Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Avon Red (October 30, 2007)
Publisher: Avon Red (October 30, 2007)
Your days and nights will belong to me...
Country miss Miranda Albright has secretly watched her wicked neighbor, Ethan Hamon, the Earl of Rothschild, as he 'entertained' lovers on the grounds of his country estate for three summers. But after her father dies and the family falls into financial peril, Miranda is driven to strike a bargain with the Earl. He will play financial and social host for a Season for each of her three younger sisters... in exchange for three months of sin with her.
Miranda has always ached for the passion she’s spied upon, but she knows Ethan is the kind of man who could steal her heart, as well as claim her body. And falling in love with a man who admits she is nothing but a game to him could be the most dangerous and forbidden seduction of all.
Jess Michaels is the alter ego for historical author Jenna Petersen, who wrote the Lady Spies series. I admit I've not read Jenna's books, but I had read a story by Jess Michaels, called "Ancient Pleasures", and liked it a lot. Oh, and I mean a lot. It was incredibly sexy, tapping into some naughty fantasies, but nothing over-the-top.
That is what prompted me to pick up "Everything Forbidden". Although the cover is sensual and gorgeous, my first impression was that it was going to be heavy on the erotica and not so much on the romance - I was picturing multiple partners and even some pain - that's just what the whole mask thing makes me think of, even though it's not an ugly cover in any way. (Not that I have a problem with multiple partners, but the pain I can do without). Well, I shouldn't have worried, because unlike a lot of erotic romances out there, Jess Michaels concentrates heavily on the connection between these two characters, and the result is a delightfully sexy and enjoyable romance.
The premise sounds a bit like a Cheryl Holt novel I once read, and the exploration is somewhat similar though the motivation is completely different. Miranda Albright is at a loss as to how to keep supporting her family after the death of her father several months earlier. Faced with taking care of her mother and three younger sisters and fending off impending poverty, Miranda tries to make ends meet as best she can, but their financial circumstances are dire, and to make matters worse, her mother doesn't understand that she cannot spend money like it's going out of style. It appears the only way to end this miserable existence is for one of the daughters to marry and marry well. Everyone in the family thinks Miranda has passed by her opportunity, so the next obvious choice is Penelope, the second oldest daughter, followed by Beatrice and Winifred.
Knowing her family doesn't have the means to have a successful Season, i.e., catching a rich husband, Miranda approaches aloof yet rich neighbor Ethan Hamon, as he has recently retired to the country for his annual summer visit, and asks for his financial assistance. She knows there will be a price to be paid; after all there's no logical reason Ethan will do it out of the goodness of his heart, but she hasn't a clue as to what he may demand in return.
Unbeknownst to Miranda, Ethan has wanted her for quite some time, but steered clear due to his decision to never marry; Miranda is without a doubt the marrying kind and he has no desire to fall into that trap. He agrees to support her three younger sisters through each of their Seasons in exchange for three months of Miranda in his bed, and though shocked and embarrassed, Miranda is also intrigued, as she has fantasized about Ethan for the past three years, having secretly watched his outdoor liaisons and longing to feel such passion for herself. Knowing she will never marry anyway, Miranda agrees to Ethan's terms, knowing that while she primarily does it for her family, she also wants to experience the pleasure of Ethan's lovemaking firsthand, as he's been the star player in her fantasies for years.
Not one to let such an opportunity slip through his fingers, rather than let Miranda walk away once they've reached an agreement, Ethan is immediately compelled to seduce her right then and there. The lovely and innocent young lady fuels his blood as no other woman has, and he senses the deep passion lurking beneath her prim and proper exterior, but even he is overwhelmed by the willingness and fearlessness with which Miranda shows as he sets out to bed her and indulge in the delights of her body. Not ready to look too deeply at his unusually strong reaction to such an inexperienced young woman, Ethan is nevertheless consumed with uncontrollable passion for her, which both intrigues and worries him, as he prides himself on his great control.
As you probably can imagine, things eventually become muddled as feelings become even more involved, though each thinks they are handling things without getting caught up in it, but when their secret meetings are discovered by an unexpected source, a decision must be made as to how best to handle this complication without drawing scandal to Miranda or her family.
This definitely a story more on the romantic side, as Miranda already had feeling for Ethan before striking a bargain with him, and Ethan was unwillingly attracted to the country miss but determined to keep his distance. I liked that the sex scenes between them were not about the shock factor, but rather much more sensual and intense because of their strong attraction to one another. Other than one unique request Ethan makes to Miranda, for the most part Ethan and Miranda indulged in some traditional, one-on-one sex, with nary a threesome in sight. No whips, no pain, no extreme and uncomfortable positions. Don't get me wrong, sometimes a good ole' threesome is just what the doctor ordered, but this time around it was a bit refreshing to not have an extra cast of characters, and more concentration was put on the growing romance between Ethan and Miranda.
If I have one complaint, it's the last page of the book, that ended a bit too abruptly for me to be completely satisfied. Things seemed to wrap up rather quickly, and there was at least one unresolved issue that should have been addressed...unless Ms. Michaels has plans for a sequel about the sisters. And it would have been nice to have a few more moments of Ethan and Miranda basking in their love for each other before getting to the end; not even an epilogue was included, and I do love me those epilogues. Regardless, this wasn't the first, and it definitely won't be the last Jess Michaels' story I read. I've found that I enjoy her erotic tales very much and I am looking forward to future stories.
Rating: **** out of *****