INTO PASSION'S DAWN by Michele DuBarry

into passion's dawn StarPUBLISHER: Star, 1981
ISBN: 035230913X
GENRE: Historical Romance
SETTING: England, Scotland, 1802-1806
SERIES: The Loves of Angela Carlyle, #1

An unselfish motive led lovely fifteen-year-old Angela Carlyle to consummate a brazen bargain in Lord Harrington's bedchamber. But the wedding night unleashed anothers conniving lust, planting the seeds of passion in Angela's breast. And thus her new life began, a tumultuous story of lost innocence and restless desire, sweeping the beautiful Angela into a world of flesh and fear. For the fire, which consumed her, could be quenched by one man alone-the man she both detested and desired.

EXTREME BODICE RIPPER ALERT! Brace yourselves. I've stumbled upon the most effed up over-the-top anti-hero ever, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll detail the abusive stuff below.

Black-haired, light blue-eyed Angela meets the seventy-something year old Lord Percival 'Percy' Harrington at her parents home when she was ten. He's a distant cousin by marriage to her mother. Five years later, she realizes her father is running out of money so she doesn't know what else to do but write to Percy and let him know, in a roundabout way, she needs money. He visits and lets her know that if she wants money, she has to marry him. She's horrified at the thought, since she's only fifteen, and lets him know it. He's described as being tall, fat, with yellow, tobacco-stained broken teeth. She agrees to it and before the wedding, she meets his son, Scott, one day when she's outside. That's when his obsession with her begins. He's ten years her senior and has brown hair and brown eyes.

On their wedding night, she lays in bed and waits for Percy. He arrives drunk and passes out. Out of the darkness appears Scott. He tells her he drugged his father and that he's going to rape her right in the bed with him passed out. He rips her gown off, she claws his face and bites his lip. He flings her off of him, hitting her in the face in the process. He throws her on the bed, she claws his back, he calls her a bitch and ties her hands to the headboard, then rapes her. She bleeds heavily for a hour. The next morning Percy wakes up thinking they'd had sex.

Soon after that incident she finds a diary in the house that belonged to Scott's aunt Blanche. It talks about how Scott was unwanted, neglected, ignored, and she begins to feel sympathy for him but hates him with a passion at the same time. We never learn exactly what went on in his childhood. We just know that he and his father hate each other. She took the diary to him and he had the nerve to proposition her- have sex with him willingly or he'd continue to rape her. She doesn't agree to it.

His abuse towards her is off the charts from then on out. He continues to drug (more likely have a servant do it) his father every night, her too sometimes, and sneak into her bedroom through a secret underground tunnel that leads to his own house on the property and rape her.

She shot him once when she realized she'd been drugged by him. He smacked her twice, put her over his knee and whipped her until his arm hurt, then raped her. Another time Angela insults him and he calls her a bitch and slut, carries her into the ocean and drops her in, right as she was telling him she was pregnant. He rescues her then and they get in bed and have sex, her supposedly not remembering the near drowning. She's as mentally screwed up as him for saying that him doing that was partially her fault for 'goading' him into anger. Another time, Scott sneaks into her room and finds her in bed with her friend, Keith. He beats the heck out of him and smacks Angela. Now for the worst of his abuse- right after beating Keith up, he tied Angela to the bed, with Keith passed out on the floor, and began biting her all over- lips, breast, neck, nipples, everywhere! He turned her over and alternated between beating her with her quirt (short riding crop) and raping her. He heated his signet ring in the fire and branded her butt cheek with it. If ever a hero needed a bullet to the brain, it's him. At some point in the book Keith smacks and rapes Angela once too.

He kidnaps her at her wedding to Keith and takes her to Scotland. At this point, she's nineteen. She becomes pregnant again. He's trying hard to get her to marry him but she refuses. He tells her that he'll take her home to England but the children have to stay with him. She says and they begin a consentual sexual relationship with each other. She finds happiness with him and agrees to marry him and that's how the book ends.

Nothing shocks me in old historicals anymore but there were several moments in this book that made my jaw drop and eyes pop. Scott is beyond disturbed. Unfortunately for the reader, we never learned what happened to him in his childhood that helped turn him into the jealous, possessive monster he became. He's really arrogant too.

Poor Angela sees herself as an 'unwilling captive of desire and revenge'. She's very spirited and feisty, not passive at all. She hates yet loves him and he won't let her break free. There are periods of consentual sex between them throughout the story. She has a sexual relationship with three men and never has sex with her elderly husband, who's not in the story much.

There was a part in here where she's kidnapped by a highwayman named Jack Newton, who's forty years old. She's about seventeen. He's not abusive while he's holding her for ransom for six weeks. They become lovers, even though they're both married. He eventually hangs for his crime. This part became boring to me once he was captured and went to trial.

I like warped romances and this one fit the bill. Same review here.


Pornochic 10: OksanaSTUDIO: Marc Dorcel
LENGTH: 94 min.

From DVD: Oksana is your delightful captain in the exquisite sex tour of the French Riviera. She's brought her husband along, but don't worry he's not a jealous man. Besides, she's also brought plenty of gorgeous sex-starved friends along for the ride.

No condoms were used except for in scene 4 and all the men are uncircumcised.

SCENE 1: Jennifer's (Czech) in a bed in a hotel in France. Her vulva is completely bald. A man, J.P.(French), is laying beside her. She calls room service to order something. She kisses JP, pulls the covers off him and jerks him off for a short while, then blows him. Oksana (French) brings in the food then leaves. She goes back into the room, stands at the foot of the bed, takes her outer clothes off and bra, kneels on the bed and blows him. Both girls blow him, one on either side.

Jennifer's on her hands and knees, JP behind her, fucking her vaginally, while Oksana's underneath her, licking her clit. He pulls out so Oksana can suck him, then puts it back in Jennifer. He does that several times. Jen and JP in spoon position, Oksana rubbing Jen's clit. Oksana's vulva is totally bald. She gets on JP, reverse cowgirl, Jen to her right, rubbing Oksana's clit. Oksana's leaning back with her hands on each side of JP's shoulders. He's pumping into her really fast and does that nonstop for awhile. She gets on all fours, he's behind her fucking her ass. He pulls out and Jen sucks him then he puts it back in and is pretty rough with her. He pulls out and comes on her asshole with most of it running down onto her pussy. He puts his dick back in for a few more pumps.

SCENE 2: Jennifer, from scene 1, gets on a yacht in France. She goes into a bedroom, strips out of her dress and puts on a bikini. She sunbathes on the yacht. JP goes over to her and they kiss. Lauro (Hungary) goes over to them, pulls her top down and licks her nipples and rubs her clit. JP goes and leans back against the rail and watches, then leaves. Jen leans over Lauro and blows him. She gets on him, reverse cowgirl, and rides him hard and fast. She turns around, facing him for awhile. Next, she's on hands and knees, he's behind her, fucking her in the ass, her rubbing her clit. He stops, eats her ass, then puts it back in her ass. Spoon position anal for awhile. JP goes back over, stands behind her and rubs her breasts. Still on her side, she reaches back and jerks Lauro until he comes on her right ass cheek.

SCENE 3: A bunch of girls and a few guys are on the yacht, eating. Lucy (Czech) goes over to JP and they walk over to two huge cushions that are on the floor of the yacht. Thomas (Hungary) goes over to them, kneels down and takes her bikini top off and licks her nipples. JP stands beside her, dick out, she kneels and blows him. Her ass is in the air so Thomas kneels behind her, takes her bottoms off and fingers her, then fucks her. She's now laying on her right side, JP fucking her from behind while Thomas is standing beside her, getting blown. Her vulva is bald and she's petite.

Reverse cowgirl anal with Thomas, while JP's standing to her left, getting blown. It's DP time! She gets on top of Thomas while JP's behind her, fucking her ass. She kneels between them and JP jerks off onto her face. She turns to Thomas and she jerks him off into her mouth.

SCENE 4: They're supposedly in Poland now. Honey (Hungary) is blowing Totti outside some warehouse-type place. Oksana and a man are in a car that's parked in front of them. They park then go over to Honey and Totti and watch until the guy comes on her face, then they go inside. They watch Misty (Hungary) blow a guy while Frank stands there, watching. Oksana takes the guys dick out and jerks it. JP's standing nearby, watching, dick in hand, jerking it. Frank, who was watching, walks over to Oksana and the man she's with, Bob. He takes her coat off and that's on the cover of the dvd. She's nude underneath except of underwear, garter, and hose. She walks off with Frank.

They go deeper into the warehouse. She kneels down and he spits into her mouth (gag!), then she blows him. He's got her long hair fisted in both hands behind her head. He's fucking her mouth really hard and fast. He has her suck his balls. JP goes over to them and Oksana blows him and jerks Frank.

Misty is standing in just her underwear with Bob and Alex. She's on fours. Alex fucks her pussy, then she blow him. Oksana's in another part of the warehouse, on top of Frank, reverse cowgirl, blowing JP, who's standing beside her. Misty is elsewhere getting fucked from behind by Alex, while Bob watches. Bob, jerking off, walks over to Oksana, who's still on Frank. He's wearing a condom. Franks put his dick in her ass. Bob walks over, kneels down and rubs her clit. You can see her own cream inside the opening of her pussy. He fingers her with two fingers from his right hand really hard and fast.

She's on top of Bob vaginally, JP in her ass, wearing a condom, while Frank's standing in front, getting blown. She jerks Frank until he comes. She kneels and blows the two others. Meanwhile, Alex is off fucking Misty from behind. They lay on their left sides for spoon position. Reverse cowgirl next for awhile. She lays to his right and jerks him until he comes on his stomach. They kiss while she's doing it.

SCENE 5: Nikki (Czech) arrives at a house in Poland, supposedly, where JP, Lauro, and Phil are. They're at the pool table and she sits on the sofa, takes her shoes off and rubs her feet. Phil stands behind her, rubs her back then unbuttons her shirt and pulls her bra down. The two others sit on either side of her. She jerks JP off then blows other guy. Reverse cowgirl with JP. She leans over to her right and blows Lauro, then Phil. She gets up and sits her pussy on Lauro and blows Phil, who's standing behind the sofa, in front of her. She leans over and blows JP. JP lays back, right leg up on back of sofa, she leans towards him more to blow him, and Phil fucks her in the ass while she's still on Lauro, him in her ass too now. You can see a snippit of that near the end of the trailer below. She doesn't look like she enjoys it. Lauro pulls out, comes on her pussy, and JP comes on her chest, then she sucks his dickhead a few times. Phil comes on her face.

MY THOUGHTS: I've noticed with Marc Dorcel productions that there isn't really any dialogue. This one had none and low music played throughout. His productions also have too many group scenes. It's hard to pay attention to what's going on when there's a lot to see. His productions never look cheap.

All the girls have natural breasts and bald labia with little to no hair on pubic mound. I prefer them totally bald in porn, and they usually are. The men are all hung like horses and are uncircumcised. JP is very unattractive (I feel bad for thinking it) and I wish he had been in less scenes and I wish there had been more of Frank.

My favorite positions to watch are spoon and reverse cowgirl and thankfully there was plenty of it. I'm grading this a B because of the lack of one-on-one scenes.

This came from my personal collection.

ABDUCTED BY A PRINCE by Olivia Drake (Barbara Dawson Smith)

abductedPUBLISHING INFO: St. Martin's, 4/29/2014
GENRE: Historical Romance
SETTING: England & Scotland, 1800's (I guess)
SERIES: Cinderella Sisterhood, #3

FROM PUBLISHER: Ellie Stratham gave up her childhood dreams of a fairy tale romance long ago. To repay her late father’s debts, she’s forced to serve her spoiled cousin, Lady Beatrice. But Ellie has devised a secret plan to escape her life as a drudge. A plan that is thrown into jeopardy when she’s abducted by a mysterious stranger.

A notorious seducer of women—and a scoundrel to boot—Damien Burke has earned his nickname as the Demon Prince. But his plot to kidnap Lady Beatrice to make her brother return a priceless heirloom backfires—and he ends up with their penniless cousin, Ellie, as his hostage. By the time Damien realizes his mistake, he and his fiery-willed captive are trapped in a remote castle during a wild winter storm. And he soon finds that the true hostage may be his own heart.

MY THOUGHTS: Oh, dear. Another terrible one and another one where the year isn't given. The heroine, twenty-six year old auburn-haired Ellie lives with her awful aunt, uncle, two cousin, and Lady Anne, a nonrelative who's very nice to her and is the only nonservant in the house who cares about her. Ellie's parents died separately when she was six and fourteen and she had no choice but to live with them. She's secretly writing a 'storybook'.

Twenty-eight year old black-haired, green-eyed Damien has been given the ridiculous nickname of The Demon Prince when there's nothing demon-like about him and he's not a 'notorious seducer of women' either. He's your regular, run of the mill self-made hero who grew up poor and has become wealthy. He's widowed with a young daughter, Lily. He never knew who his biological parents were but that changes for him near the end of the story.

My favorite theme of all is abduction of the heroine by hero, or someone sent in his place to do it. That's why I was excited to read this. Aside from the abduction itself this was pretty uneventful until the laughable bit of stuff near the end regarding his paternity. I liked the story until her abduction and my opinion of the book went downhill fast after that. She was obviously angry with him at first for abducting her but soon became resigned to her fate. He treated her well and they became friendly with each other, then turned into lovers. And that's about it. I understand why they married but damn, why'd they have to get married just a few weeks in? I think the story only spans 2-4 weeks. Both characters were likeable but my mind tuned out when they became friends and the storyline disappeared. It became endless pages of her working on her storybook.

Barbara Dawson Smith was first published in 1985 and I'd like to read some of her older historicals but her Olivia Drake novels, I'm not sure I'd ever read another one. She hasn't written under that name since she began being published as Olivia Drake.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Same review here.


Today I was checking out author Regan Walker's review blog and came across this interview she did with veteran historical romance author Jennifer Blake last year, in which Jennifer discusses bodice rippers. Yay! Please check it out here.

NOTHING DENIED by Jess Michaels

PUBLISHER: Avon Red, 2/2010
GENRE: Fiction/Erotic Historical Romance
SETTING: England, 1800's (I guess)
SERIES: Albright Sisters, #3

FROM PUBLISHER: 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.

MY THOUGHTS: I feel this story is underdeveloped and a touch lightweight. It took place within two weeks, not counting the epilogue that jumps ahead five years. We didn't learn anything about Beatrice's or Gareth's childhoods. I don't even know how old they are or what year this took place. I guess she's twenty-three, since girls had their first 'season' at sixteen. This novel is fairly short, 260 pages, but there was still room to fully develop the characters.

I liked Beatrice at first, until she got rude with a servant. She's direct and didn't hesitate to go after what she wanted, in this case, Gareth. She's got jealously issues and feels like her family has pushed her aside in order to find her sisters' husbands. She's gotten tired of it so took matters into her own hands out of pure desperation. I still don't understand why no one would marry her. Having a 'bad attitude' doesn't seem reason enough to keep men away from an attractive woman.

The widowed Gareth is looking for a wife he's sexually compatible with, since he wasn't with his first wife. Their relationship turned real sour. She did something terrible and I'm not sure I understand why and there's no sense in trying to figure a fictional character out. I don't really have an opinion on Gareth. He and Beatrice embark on a two week sexual relationship to see if they're compatible and if they are, they're to get married. I liked that the sex was graphic but was turned off by the mild bondage. That never does anything for me. I was glad the author used the P word, as most tend to say 'cunt' instead. There was also anal sex, which was a nice change. You don't get that a whole lot in historicals.

There was a mystery thrown in right near the end that was solved just as quick as it came. That should have happened sooner in the story and should have taken longer to solve.

Overall, I liked the story up until the later part when her sister and brother in law made and appearance and the mystery at the end.


PUB. INFO: Grand Central Publishing, 5/27/2014
GENRE: Historical Romance
SETTING: England, 1812 or 13
SERIES: House of Trent, book 3

From Publisher: Undercover agent Sam Hawkins has devoted his life to protecting king and country. So when he receives orders to assassinate a ruthless traitor, he doesn't question his mission. But Sam didn't know his deed had a witness—the beautiful and mysterious betrayer's wife. Now he has no choice but to take her as his prisoner—one he can neither trust…nor resist.

Élise, Lady Dunthorpe, will do anything to escape her powerful captor—including seducing him senseless. She didn't know of her miserable husband's crimes, but she has secrets of her own—secrets that threaten everything she holds dear. With his piercing dark eyes and gentle touch, Sam inflames Élise's deepest desires, but how could she ever trust a man who won't let her go? Caught between the crown he's sworn to serve and the woman he's come to love, Sam will risk his heart—and his very life—to keep her safe.

MY THOUGHTS:. There wasn't anything that I liked about this story. It was more of an action-adventure story than romance and that I didn't like at all. I think the story spanned about a month or so, not counting the epilogue.

Twenty-eight year old heroine, Élise, a blue-eyed blond, was in a bad childless marriage for eleven years. She's French but has spent most of her life in England. She sees her husband murdered right in front of her by Sam and within a few day, she's lusting after him. I'm not sure what to make of that.

Thirty-two year old brown-haired and brown-eyed Sam being twice widowed is a major turnoff. I don't really like that he confessed to Élise that he didn't love either wife. I thought that was ridiculous too. They met too soon, during chapter one. They're both bland and boring, as is the story. There's really nothing more to say about either character.

We finally learned what happened with his mother. She disappeared a year ago, during book 1 of the series, and Sam found her over halfway through the book. Élise told her that her children had been searching for her the whole time and the moron was real surprised to hear it. Really, duchess? You up and disappeared without a trace and you're surprised that everyone was worried? What makes no sense is why you didn't tell anyone you were leaving. I don't think that in real life that would have happened. There was no reason for you to run away. You're a grown woman who could have and should have told everyone the truth.

There was a major revelation during that initial reunion involving Sam and his birth father, and his younger sister Esme, that I can't get into without giving it all away. I didn't see that coming and I wish it had happened a bit sooner in the story.

This was, by far, my least favorite of the series. Here are links for my reviews for books one, two, and a novella.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

UNBREAK MY HEART by Toni Braxton

toniPUB. INFO: It Books (HarperCollins), 5/20/2014
GENRE: Nonfiction/Memoir

FROM PUBLISHER: While Toni Braxton may appear to be living a charmed life, hers is in fact a tumultuous story: a tale of personal triumph after a public unraveling. In her heartfelt memoir, the six-time Grammy Award-winning singer and star of WE tv's hit reality series Braxton Family Values is unapologetically honest in revealing the intimate details of her journey.

Toni and the entire Braxton clan have become America's favorite musical family, but what fans may not know is the intense guilt Toni once felt when she accepted a recording deal that excluded her sisters. That decision would haunt Toni for years to come, tainting the enormous fame she experienced as a popular female vocalist at the top of the charts. Despite her early accomplishments, Toni's world crumbled when she was forced to file for bankruptcy twice and was left all alone to pick up the pieces.

Unbreak My Heart is more than the story of Toni's difficult past and glittering success: it is a story of hope, of healing, and, ultimately, of redemption.

MY THOUGHTS: This was a quick read. While I'm not a fan of Toni's music, I am a huge fan of her family's reality show, Braxton Family Values that's on We TV. Toni opens up about her two bankruptcies, lupus, Autism, cosmetic surgeries, and other personal matters.

She grew up in Severn, MD (my home state) with deeply religious parents, her mother more so than the father, it seems. She's grown up to feel guilty about things she shouldn't and seems to harbor a small amount of animosity because of it.

What I've learned about Toni is that she's terrible with money but wants us to believe that's not the case. She's terrible at using birth control too. She's been generous with her family financially and I wonder how much. She didn't get into that much but I'm curious. She never talked about how angry she is/was toward her cheating father or if she ever was. Odd not to mention it.

I've never been a fan of her mother, Evelyn (especially since she threatened to 'slap the piss' out of Tamar), and after learning that her mother always reminded Toni to not 'forget about your sisters' since Toni got a record deal at 23 and her sister's didn't, I like her even less. And she had the nerve to seem angry when Toni got the deal. I've always had the feeling, and I don't know why, that Toni has financially supported her mother after her separation, then divorce, from her husband. I'm intrigued by the fact that Evelyn's 'guarded' about her own childhood. At a young age, she moved from the south to live with an aunt in Maryland.

I wish Toni had opened up a bit more about some things but overall this was a good, mostly honest book about her entire life. It's a bit watered down, like she didn't want to be completely honest and open about certain things for fear of hurting anyone's feelings...especially her mother's.

FYI- Trina's my favorite!

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

AFTER THE SCANDAL by Elizabeth Essex

after the scandalPUBLISHING INFO: St. Martin's, 3/25/2014
GENRE: Historical Romance
SETTING: England, 1800's (?)
SERIES: The Reckless Brides, #4

FROM PUBLISHER: When Lady Claire Jellicoe agreed to a walk in the moonlight, she never imagined her titled companion might have brutal motives. Nor could she have dreamed up such a brave rescue by the most unexpected savior of all: an inscrutable nobleman with a daring plan of escape—and a deliciously tempting embrace…

Timothy 'Tanner' Evans, the Duke of Fenmore, has palmed more treasures than he can count. Even for a man who grew up thieving in London’s stews, a stolen bride should be beyond the pale. But Fenmore won’t let scandal ruin the spirited beauty’s reputation. And now that she’s stolen his heart, how can he ever let her go…?

MY THOUGHTS: Not good, folks. The beautiful cover is the only good part. This story is a murder mystery with an unbelievable romance complete with the proverbial happily-ever-after thrown in because this is, after all, a romance. The entire story spans one day and they were 'in love' about 17 hours after meeting outside of a ball that was held at Tanner's grandmother's house.

Twenty-eight year old Tanner has 'loved' nineteen-year old Claire for several years, since she was seventeen. He's a bit of a stalker and was stalking Claire as she left the ball with known serial rapist, Lord Peter Rosing. They went outside and Rosing attempted to rape her from behind up against the boat house. Tanner foiled his attempt, beat him up, and the two of them made off in a boat to escape. Tanner lied about hearing people coming so that she'd go away with him. He purposely lied so he could take her out on the boat, unchaperoned, so that she'd be compromised and there'd be a scandal and he'd get to marry her. Well, he got his wish. That alone tells you he's no good. Not to mention that he once saw Rosing raping someone and didn't do anything about it. What a man, right? That was told near the end of the story and I honestly almost stopped reading.

The rest of the story is ridiculous. While in the boat they find a dead body in the river and the hunt is on to find her killer. The entire story is about that. They chit-chat as if there isn't a dead body in the boat with them and it's pure nonsense! Claire goes off with him, alone, for almost a full day to help him search. Respectable ladies do not go off with men, period, so it makes no sense for her to have done so.

This book was so disappointing. The one you'd suspect as being the killer is involved with her murder so there's no mystery, really, since he was the obvious suspect from the get go. So in that regard, I was sorely disappointed. Why make it so damn obvious? The way they went about getting the confession is laughable. That doesn't happen in real life. This novel was a travesty.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Same review here.

DEVIL'S DESIRE by Laurie McBain

devil'sdesirePUBLISHER: Avon, 1975
REISSUED: Sourcebooks, 11/2010
GENRE: Historical Romance
SETTING: England

FROM PUBLISHER: Women mean but one thing to Lord Alex Trevegne, whose jet black hair, golden gypsy eyes, and arrogant ways have earned him the name "Devil," until circumstances -and passion-conspire to bind him to the beautiful Lady Elysia Demarice. Fleeing the brutality of an aging and spiteful aunt, Elysia encounters Alex at an inn. When the two are discovered in a compromising situation by a guest with a grudge against the "Devil," they are forced to marry. Alex is determined to leave his bride and their marriage of "inconvenience" behind at his isolated estate in Cornwall but soon discovers the innocent Elysia awakens emotions he believed himself incapable of feeling.

In a rousing, unforgettable saga that sweeps across the valleys and peaks of human destiny, the stormy alliance of beautiful young Elysia and Alex plumbs the depths of raw human emotion -- lust, jealousy and hate -- for though Alex has married Elysia, he cannot possess her in flesh or spirit. Out of the turbulence of their clashing wills comes one of the greatest love stories ever written, as their twin passions mingle at last, in a rippling tide of liquid fire!

SPOILER REVIEW: This was awful. I don't know what year this story took place or how old Alex and Elysia are. I'm going to assume this was the 1800's, possibly 1700's. Elysia's parents and brother died two years before and she's been living with her abusive and mentally ill aunt since. Her aunt is her mother's step-sister and she's extremely jealous of her, has been since they were little. After being locked into her bedroom, Elysia can't take it anymore and runs away by jumping out the window. She ends up at an inn called Wayfare's Rest and that's where she meets Alex. We never hear from Aunt Agatha again.

There's a villain, Jason Bellingham, who's out to get Alex. He hates him for not allowing him to marry his ward, Catherine, but Jason doesn't let his hatred for Alex show. They're at the inn together and Jason comes up with a plan to drug both Alex and Elysia so he can put them in bed together so Alex will have to marry her due to a presumed scandal. His plan worked but also backfired on him, as Alex and Elysia were fine with marrying each other. That part bugged me greatly. Neither of them were angry about what happened. The marriage happened too early on in the story, about a third of the way. They married and got along for awhile then Alex turned into a jealous, abusive ass. He once grabbed her by the arm and later shook her by both arms two different times and told her he'd hit her in the face if he wasn't a 'gentleman'. It was said too many times that he had 'hawk-like features'.

The story got worse. Another crazy nut, Mrs. Blackmore, was out to kill Elysia and tried to twice. She's jealous because her teen daughter, Louisa, can't marry Alex because he's now married to Elysia. While laying there injured in the woods, her 'dead' bother Ian showed up after being presumed dead for two years. Adding him to the story was so unnecessary. All it did was add a bunch of BS to a story that wasn't good anyway. Adding Alex's brother Peter to the story was a waste too.

There were too many jealous, mentally unstable people in this book; Abusive aunt Agatha, Jason, Mrs. Blackstone, and Alex's ex-mistress, Mariana Woodley.

I was enjoying the story until Alex and Elysia were OK with getting married. The only parts l liked were those involving Jason. I'd hoped he would be out to sabotage their marriage but it wasn't to be. He did his evil deed and was done away with. He could have gotten together with Alex's ex-mistress and done some real damage.

I absolutely hate the new cover. Elysia's supposed to have red-gold hair, not auburn. On the original cover her hair color is right but it's not curly like stated in the book.


GENRE: Fiction/Historical Romance
SETTING: England, 1858

FROM PUBLISHER: Left penniless after her father's death, Alexandra Benjamin strikes an unusual bargain with John Damien Newell, the darkly seductive master of Cairncross Castle. Hired to teach his troubled younger brother Samuel to speak, she must first win her charge's trust. It is a daunting task, but one in which she is determined to succeed. Then the whispers start...

Crueler still are the secrets Cairncross Castle keeps. Secrets of a woman who cared for John Damien and Samuel as children, only to vanish amidst chilling rumors of murder. Secrets that tell of a ghost who still roams the castle's midnight passages, and seems to command the hearts and minds of both John Damien and Samuel. Secrets that lead Alexandra through a labyrinth of twisted lies and ancient mysteries, to where the answers lie waiting... in the darkest chambers of the heart.

MY THOUGHTS: This is definitely a gothic romance. Very gothic and more of a ghost mystery. The synopsis says Alexandria was left penniless but that's not true. She was left a small inheritance and could afford 'small luxuries' when her father died. The story spans at least four or five months.

Alexandria is twenty-five and has curly medium brown hair and hazel eyes. She had a lonely childhood. Her mother died when she was ten. Her father was into science and worked with deaf people. He never paid a whole lot of attention to her so she got involved with his work so she could try and bond with him. She was in love with Brian, a man who worked for her father but he didn't want to marry her so they parted ways.

Damien is thirty-four and has blond hair, blue eyes, and wears glasses. When he was fourteen he was falsely accused of rape by his governess (when she was caught fellating him against his wishes) and was banished from the house. He inherited his father's estate when he died and cares for his thirty year old brother, Sam, who looks just like him. Sam is mentally and speech impaired due to some incident involving Ursula. After finding out what that incident was I don't understand why he stopped talking. I'm real puzzled by it and wish I could ask the author about it.

His old governess is red-haired Ursula Pole. She disappeared twenty years ago, soon after Damien was banished. She's haunting the castle and Alexandra is trying to uncover the truth about what happened to her for the course of the entire story. She's described as an evil person but I'm not sure why. She seemed to be sexually attracted and obsessed with fourteen year old Damien and even wrote in her journal about wanting his 'seed and blood'. Damien wasn't interested in her in that way.

Damien is described as being very dark and seems to have a mental illness, based on him contemplating suicide with a gun twice in this story. I don't know why he's that way or if we're supposed to think that being lusted after by an older woman while a teenager and being kicked out of the house made him that way. What happened to him would surely have caused some anger but I don't think that explains his darkness. He says he doesn't enjoy life and has no heart or soul.

There was a disturbing incident where he was intentionally rough, and not in a playful way, while biting her nipple. Another time he was sitting in a chair and very roughly grabbed her by the back of the hair and pulled her down to his crotch, exposing himself and telling her to look at the scar (bite mark) that Ursula left on his penis. I really liked his character and wanted to see more of his darkness in action instead of just hearing about it.

Some things that bothered me were, for one, Sam stopped speaking when he was ten and all of a sudden, with Alexandra's help, began speaking some right after she began working with him. That wasn't believable. I think it would have taken him more time. Alexandra is half Jewish and we had to hear about it constantly. It played no part in the storyline and had nothing to do with anything so what was the author's point? The mystery as to what happened to Ursula wasn't much of a surprise and it got a bit tedious to read about.

Damien and Alexandra didn't spend too much time together so when I learned they were in love with each other I had to shake my head and ask myself when all these feelings developed. He got obsessed with her. I was sad for him yet loved the part when he told her no one would ever love her like he did. That was the best line in the book.

I absolutely loved the dark tone of the book but got tired of the ghost stuff and was glad when the book ended. This book needed a prequel novella, for sure. I wish the story had centered around their relationship a little more and centered less on Ursula. I have too many questions to be fully satisfied with the story and though I've graded this a B- I'm leaning more towards a C.