St Martin’s Paperbacks (2007)
With the last of her family possessions gambled away by her dissolute brother, Lady Sarah Compton has traveled to a country house gala for one last moment of grace and beauty. But she is unaware that the occasion is actually a notorious trysting event, where members of the aristocracy can indulge in their every sensual fantasy and erotic whim. Nor does she realize that the striking man who has stolen into her bedroom is none other than Michael Stevens—a rake who gives and takes his pleasures boldly…
The bastard son of an earl, Michael Stevens relishes his reputation as London’s most notorious seducer. But he has no idea what to make of the auburn-haired beauty he’s nearly mistaken for new conquest or how such an innocent could possibly have been invited to a gather where London’s bored elite caters to each other’s carnal desires. When the lady refuses to heed Michael’s warning—to leave the house for her own protection—a powerful attraction grows, and soon, he longs to tutor the very proper Lady Sarah Compton in the art of passion…
“It was a game with only one rule – ultimate pleasure.”
I am only hoping that tag lines become a running joke as I can’t imagine them getting worse than this…but I hope they do.
The Heroine:While Sarah does fall into the ‘country mouse’ cliché that seems to permeate the genre, she’s got more than enough curiosity to keep the plot interesting and moving. She knows nothing about attraction and hasn’t ever thought to marry after an unsuccessful Season that hinted at Mean Girls circa 1810. This naiveté is frustrating as a contemporary reader but is in line with the awareness most females had about themselves, the opposite gender and sex in general. It is equally frustrating witnessing her efforts to deal with her brother as she’s full of moxie, just never when necessary. You see, Sarah’s contented herself by cleaning up the messes of her lout of a brother and keeping the home fires burning. Yes, she’s the self-sacrificial sort. But in attending her friend’s house party (or sex romp holiday – not kidding) she meets …
The HeroSteven is a right git. A loveable ass. A loveable ass whose ass is loved…by many. In fact – meeting the heroine does not stop this individual from plying his wares elsewhere. It’s quiet refreshing actually. Especially as Sarah tends to watch him work his magic (thus learning many things about life and lust) through a peep-hole in their shared wall. There is no reason why this should work, or that the hero should be redeemable, and yet it does. Holt has crafted a clichéd duo whose interactions build the relationship and their feelings taking the reader along with them.
The Evil BrotherThere’s always one and in this case it is the awful Hugh. He’s the stereotypical family screw up who never evolves from the two-dimensional bit he’s been lumped with. Some nuance would have been nice but someone has to lose the family fortune, force a sister into matrimony and create needless untruths to keep the lustbirds apart.
The SteamHolt isn’t one to play coy. There’s plenty of content to whet your appetite for naughty, under the sheets (and other places) shenanigans. The first chapter dumps our characters in an unexpected predicament and keeps the reader’s attention until the end. While some people will be reading this book purely for smutty reasons, it should be highlighted that the sexual escapades mirrors that of the couple’s burgeoning relationship.
The SassThere are many great heated exchanging between the lusty duo. None better than in the more dramatic moments where Steven insists on being a glacier and Sarah tries to castrate him with a withering stare. The language is rather sassy too – Holt doesn’t waste time spouting poetic terms for sex and anatomy. You will come among the f-bomb more often than is usual and Steven refers to Sarah’s fun parlour with a term normally associated with those of the feline persuasion. Regardless, it is all rather fun.
Holt has managed to straddle the line between fun characters, nice emotional arcs, entertaining sparring sessions and steam.