Genre: historical erotica
Sex scenes: scorching
Passion Quartet: (1) Passion
I don’t need to tell you that contemporary erotica is currently taking the publishing world by storm; who knows how long this will go on for, but I’m hoping that it will be a long time. In my books, anything that gets the romance genre more accepted and recognised amongst wider society is a good thing. Historical erotica isn’t nearly as big and I for one hadn’t ever set foot in this territory, mostly because I had no idea where to start. Passion is one of those books that I have meant to read for ages because I’ve heard so much about it; when I saw it on eBay, I leapt at the chance to own it despite knowing absolutely nothing about what it was about, or that it would be as hot as it is. It has its flaws, but boy am I glad that I bought it.
Widowed Passion Elizabeth Dare had been innocently enjoying the exhibits at the Crystal Palace, waiting for her cousin Charlotte to arrive, when she was nearly blinded by a tree. Or, at least, that’s how her melodramatic Aunt Matty would put it. In truth, Passion – named for Passion Sunday – was saved by a handsome stranger with whom the attraction is instant and scorching. An erotica encounter behind an elaborate screen in the gothic furniture exhibit rocks both their worlds but leaves them hungry for more.
Passion never thought that she’d be able to feel real passion and release like she has with this elusive stranger. Her three-year marriage was loveless, pleasureless (for her at least) and fruitless. She had lost hope of ever marrying again or bearing children of her own, but much to her utter disbelief, she finds more than she could have ever imagined in this single meeting.
Mark Randolph Hawkmore, Earl of Langley is in something of a tricky position. It’s never been a secret that his parents’ marriage was loveless and full of animosity, but it has recently been revealed to him that his younger brother - who has always had the pole position in his mother’s affections - is illegitimate. Lucinda, the dumb Countess she is, wrote to a friend many years ago, boasting of how she had borne the gardener’s son. Now, the friend has come back to haunt her and threatens to send the letter to press if Mark doesn’t marry her only daughter. Mark has no plans to marry the innocent Charlotte, but while his man goes undercover in the Lawrence household to try and unearth this damning letter, he’s free to pursue this dalliance with this woman who is quickly becoming more precious to him than anyone he has ever known …
As might be expected, things turn ugly when each party discover how truly interlinked they are. Knowing herself to be barren and a completely unsuitable wife for Mark, not to mention her loyalty to her cousin Charlotte, Passion is adamant that she will do everything in her power to ensure that Charlotte and Mark have a happy marriage. Of course, Mark wants nothing to do with anyone but Passion and still holds Charlotte liable despite her insignificant role in her mother’s scheming. Will love be able to conquer over all?
I’ve read plenty of books where the hero and heroine meet by chance and are so attracted to each other that they steal a passionate encounter behind a tree before reluctantly parting ways, and then just-so-happen to bump into each other at a ball. But never (in my memory at least) have I read a book where the protagonists meet by chance and end up having full-blown ridiculously erotic sex in a room full of people. Boy, was that a shock, but definitely a pleasant one at that.
I do love Passion. She has remarkable patience for those around her and is brilliantly subtle at handling people and getting situations to run smoothly. Her marriage was a great disappointment for both parties and although she has deep regrets for the way it went, she hasn’t let it take over her life and isn’t one to stop her from living her widowhood the way she wants. Having brought up her two younger sisters when her mother died when they were young, Passion has always been the shoulder to lean on and continues to occupy that same position. It was thus great to see her evolve and learn that sometimes, she needs someone to lean on and confess her own troubles.
Mark’s great. I always find it a tad strange to come across heroes called Mark because that was the name of one of my housemates last year, but they’re nothing alike. I love that he’s an architect. It’s all good and well to have a hero who manages his estate and doubles his money, but I love a hero who has a proper job, too. Even better when it’s related to the heroine’s interests/secret job etc (see Too Tempting to Resist) but I’m not too fussy. His childhood wasn’t great and he harbours a deep resentment against his mother for the way he treated him as a child. No, he doesn’t want to be treated the same way as his younger brother, Matthew, but anything but the cold, calculated hate that Lucinda directed towards him as a kid would have been lovely.
Mark and Matthew’s treatment of their mother sickened me a little. Yes, she’s unfit to be a parent and the type of person whom should never be given the gift of a child, but shit happens and we get results like this. That said, Mark and Matthew were despicable to treat her with the disrespect that they did. I’m a firm believer in parental respect, however awful your parents are. You can’t get respect without giving any and even if the respect isn’t reciprocal, I don’t believe that a child ever has the right to treat their parents with anything less than the common courtesy that you’d give to a stranger. I can understand why Mark dislikes his mother with the intensity he does, and I can also understand why he’s so furious with her about the whole situation that she’s landed him in, but there really is no need for the level of violent interaction towards her.
Ms Valdez has a very unique style of writing that can take some getting used to and may not be for everyone. It’s difficult to explain with accuracy, but the word that comes to mind is ‘lilting’ and to be honest, other than simply noticing it, I didn’t have any problem with it. Make your mind up for yourself.
The sex is … something else. When you’ve got a hero with a ten-and-half-inch penis when erect (yes, you read that right!), the sex will always be something else. It’s highly erotic and with BDSM erotic books dominating the market at the moment, it is nice to read vanilla erotica. Passion itself has plenty of variety and Ms Valdez does well to keep the sex fresh. There are undoubtedly scenes where you can see elements of a dominant hero peeking through, but I attribute that more to Mark’s alpha streak than him being a Dominant. It’s incredibly sexy.
The plot is your classic hero-is-promised-to-another and works well. Valdez communicates across the characters’ emotions brilliantly and I almost cried at the double-whammy scene where both Passion and Mark find out exactly who they are to each other – with Charlotte present, of course. Their ensuing encounters are just as heart-breaking as Passion is adamant that they should keep their distance, yet Mark is fiercely rooting for them to end up together. Really, just a great story to watch unfold.
This is without doubt, a book that you’ll never forget. Passion is part of the Passion Quartet, yet it was written in 2005, Patience was released in 2006 and there still aren’t any other books. After some cursory research on Ms Valdez’s website, I believe Primrose is almost finished and should be released in autumn of 2013. It’s been a ridiculously long wait (I know I can’t complain because I’ve only just discovered the series) especially since nothing else has been published in the meantime. Here’s to hoping that Patience and Passion will be just as great. This is a must-read to tick off your list; I‘m glad I have.
Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction