Re-Read Review: Hidden Fires by Sandra Brown

Format: E-bookhiddenfires1
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Warner Vision
Hero: Jared Lockett
Heroine: Lauren Holbrook
Sensuality: 3.5
Date of Publication: July 1, 1982
Started On: November15, 2011
Finished On: November 16, 2011

First published on my birth year, Hidden Fires by Sandra Brown is a romance that stands true to the test of time. Trust on Sandra, one of my all time favorite authors to deliver a romance as sizzling as hot coals and a story that is so engrossing that I couldn’t bear to let this one go even for a minute. Even being the second time round that I was reading this, I was completely riveted on the events that took place in the novel, a woman’s hatred and vindictive and controlling behavior that drives the story together with the sensual and beautiful romance Sandra delivers.

The year is 1903 and 20 year old Lauren Holbrook travels to Texas from North Carolina on the invitation of one Ben Lockett who has all well placed intentions regarding the beautiful Lauren. Lauren having lost her mother at the age of 3 and father at the age of 12 had lived since then with Reverend Abel Prather and his wife Sybil. Naive and innocent, Lauren has no idea of the hornets nest she is stepping into when she disembarks from the train to make her way towards Coronardo, Ben’s hometown.

Jared Lockett is a man who is notorious throughout the state for his whoring and drinking. A Harvard graduate and a cowboy, Jared is a character who stirred up my senses even right from the start. A mass of contradictions is what he is; brash, harsh and coldly controlled one minute and tender and teasing the next. His parents marriage being an unhappy one is an understatement and Jared had borne the brunt of their unhappiness with one another that had shaped him up to be the person he is.

When Jared’s mother, the beautiful and vindictive Olivia Lockett schemes to arrange a marriage between Lauren and Jared both find themselves agreeing to the marriage of convenience for a period of two years. Though Jared would have loved to storm out of the discussion and turn his back on his mother’s wishes, her manipulations turn out to be more well placed than Jared could counterattack and thus finds Lauren and Jared being bound by holy matrimony and little does Jared know that Lauren is the woman who would bring him to his very knees before their marriage is through.

Lauren who is an innocent babe in the woods when it comes to carnal desires is misjudged right from the very start by Jared and thus makes her life miserable from the onset of their marriage. But for Jared, Lauren is not as easily dismissed from his mind as he would like as her innocence and beauty keeps creeping up on him at the most unexpected of moments, his personal vow to stay away from Lauren a much harder one to keep than he thought.

Lauren is drawn to Jared right from the very start, the cravings that hits her whenever Jared is around a foreign one to her but one she knows instinctively that only Jared can fulfill. Sandra keeps the sexual tension mounting until all I could do was practically squirm in my chair from wanting the explosive culmination of the desire between Jared and Lauren, something Sandra is very good at delivering on! And I wasn’t disappointed when their relationship progressed to that stage and all but welcomed the beauty of their coming together with open arms.

What I loved most about this novel was Lauren’s character. She is naive and innocent to a fault when she steps on the rugged land of Texas, but having an instinct that guides her to judge people easily saves her from a lot of hurdles. In Olivia, Jared’s mother Lauren finds a woman who is bitter to the very end, who loves people only to gain the upper hand and to further her own goals in whatever notorious scheme or plan that she cooks up. It is Olivia’s doing that separates Lauren and Jared and drives a wedge between them one right after the other, for the fear that Jared might not be as easily controllable if Lauren were to work her healing magic on him.

How Lauren grew throughout the story, her gentleness and giving nature together with that stubborn streak of hers when it comes to those she loves and considers dear to her are her best characteristics. The way she faces and weathers one storm after the other in her relationship with Jared, the man who so effortlessly steals her heart for good and all time to come is one of the reasons I admired her character. She gives as good as she gets, but knows instinctively when its time to let go in order to heal the tortured soul that is Jared’s.

Jared is the type of ruthless alpha hero that I absolutely adore and love. Sandra certainly knows her way with male lead characters and even when they are rakes of the most notorious kind, you can’t help but be drawn towards them like a moth to flame. Jared’s entrance to each and every scene in the book makes it come alive with his sheer magnetism alone and if I were to talk about the effect he had on my senses; I tell you this is going to end up a long, long review!

The one thing that stopped me from giving the 5-stars that this book so very well deserves was what happened towards the latter part of the book. I found that Jared’s “cruelty” towards Lauren to make his mission a more believable one was something that could have been done away with. But somehow it all serves its purpose, the villains get what they truly deserve and Jared and Lauren find a love so worthy of slaying dragons over that I just heaved a huge sigh of pleasure once the book was done!

Sandra’s mastery is such that not even one iota of my emotions remain aloof when reading, my whole being focused on the sensations that courses through me right from the very start. Her ability to paint a picture so vividly with words and make you feel as part of the story that unfolds is how remarkable an author she is and that is one reason why I would continue to buy her books as long as she continues to publish them.

Favorite Quotes

Lauren whirled her head around so quickly that the motion hurt her neck. Jared’s hand came up and clamped the hat more firmly over his face. He adjusted his long body to another position, contracting and relaxing muscles that Lauren didn’t know existed. But then, she had never seen a masculine physique like this before. His languid movements were repelling and thrilling at the same time. It was like watching some pagan god who was beautiful even in his decadence.

Jared hadn’t planned it, had never even thought about it, but he couldn’t control taking complete possession of her mouth with a bruising kiss. He wanted to insult her, to further humiliate her, to shatter her damned poise. But her body was so female, her lips so soft, warm, virginal, that what had been hurtful and brutal became tender, seeking, questioning.

Lauren could smell the starch that kept Jared’s shirtfront crisp, which blended intoxicatingly with tobacco and champagne. When he spoke in confidential tones to the silly woman, Lauren could feel the vibration of his voice in his chest. The bank director’s wife moved away, and still Jared retained his possessive hold on her. His hand trembled slightly as his thumb moved upward and lightly stroked the side of her breast. Or did she only imagine it? Lauren thought she would die from the constriction in her chest that pounded up into her throat and sought release in a small moan.
Another guest walked toward them. Slowly, reluctantly, the strong fingers were withdrawn, leaving behind an imprint on Lauren’s skin as scorching as a brand.

Rosa wasn’t far from wrong. In her naked loveliness, she appeared to be an angel.
But Jared was mortal, and he wanted her as he had never wanted a woman before. He carefully lowered his head and kissed the pulse in her throat. Then his lips traveled with a blissful laziness over her breasts, nibbling and licking lightly so she wouldn’t ever know that he had worshiped at this temple of her body. She was forbidden to him. It was a self-imposed denial, but that made it even more binding.

Don’t be afraid of loving this man, Maria had told her. Don’t be afraid. Her slender fingers closed around the warm shaft with its velvet skin stretched smooth. Gently her fingers played over him, curious, wondering fingers, fingers made exultant by their discoveries.
Reflexively Jared arched his back. His head went back in a gesture of exquisite feeling. Then his chin lowered and he was searching her face again. His golden eyes shone bright with emotion. “Touch me, Lauren. Touch me until I die from the pleasure of it. Know all of me.” His voice was breathy and uneven.

Her fingers dug into the flesh of his hips as his own passion peaked. His face was buried in her neck and her skin felt his rapid, moist breath as he chanted her name.
He didn’t leave her. He couldn’t forsake the paradise just yet. Nestled within her body, he raised himself on his elbows and looked down at her. Tenderly he kissed each feature of her face.
“Is this possible?” she breathed, referring to the enormity of her rapture.
“Yes, yes,” he murmured against her lips.
He raised his head and his eyes searched her face once again. His expression was difficult to define, but it closely resembled love.

Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes&Noble

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Re-Read Review: Wild Orchids by Karen Robards

Format: E-bookwildorchids
Read with: iBooks for iPad
Length: Novel
Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense
Series: Standalone
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Hero: John Roberts “Max” Maxwell
Heroine: Lora Susan Harding
Published on: March 15, 2001
Started On: August 28, 2011
Finished On: August 28, 2011

Reading Wild Orchids by Karen Robards for the 3rd time doesn’t seem to have diminished my enjoyment factor of the novel by even one iota. Call me crazy but even with the massive amount of books I have on my review pile, I just had to pick this one up and read it in one sitting yet again because the magic that is Max and Lora is an unbeatable one for me.

37 year old John Roberts Maxwell (Max) is a man hardened by the reality of war that had been his way of life when he had been enlisted in the Vietnam war. Leaving a piece of his soul behind due to the decisions he had been forced to make, Max comes home a changed man, a man incapable of giving what his innocent wife had demanded of him. A cynic to the core, Max doesn’t realize that life as he knows it would cease to exist the moment he kidnaps the prim and proper Lora in his attempt to evade the authorities of Mexico.

27 year old Lora Susan Harding is finally a free woman with the right to while away her time as she pleases. Having spent most of her life trying to put others needs first, Lora is ecstatic with the thought of exploring the exotic Mexico, the first vacation she has ever taken in her life. However, from the very start, her vacation refuses to proceed along as she envisoned it and being kidnapped at gun point by a disreputable looking man with an American accent just seems to be the icing on the cake.

At first, Lora is scared out of her wits at the thought of the less than savory acts her captor might try and force on her. A lady through and through, Lora hardly accepts herself to find her captor ridiculously sexy to the extent of ogling him and eating him up with her eyes every chance she gets. No stranger to the world of intimacy, Lora however has no clue that the uninhibited creature that emerges from deep within her that just wants to lick her delectable and broody captor from head to toe is a side of her that exists.

After Lora’s multiple attempts to escape which falls flat on her face every single time, Lora comes to the disturbing conclusion that she has a bad case of the Stockholme’s syndrome if judging the way all her emotions go haywire around Max is anything to judge herself by. Through a chain of events, Lora finds herself stranded in the midst of a Mexican jungle, depending on Max for her very survival. As the proximity heightens the already taut live wire of sexual tension between them, both Max and Lora find themselves to be no match for its heady power.

Wild Orchids would always remain by far my most favorite novel by Karen Robards. For some, Max might not be the stuff dreams are made out of. But when push comes to shove, Max is a man who delivers and Lord does he deliver! A man who is leery of commitment and relationships, Max cannot believe himself when he starts lusting after the prim schoolteacher who lands in his life. The harder he tries to shove her thoughts and presence out of his mind, the more tenacious her hold on him becomes and its a match that Max loses, rather ungraciously at first. Vital, sexy and the ultimate dangerous hero is how I would describe Max.

Lora’s character is an endearing mix of innocence and practicality all laced into one with a body that practically drives Max to the brink of insanity. It is the way she reaches far deeper than just his baser emotions that has Max struggling to shove her away with all his might, a man reluctant to share his demons with a woman Max thinks would be just as incapable of handling reality as his ex-wife had seemed to be.

Though towards the end, I definitely want a bit more grovelling from Max every time I read this one, I think the ending itself might be growing on me as I didn’t find it that sorely lacking the third time around. It seemed a fitting ending based on both Max and Lora’s characters and my bet is Lora loves Max too much to even give him enough leeway to do much grovelling even if it were to come to that.

The best thing about this book, hands down is the raw, explosive and primitive passion between two people that just serves as one whole session of sensory overload from start to finish.

Highly recommended!

Favorite Quotes

(Max) He shook his head impatiently. “You’ll be all right. I’ve got to go. Lora…” he hesitated, then with a muttered, “Hell!” swooped over her. Before she knew what was happening, he had her pinned back against the seat and his mouth was on hers, hard and hot and almost brutal in its demand. His hand was rough and warm on her breast. Lora’s senses exploded. She forgot the men outside the car, her anger with Max, everything as she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him back with a hunger that had been building inside her forever…

“Lora…” Her name was a tormented whisper as he kissed her harder, fiercer than before, as if he was starving for the taste of her mouth. She twisted in his arms, not trying to get away but to work her arms free… She managed to push them up through his crushing hold and lock them around his neck. He groaned deep in his throat, and she groaned too in protest as his mouth suddenly left hers. He was looking down at her, his breathing heavy, a wild glitter in his eyes. Lora lifted one hand from the corded nape of his neck and lightly stroked the rough, wet edges of his hair.

He smiled then, a slow smile that sent the blood racing through her veins. Lora felt the throbbing inside her intensify until she was sure she would not be able to stand it another second as he slowly, oh, so slowly, lowered his head. His target was her left breast. Lora felt his hot mouth close on the straining nipple, felt him tug the crest of her breast into his mouth to rub it with the rough wet surface of his tongue, and cried out in a frenzy of need.
And in that instant he took her.
She climaxed at once as he squeezed inside, enormous and hard and fiery hot and filling her to bursting.

Lora followed his eyes to the subject of their conversation. He was such a masculine man, tall and strong and sure of himself, cocky almost. A male chauvinist to his toenails, she suspected, as incapable of admitting to feeling hurt and lonely and afraid as a pig was of flying. But he was vulnerable too, enormously vulnerable. More than many people who openly asked for it, he needed love. He needed someone to hold him in her arms and convince him that what he had done was not so bad, was not unforgivable, did not put him beyond the pale of normal society. To convince him that he was lovable. And loved. And she meant to be that someone.

Funny, she had always thought that thin, bespectacled, intellectual types like Brian attracted her. Lora had to smile at her own naivete. Who would have guessed that she, Lora Harding, would buckle at the knees over a hunk of male beef?

E-book Purchase Links: ReaderStore | Barnes&Noble | Amazon

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Reviewers Note: From time to time, I get a hankering to re-read my favorite novels and sometimes I find myself with the urge revise the review that I had written down previously. Since I feel that revising a review that had been published a long time back is not something that ought to be done, I have resorted to start a new reviewing process aka the Re-Read Review. Books that rate a Re-Read Review would mostly be books that I am quite gushy about and cannot recommend highly enough!