down another notch. He fought to regain it, but he couldn’t stop the groan that escaped him as she began to caress his bare skin. “Yes,” he said, his voice a harsh rasp in his throat.
“Touch me, Maria. God, yes.”
He tilted his head back, letting her explore him, savoring her curiosity even as he struggled to keep his arousal in check.

“Take off your chemise for me,” he said. “I want to watch you take it off.”
Mesmerized by the heat of his gaze and the intensity of his command, she obeyed. Reaching for the hem of her chemise, she pulled the garment up her body and over her head, then tossed it over one shoulder and shook back her hair. When she looked at him again, she sucked in a sharp breath, startled. Though his expression was grave, as always, she saw something else in his face, something she had never seen there before. Tenderness.
“Oh, God,” he whispered hoarsely. “God, Maria, you’re so lovely. Even more lovely than I imagined.”

She stared at him, appreciating that he had done this very thing to her countless times in his imagination—undressed her, kissed her, made love to her. All these years, he’d had that ribbon, and he’d thought of this, imagined this. That knowledge sent a feeling through her like nothing she’d ever felt before, a feeling beyond physical sensation, a joy so powerful it was like pain, yet so sweet that it was pleasure, and she knew Prudence had been right. She was in love with this man.

“Maria, I want to take you. I want to be inside you. Do you understand what that means?”
“Yes,” she gasped, but when she felt the tip of his shaft pushing between the feminine folds he had stroked with his tongue, she felt a wave of something different. Panic.
“Phillip?” He heard the apprehension in her questioning voice, and he paused, lifting his body above hers. “It’s time, love,” he murmured, nuzzling her throat, kissing her ear. “I’ve waited so long. I can’t wait any longer to have you.”

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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Review: The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee Guhrke

Format: E-Bookthewickedwaysofaduke.jpg
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Girl Bachelors, #2
Publisher: Avon
Hero: Rhys De Winter
Heroine: Miss Prudence Bosworth
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: December 26, 2007
Started On: May 05, 2019
Finished On: May 15, 2019

The second book in the Girl Bachelors series, The Wicked Ways of a Duke by Laura Lee Gurhke turned out to be a delightful read in so many ways, one that I enjoyed perhaps even more than the first book in the series.

28 year old Miss Prudence Bosworth is a girl bachelor, now working as a lead seamstress, a position which she had worked hard 11 years for. A chance meeting brings to her notice Rhys De Winter, the Duke of St. Cyres, who is in dire need of a wealthy heiress.

33 year old Rhys has a pretty good idea of what he wants – a wife who is wealthy enough to pay off the debts his family has accumulated during his absence, a wife who would pretty much let him be as he has no intention of falling in love, ever.

A romantic at heart, Prudence’s fortune comes in the most unexpected of ways. An illegitimate child, Prudence had learnt to support herself through her own hard work, all of which comes to an abrupt halt when her father’s solicitor informs her that she is now the sole beneficiary of a vast amount of wealth, the kind that one only dreams about. But this wealth does come with its own requirement that she marries within a certain period, something a tad difficult given that Prudence has no such significant person in her life.

When Rhys finds out what Prudence is worth, thus begins his scheme of ensnaring Prudence into his life, something he does rather ruthlessly and effectively. Prudence has no idea of the true intentions of the man she falls so hard and fast for, and before she knows it, Prudence is the one who takes that leap of faith and comes clean about the immensity of her wealth, never knowing that it is exactly what Rhys had banked upon. Rhys deserves an Oscar for his performance during the scene that unfolded. If I had not been privy to the information that he had before, I too would have been taken in by the “genuineness” of his performance.

Through all of this and what takes place beyond the marriage, Laura Lee Guhrke exposes to readers tidbits of what makes Rhys the way he is. A childhood that had not seen much happiness, a younger brother who had taken his own life, and a mother who had ignored what had led him to commit suicide. The way Prudence chips away at the iron clad armor around Rhys’ heart and emotions was one that I reveled in. The way that Rhys is helpless in the face of the visceral attraction that exists between the two was something that gave me all the good feels.

When all is said and done, the fact that Rhys grovels, does it so well, and redeems himself was one of the best aspects of this novel. Prudence getting “back at him” in kind was such fun to watch as it unfolded. I adored Prudence and how unconventional she was. There is this refreshing aspect to her character that I found so easy to fall in love with. Prudence might be a romantic at heart but she is definitely not a pushover. That is something I loved about her character from the onset.

Rhys and his past played a lesser prominent role in the story than I thought it actually would. But the truth of the hows and whys when it comes to an event that had scarred him badly and Rhys’s relationship with his mother was one that served its purpose in the story when all is said and done.

Enjoyed the lusciousness that is Rhys and Prudence together. Recommended!

Final Verdict: The many wicked ways in which the Duke of St. Cyrus seduces Prudence is something worth mooning over. Loved Prudence to bits and Rhys forever more!

Favorite Quotes

Prudence stood on her toes and twined her arms around his neck. Her lips parted willingly beneath his, but when he deepened the kiss and his tongue touched hers, she stirred in involuntary surprise. She started to pull back, but his hand tightened in her hair to keep her where she was, and his mouth tasted hers in a lush, openmouthed kiss that was so sensual, so blatantly carnal, she knew he must have learned it from those French cancan dancers. She feared she was equally carnal, however, for when he withdrew, she followed his move, pressing her tongue into his mouth. That seemed to ignite something inside him, for he made a rough sound against her mouth and leaned into her, using his body to maneuver her backward.

Rhys’s hand slipped beneath her skirt and petticoat, then glided up her leg, across her hip and between her thighs, his touch scorching her beneath the thin lawn material of her drawers. The tension inside her continued to build as his fingers eased inside the slit of her drawers, and when he touched the dark curls there, she felt her whole body blushing in response.
“I could stop,” he said, the tip of his finger caressing her in her most intimate place. “Is that what you want?”
She tried to speak, but a frantic, “N-N-N…” was all she could manage, for her body was on fire with shameful excitement, excitement that flared higher with each touch of his fingers.

She couldn’t imagine what could be better than what he’d done to her on the train, but then his hands spread her thighs apart and he opened his mouth over the same special place he’d touched that morning.
She cried out, her body jerking at the exquisite sensation evoked by that carnal kiss, and he stopped, lifting his head a fraction. “Do you love me?”
“Yes,” she panted, her hips writhing, arching upward. “Yes.”
He raked his tongue ever so lightly over the spot where all her pleasure seemed centered. “Say it. I want to hear you say it.”
“I love you, Rhys.” Her fingers curled in his hair. “I love you.”

Rhys turned her body lengthwise on the table, then hoisted himself up, bringing his body fully over hers and bracing his weight on his arms. “Prudence,” he said, reminding himself she was a virgin, thinking to warn her what to expect, wanting to go slow, but the feel of her, velvety hot and wet, against the tip of his penis was such an erotic sensation, he knew there was no time for gentleness or warnings. With one hard thrust, he entered her.
She cried out again, and this time he knew it was not with pleasure. Cursing himself, he kissed her, smothering the sound of her pain with his mouth, hating that he’d caused it, even as he relished the virginal tightness of her.

“Love me?” he whispered, nuzzling her throat.
“Yes,” she whispered, her fingertips caressing his face.
He lifted himself above her, kissed her, nipping her lower lip between both of his. “Say it again.” She began to laugh. “I love you.”
He laughed, too, laughed, by God, in this place, where he’d never laughed in his entire life.

“Come on top of me,” he told her, rolling onto his back, and when she complied, he pulled her skirts up to keep them out of the way and spread her legs over his hips. He then reached between their bodies and hooked one thumb in the opening of her drawers, ripping the thin lawn fabric farther apart to give himself greater access. Gently, he spread her labia with his fingers and thrust upward with his hips, entering her fully.
She sucked in a deep gasp, and he went still. “Did I hurt you?” he asked, dreading that he had.
But she shook her head from side to side so emphatically that her hair came tumbling down to tickle his face. “No. Oh, no.”
Relief flooded through him, followed at once by desperate, hungry need.

She was blushing, her skin awash with a tint of soft pink in the afternoon sunlight. Her forehead glistened with a fine patina of sweat. Her eyes were closed, her dark lashes like tiny fans against her cheeks. Her lips were parted, and between soft, panting cries, she kept touching them with her tongue. Her expression was one of such erotic concentration, with everything in her striving to reach climax, it made him smile. And when she came, in wave after wave, her hand over his, her body clenching around his penis in convulsions that went on and on and on, he felt a pleasure greater than any he had ever known before.

And afterward, when she lay in the crook of his arm, nuzzled her face against his neck and whispered, “I love you,” the warmth that washed over him thawed the icy chill in his soul as the gut-twisting heat of Parisian absinthe and the blistering summer sunshine of Italy had never been able to do.
“This is where we’ll live,” he said.
And as he kissed her lavender-scented hair and listened to the songbirds in the leafy English elms over their heads, Rhys de Winter thought that perhaps his own April had come at last. He dared to believe that he had finally come home.

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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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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