AUTHOR: Alice Gaines
PUBLISHER: Carina Press
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 88k)
GENRE: Historical erotic romance
Spinster Juliet Foster inherits the vast majority of her father’s fortune, leaving her one of the richest women in America. Determined to be independent and live life the way she wants to, she decides to take a tour of Europe and have a string of affairs. The only problem is, she needs to lose her virginity first or nobody will believe her as a woman of the world. She meets Englishman David Winslow and decides he is the one. The only problem is, he doesn’t want her as only a lover. He wants her as his wife. With each as stubborn as the other, only time will tell who will come out the victor…
I’ve purchased a number of Carina titles since it opened last June, and so far, they’ve been pretty evenly split between good and bad. The ones I’ve liked, I’ve really liked, though, so it’s definitely encouraging to stick with them.
This book falls into a really like category. It features the indomitable Miss Juliet Foster, who finds out that her jerk of a father has left the vast majority of his very large fortune to her, because She has a headstrong and unfeminine temperament and will never land a husband. But she clings to money with the tenacity of a barnacle. This way, I know she’ll never starve. Rather than sit around and fend off suitors, though, she wants to experience life to the fullest, and decides on a jaunt through Europe, taking on a string of lovers. The only drawback is, she’s still a virgin, and since she needs to pose as a widow to keep her identity safe, she needs to find a way to lose it. Her initial plan is to lose it on the ship, but then she meets David Winslow, the Marquis of Derrington, and the sparks that jump between them – as well as his reputation as a cad – makes him the ideal candidate. Even better, he’s English, and the way she sees it, the English aren’t nearly as provocative or well-trained in the sexual arts as the French or Italians. David will be a great training ground.
The only problem is, David isn’t currently looking for a lover. Convinced his beloved grandmother is about to die, he’s determined to marry and honor his grandmother’s wish. His grandmother has a very definite idea of the woman that should be, and after meeting Juliet, David is certain he’s found her. His marriage proposal is turned down, however, but both of them are all too aware of the attraction between them. Even when it looks like they’re leaving each other’s lives for good, fate rears its head, putting them into a stubborn circle as Juliet sets out to make David her first lover and David is vehement that she marry him, too.
I like so much about this story, it’s hard to know where to start. The characters would probably be a good place. Both David and Juliet are sharp-witted, smart, and sensual, traits that carry them far when other elements might falter. I loved the sparks they had from their very first meeting, and their constant one-upmanship had me grinning throughout the book. When they do ultimately consummate their attraction, it’s an explosion that doesn’t let up until nearly the end. They’re hot and passionate, convincing me over and over again just how right they are for each other.
It’s not just the two leads who come through as three-dimensional. More than a few secondary characters stand out in their own right, like Millie, Juliet’s best friend, and Blandings, a married friend of David’s. The secondary characters play significant roles, and rarely get lost in the protagonists’ shadows.
I also love the turnabout on the more traditional expectations. Juliet bucks what every other woman of her era wants (or is supposed to want), while David proves the more romantic of the pairing. This switch-up of roles gives the tale a fresh sparkle, engaging me so completely that it felt like a much shorter book than it is.
My complaints are few, and in at least one case, probably specific to me. I generally prefer blunt language when it comes to sex and anatomy, and though I know it’s more historically accurate to refer to things by different terms, it still catches me up. Words like “frig” and “pearl” disrupt my immersion because they sound so politely euphemistic, but I imagine regular readers of historicals might not necessarily have the same hang-ups.
My other hang-up is in regards to Juliet herself. While I adored her independence, at one point it really felt she was being dumb about what was going on around her and with David just for the sake of adding conflict. She ran away a third time, and it annoyed me to no end because I couldn’t help but think, “She’s smarter than that.” On the surface, the explanations kind of made sense, but I can’t say that I actually believed them emotionally.
This book was more than enough to get me excited about possibly finding a new author to devour. While her website hasn’t been updated in recent months, there’s enough backlist there for me to go wandering around in search of a story as fun and passionate as this was. Fingers crossed I find one.
8/10 – Lush and erotic, though I’ll admit I got caught occasionally on some of the historical terminology of things
8/10 – I thought he came a little too easy to his decision about marrying Juliet, but otherwise he was charming and wonderful
8/10 – I adored her headstrong, independent ways, until the end when I thought she ran away one too many times
8/10 – In spite of hang-ups, fell head over heels for the chemistry between the two
9/10 – Crisp and utterly believable, no matter what continent she was on