Entering her seventh unsuccessful season, Beatrice Albright is beginning to realize that her beauty cannot compensate for her shrewish ways. A desperate woman whom no one wants, she must seek a man whom no one else will marry: the despised and mysterious Marquis of Highcroft, Gareth Berenger. Rumor has it he is a killer, but Beatrice is far more terrified of spinsterhood--and the company of her mother--than she is of Berenger's dark reputation.
But Gareth, while intrigued by the alluring hellion's proposal, has a proposition of his own. A man of particular tastes, he will wed no woman unwilling to satisfy them. His bride must be adventurous, afraid of nothing, and eager to experience any passion and pleasure he can devise, no matter how shocking and taboo. If Beatrice agrees to a trial affair--if she can happily shed all her inhibitions--in the end they will be wed.
And so the die is cast--as Beatrice and Gareth embark on an erotic path where danger awaits them at every turn, en route to a world of exquisite ecstasy where there is nothing forbidden...nothing denied.
I've made no secret that the Dom/sub relationship is not one of my favorites, and so you probably wonder: then why did I read this book? Well, I read it because I am a big fan of Jess Michaels'w work. I admit, I had my misgivings, because one of the biggest turn-offs for me is when pleasure is withheld as punishment. Can't stand that. Yet I think that Miss Michaels handled this relationship between Gareth and Beatrice with quite a bit of sensitivity. True, Gareth did control Beatrice, something she loathed, but after a time she began to understand that he made good on his promise to her, and that his fierce desires in the bedroom were not perverted or wrong, but wonderfully freeing and immensely pleasurable. This bond between them was so much about trust, so much so that Gareth began to want trust with her outside of the bedroom. He ultimately wanted her heart.
But he had to break through the many barriers she built around herself, and the most basic way was through physical pleasure. When she realized that she could trust him to take care of her body,to worship her and respect her in such an intimate way, her sturdy defenses began to crumble. Soon, though it terrified her to admit it, she began to care for Gareth, and wanted to build something more lasting with this caring, somber man.
Gareth also sensed that there was a great deal more to Beatrice than she allows him to see, but she's a stubborn one, and he realizes he must take care not to scare her off. While she has let herself submit to him completely in their bed, she's holding something precious back from him, and he wants that more than anything else, very badly. He must convince this proud, moody, beautiful woman that what they could have together is something that could last a lifetime....
This is why I adore Jess Michaels' books so much. She delves deeper into the dominant lifestyle and takes it outside the bedroom, exploring the emotional complexity of such a relationship, and while it doesn't completely change my feelings about it, she was able to make me respect it much more than I probably have in the past. Trust is a significant part of what goes on between Gareth and Beatrice, and the way their relationship builds, first through sex then through their deeper emotions, was very believable for me. I found it rather poignant and beautiful in its earthy, primal way. Never at any time, even when Beatrice resisted, which she did because that's part of her nature, did I ever feel she was forced or didn't ultimately enjoy what took place between them. In fact she soon began to look forward to Gareth's possession, and when he held himself back in the beginning, not wanting to push her too quickly, it was Beatrice who finally told him it was time to let her experience his complete control.
This story was unexpectedly romantic, and of course that made me very happy. The epilogue was bittersweet, because it spoke of the end of this series, but as I turned the last page, it was with a sigh of satisfaction because it ended on a very happy note. Jess Michaels does it again. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and definitely recommend it. And wowza, it's incredibly HAWT. One of my not so guilty pleasures is the steamy lovin', and this book has it in spades. Bondage never sounded so good ;) So if you enjoy naughty erotic romances with a wonderful love story, I think you should pick up this book. Though it's part of a series, I don't believe you need to read the previous installments, though I would recommend that you do, becaue they're pretty damn good too.
Rating: **** out of *****
Labels: Jess Michaels