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Monday, March 23, 2009:
"To Pleasure a Lady" - Nicole Jordan (2008)


New York Times best-selling author Nicole Jordan spins a delectable tale of wit and sensuality in this delicious Regency romance, the captivating first in a dazzling new trilogy, The Courtship Wars.

Marcus Pierce, a strikingly handsome aristocrat with a wicked reputation, inherits guardianship of spirited Arabella Loring and her two younger sisters - and immediately declares his intention to marry them off. But enchantingly defiant Arabella sparks frustration - and something deeply erotic - in Marcus. After matching both wits and swords with her, the possessive nobleman concludes this beautiful and formidable foe must be his.

Having sworn off marriage and men, Arabella wishes to be left alone to run her finishing school for young ladies. To that end, she boldly accepts Marcus's intimate challenge: if he can woo and win her within two weeks, she'll take her place in his bed as his wife. However, if she can resist his considerable charms, the Loring sisters will be granted their independence. Thus an extraordinary game of seduction begins....

I've read many books by Nicole Jordan, most notably the Notorious serious, which I adored, especially "Ecstasy", the fourth book in the series. It was a highly passionate and brimming with sexual tension, and I adored it.

Anyway, I hadn't read her stuff for awhile, and when she was guest blogging at RNTV, I decided to get her latest series, The Courtship Wars, and see if I still felt the same way about her writing. The first book is "To Pleasure A Lady".

I must admit, it was really good to pick up a Nicole Jordan book after so many years. The premise alone hooked me, reminded me of another book about a virile nobleman being the ward of a woman who fuels his passion ("Forbidden" by Karen Robards. Now that is a hot book!), only this time around it's three wards, and the sisters are already in their twenties and not in need of a guardian any longer. They hope to convince him of that so they can go on with their lives.

Yet Marcus is quite fascinated with the oldest sister, Arabella, and decides that she would be perfect as his wife. She's beautiful, spirited, and makes him feel incredibly alive. He just has to persuade her that it would be an ideal arrangement for them both.

But Arabella and her sisters love the independent life they've created for themselves teaching at their academy, and none of them have any desire to wed. Having grown up in a household where their parents despised each other and didn't hide that fact, the girls are wary of marriages of convenience, and Arabella is very dead set against this type of marriage. And despite Marcus' bold seduction, Arabella is determined to win the wager and gain independence for her and her sisters, even if it means losing her heart in the process.

I found this to be a very engaging story, though not quite as passionate as the books in her "Notorious" series. Still, I did enjoy watching Marcus and Arabella try to outwit the other, both determined to win their case. Yet the more they get to know each other, the more their feelings become engaged, and it becomes more than just a wager.

These three young ladies suffered much scandal due to their parents' marriage, and were snubbed by society time and again for those sins. When they, along with assistance from a wealthy patroness, opened their school, it finally brought a sense of stability and independence into each of their lives, and certainly proved that they didn't need to depend on a man for financial security.

But in addition to living within their modest means for the last four years, Arabella has also had to deal with the fact that a man she once loved and was to marry turned his back on her when the scandals generated by her parents' public behavior proved to be too much for him to handle. Broken-hearted and betrayed, Arabella is not easily swayed by Marcus' proposal, and in fact continues to have misgivings. But she is tempted by his kisses and caresses, and finds herself straying further and further down the path of temptation and pleasure that only Marcus can give her. His touch is like fire, and she cannot resist experiencing such incredible passion with him.

I liked Arabella quite a bit, Marcus too, in fact. They are both strong-willed, passionate individuals who are incredibly attracted to each other, and both determined to win the wager. Arabella has been deeply hurt by love before, and can't believe she won't be again. If that weren't enough, her sisters feel pretty much the same way about marriage, and insist she not fall in love with Marcus and risk heartache all over again. Arabella has no desire to disappoint her sisters, who have suffered just as much as she has by their parents' actions.

Marcus is not a big believer in love, and in fact has no desire to marry, yet with Arabella he can be himself, and he is fully aware he must wed eventually in order to carry on his responsibility to his family. After some thought, he decides Arabella will make him an ideal bride, and sets out to woo her. But it's not as easy as he thought it would be; she challenges him at every turn.

Their mutual attraction is instantaneous and quite explosive. Part of Marcus' courtship includes introducing Arabella to the joys of sexual pleasure, and she takes to it like a duck to water. Their encounters are increasingly more carnal and daring, and Arabella can see why a woman would risk ruin in order to experience the kind of pleasure Marcus introduces her to. Still, it's not enough to convince her that she should accept Marcus' marriage proposal.

I liked that despite what has happened to them, Arabella and her sisters are extremely loyal, not only to each other, but to their friend Fanny, a famous Cyprian whom they have known since growing up as children. I understand that there are more books in the Courtship Wars and eventually Fanny will find love of her own. I look forward to that story, even though it won't be a full-length book.

I also liked that these young ladies didn't mope around waiting to be saved. They adapted to their drastic change in circumstances, came up with a legitimate plan, and put it into action. They used their experience to the best of their advantage, and turned a potentially dismal situation into a positive and modestly lucrative one. And I liked that the academy will continue to thrive and be a part of their lives, even after marriage.

If there is something I felt was missing, it was getting a chance to know more about Marcus. He's gorgeous, rich, titled, and very determined to win Arabella as his wife. He does act admirably on at least two occasions, but I was curious to know what drove him, what his childhood and upbringing were like, how his past experience(s) of love shaped him. I think my feelings would have been more involved in their story if I had gotten to know Marcus more than I did, and while I liked TPAL quite a bit, there was room for improvement on that score, and I believe Marcus held the key to that.

I must note that I really loved the covers of the Courtship Wars books - very sensual and pleasing to the eye. The other 3 books that have been released so far are also as equally gorgeous, and in my possession. I so look forward to reading them.

Rating: ****1/4 stars of out *****

How do you feel about love stories between guardians and their wards:

romantic or just plain creepy?

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  1. I JUST did a review for that very scenerio. The Guardian and the ward fall madly in love. You know, I think it really all depends on the story at hand. Sure, there would be some instances where it would be creepy, but on the same note it could be quite romantic.

    I believe that almost any scenerio could work IF the author does it right.

    The Pleasure Lady sounds great, btw. Wonderful review.

  2. I read that series. I liked them too. This one is my fav of the three. I also liked...can't remember her name but the Duke of Arden is the hero, I believe. I liked their story.

  3. That was a great review Stacy! Normally as soon as I start hearing words like 'spirted' and 'enchantingly defiant', especially in combination with beautiful, I just wilt (yes I know I'm in a very small minority of one with this :)...but your review has me tempted to give this book a go :)

  4. Barbara, I'll need to pick up that one. I admit I find the premise rather fun and naughty, but it could go the icky route. This is not one of those books.

    Hey Kelley! That one's my favorite so far. I just finished it and will post my review later in the week.

    Orannia, I was hesitant when I heard that all 3 sisters were considered beautiful, but having endured scandal and other obstacles, I was able to put aside my "rolling of the eyes" opinion and thoroughly enjoy the book. I thought the 2nd one was even better.

  5. Stacy - I, too, am a huge NJ fangirl. I loved the Notorious series as well, and all the rest, really, LOL.

    This has been a good series so far. I need to pick up the latest one that was just released.

  6. Ah, I have this in my TBR. I should read it soon :)

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