My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love a tortured hero. And we don't get much more tortured than wealthy and handsome Lord Valentin Sokorvsky. Valentin (or Val) was abducted from his English father and kept as a sex slave in a Turkish bordello for many many years. He was eventually freed, but left with scars - both physical and mental. (He was forced to service both men and women - and was also tortured by one particularly sadistic man named Alaibad.)
The book begins with sweet Sara Harrison seeing Val having wild sex with her maid, Daisy. Val catches her watching and she scrambles off down the hall. Come to find out, Val is about to be engaged to Sara's younger sister, even though the sister is in love with another man. Sara feels an immediate attraction for Val, although she is considered the spinster of the Harrison daughters (she's 26!), she knows she has no chance to ever have a lusty man such as him for a lover. Val also feels an attraction to her, and he finds ways to talk to her and see her during the time he is staying at her house. Well, as it turns out, the reason Val has agreed to marry Sara's sister is because he owes her father his life. Mr. Harrison is the man that rescued him from the bordello.
After Val meets and feels the attraction to Sara - he tells Mr. Harrison that he no longer wishes to marry the sister - the only Harrison girl he wishes to marry is Sara. Even though Mr. Harrison doesn't want that for his favorite child (because he knows of Val's previous life as a sex slave), he eventually agrees to it after Sara begs him.
But let me just say this - Sara is not a blushing flower. A virgin, yes....but she does all sorts of things that are considered "unladylike" for her time. She's a master harpsichord player, a math genius, and she isn't happy to simply sit by and let her husband boss her around. In fact - all her unladylike qualities are exactly what drew Val to her in the first place. Val, who had never been faithful to any one woman, suddenly finds himself unable to desire anyone else BUT Sara.
This book is filled with some crazy hot sex. Sara and Val's relationship is initially JUST about sex, but eventually he begins to realize that he doesn't just want her in his bed - he wants her working with him in his business too. Sara's math smarts help him and his business partner uncover some mistakes in the accounting ledgers and all of that unfolds around the same time they find out that someone is trying to sabotage his shipping company.
Through twists and turns - we see Sara and Val grow as a couple - both sexually and emotionally. There are some bumps along the way, but in any great love story - we know that the bumps are necessary to find the HEA.
I loved Sara's strength and patience with Val. He could be kind of a douche at times - but knowing his painful past....it was kind of hard to imagine him being any other way. Underneath his dickish exterior, you knew he had a huge heart - and that it beats only for Sara.
Just so you know - this book takes place in England in 1815.....which makes the things I'm about to mention all the more interesting. Those pre-Victorian era Brits were a randy bunch, obviously! ;) There is a lot of sex. LOTS OF IT. Starting from basically page one. It wasn't anything I would consider raunchy or perverse - but you will need an open mind to deal with some of it. There are toys involved....made of jade, of all things. Body piercing - which, I have to admit, was very hot and nothing I had read in other books of this sort. Then there is the House of Pleasure, for which the series is named. Scenes in the house contain some m/f/m action, though not much. Also some f/f and m/m, but again....not much. There is a lot more that happens in the House of Pleasure - but I'll leave that up to you to figure out. But like I said - it is nothing that I found to be raunchy or perverse.
I loved this story - and getting to know the characters and watching them develop. Was the story perfect? No. There were some holes and some things I wish the author had explained more in depth. But all in all - I found this story to be beautiful, passionate, and believable. I can't wait to read the rest of the series.