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.

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Review: And Then He Kissed Her by Laura Lee Guhrke

Format: E-bookandthenhekissedher
Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Length: Novel
Genre: Historical Romance
Series: Girl Bachelors, #1
Publisher: HarperCollins
Hero: Harrison Robert Marlowe
Heroine: Emmaline Dove
Sensuality: 3
Date of Publication: October 13, 2009
Started On: December 10, 2018
Finished On: December 12, 2018

Laura Lee Gurhke is a name that you come across many times over if you read historical romances. In my bid to read a good historical romance (because there are times when you just want more of the magic that comes from only the said genre), I decided to take the plunge and read the first book in the Girl Bachelors series entitled And Then He Kissed Her by the author.

The heroine Emmaline Dove (Emma), who turns thirty years old, has been working for Harrison Robert Marlowe (Viscount Marlowe) for five years when the story begins. Harry is a publisher, and Emma is determined to get her book on the correct conduct for girl-bachelors like herself published through her employer. If only he would give her book the time of day and consider it worthy of publication.

When Harry turns her down for the umpteenth time, and Emma discovers that Harry has never in fact read one of her manuscripts on the many occasions that he had turned them down, it is the last straw. She quits, believing that if she wanted to make things happen, it is she who should get to it. So she goes forth in the world to become a success in her own right, proving to Harry many times over that determination would get one to places.

There is nothing more tedious to Harry than sifting through a book on correct decorum and behavior. So Harry finds himself without Emma’s quiet efficiency to run pretty much everything in his life. Harry finds himself in a bit of a pickle when he realizes that for some reason, Emma’s writings are making waves in society as he never thought possible. After many a hurdle, forges a new relationship between the two, where Emma and Harry meets as equals, where he considers her opinions and thoughts, where she gets to be heard. Through it all, Harry discovers to his utter fascination that he wants Emma unlike he has wanted any woman in a long time.

Harry, who has sworn of marriage after the disaster of his first, is all sorts of improper for a woman like Emma, whose entire childhood and adult life has always been about doing what is proper. Her rigid upbringing plays its role, and Emma is afraid to look beyond and make reality of the woman she actually wants herself to be. Passionate, daring, and adventurous. In Marlowe, she finds that she can be all that and more with him, but years of indoctrination is hard to shake off. But shake it off she does, in the most spectacular fashion, leaving both Emma and Marlowe breathless with every encounter between them.

The best part of this story was the slow awakening of Emma, to realize who she truly is, and accept the parts of herself that contradicts all the proper behavior and decorum that had been drummed into her since childhood. Harry was a tad insensitive at times, but once you get the frustration on his part to get through to Emma, it becomes understandable as well. Harry is the catalyst that pushes Emma to see beyond who she believes she should be. He teaches her the pleasures of life, and Emma blossoms so beautifully beneath his tender ministrations, in bed and out of it.

While Harry took his own sweet time in coming to certain realizations, he did step up and do the “proper” thing by Emma when all was said and done. I loved Emma, because she is the sort of character whom you cannot resist. There is just something about heroines called Emma. They make for rather proper and at times the most fun heroines when everything unravels. Brings to mind Sandra Marton’s The Bedroom Business. Such a wickedly fun book such as this one.

Recommended for those that love a good historical romance. There is romance, there is angst – the best of both in my opinion.

Final Verdict: Delightfully sweet with scrumptious love scenes that brought my vivid imagination to life.

Favorite Quotes

Before she could descend on her own, he put his hands on her waist, thinking to be chivalrous and lift her down. But the moment he touched her, he forget that intent and his thoughts became much less noble. His forearms brushed the sides of her hips, and another wave of desire shimmered through his body. He’d been right. She was wearing a petticoat or two, maybe, and a corset, definitely, but no padding. He slid his hands down an inch or two, grasping her hips, and his thumbs brushed the base of her spine. There might not be much to Miss Dove, but what she had was genuine.
His hands tightened, and he leaned closer, breathing deeply of talcum powder and fresh cotton, pristine, maidenly scents he’d never dreamt could be erotic until now. If he moved one inch closer, he’d be kissing—
“My lord?”
Good God, what was he doing?

Before she could guess his intent and stop him with some ridiculous rule of etiquette, he grasped her wrist, lifted her hand, and opened his mouth. His lips closed around her fingers and the remaining half of the truffle.
She gasped, but though she tried to pull her hand away, he wouldn’t let her. She glanced at the door, then back at him as he slowly pulled the candy from her fingers with his mouth.
He saw her lips quiver and heard her breathing quicken. He perceived the change in her body, a purely feminine reaction of passion tempered by modesty. By innocence. Harry’s body began to burn.

He slid his hand to her cheek, and she gave a gasp of shock. “What are you doing?” she whispered.
He bent his head and paused with his lips an inch from hers. “Committing a serious breach of etiquette,” he murmured.
And then he kissed her.
The moment his mouth touched her own, Emma forgot where they were, forgot what was proper, forgot everything she had ever been taught about right and wrong. There, in the half-light and shadows of a dusty bookshop, she forgot that kissing was only for married people and that she was a spinster of thirty. With this man’s warm palm cupping her face and his lips pressed to hers, joy unfurled inside her, beautiful, painful joy. It was like nothing she had ever felt before. It was like nothing she could ever have imagined.
It was like springtime.

She brought her hands between them to touch his chest. His silk waistcoat felt smooth against her palms. Beneath it, his muscles were hard and warm. Emma slid her palms across his chest beneath his jacket to his shoulders, savoring the strength of a man’s body for the very first time, knowing somehow that for this moment, all that strength was hers to command. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed closer, wanting that strength to enfold her.
Her move seemed to ignite something inside him. He made a rough sound against her mouth, and his free arm wrapped around her waist. He lifted her onto her toes, pulled her fully against him. His free hand curled around the back of her neck. He deepened the kiss, and his tongue entered her mouth. Emma made a wordless sound of shock, but then she touched her tongue to his, and waves of pleasure shimmered through her. For the first time, she understood what carnality truly was.

He lifted his head and captured her mouth with his, smothering the echo of his name against her lips. His hand tightened at her breast, he groaned into her mouth, and he deepened the kiss. He touched her nipple again, sliding his fingers back and forth across it within the tight confines of her underclothes, and her body shuddered in response. She felt as if she had no ability to govern her own body, for his touch was causing her to move in the strangest way, arching into his hands in little twitches that she could not stop. She could hear herself making soft, queer noises against his mouth, smothered, primitive sounds, and she felt as if she were drowning in a sensuous haze. What he was doing was like nothing she’d ever felt before, and she wanted it to go on and on and on forever.

“Stop talking about my undergarments,” she whispered, the rosy blush in her face spreading down over her face and neck. “It isn’t…” She wet her lips. “It isn’t decorous.”
“Decorous?” He laughed softly. “Emma, when he’s taking off a woman’s clothes, a man doesn’t feel decorous. Neither does she if he’s doing it right. Besides, we’re just talking, making conversation.” He nuzzled her ear. “Having social intercourse, you might say.”
She made a choked sound.

She fingered the sash. “Don’t I get to undress you, too?” she whispered.
Do you want to?”
She nodded, staring at his chest. “Yes. Yes, I do.”
He spread his arms wide. “Go on, then. Tonight’s all about what you want.” He grinned. “I’ll teach you all the things I want some other time.”

Emma untied the sash, then grasped the facings of his dressing gown. She slid the heavy silk back from his shoulders and it fell behind him to the floor. She stepped back a little and stared at his chest, but after a few moments he couldn’t stand it. “Touch me, Emma,” he said hoarsely. “Touch me.”

Harry inhaled a sharp breath and tilted his head back as she began to explore him. She ran her hands over his chest and across his shoulders, down his arms and back up again, over his ribs and down his abdomen. Her fingertips caressed his ribs and she leaned in, pressing a kiss to his collarbone. She laughed softly, blowing warm breath against his skin. “You’re beautiful.”
Something hot and tight twisted in his chest, something that had nothing to do with the lust in his body. Something in the naive wonder of her voice that hit him deep down and lifted him way up and made him feel as if he were king of the earth.

“Emma, Emma, let it happen,” he coaxed, his lips brushing her curls. “Just feel it and let it happen.”
He kissed her and licked her, and after a moment or two, she gave a little sigh as something in her seemed to relax. She began to move her hips, and he took his cue from her, pleasuring her at the pace her body demanded, faster and faster, until she was trembling all over and arching into him, until she was moving with frantic little jerks and soft, primitive cries were coming from her throat. Until she made that sweet, long wail of feminine ecstasy and her body collapsed.

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

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