passion rating: hot
Dear Ms. Sizemore,
I loved The Price of Innocence. And, I expect to get grief from a few for doing so. The relationship between your leads, Jack and Sherrie, begins with what could be called at best forced seduction and what will be seen by some as rape. This trope makes many crazy. Before I began writing this review, I read a great Smart Bitch column about rape in romance and marveled at all the ways readers see this dynamic. I thought about how I see it and why. The truth is I often like forced seduction in my romances. As I’ve written elsewhere at Dear Author, I spent much of my teenage years in the 1970’s reading bodice rippers—I still have my well-thumbed copies of Sweet Savage Love and The Wolf and the Dove. For me, there can be a sensual power when one’s control is taken away. Not all forced seduction stories work for me, but, many do. I found the bond between Jack and Sherrie to be blazing—I am deeply fond of blazing—and I was truly drawn into their story.
The book is set in 1880’s Victorian England. Sherrie Hamilton has come to England from America where she’s been living with her eight-year old daughter, Minnie. Sherrie is a young, wealthy widow who has no interest in marrying again. She’s come to London with her aunt and her two younger cousins, Faith and Daisy, the latter of whom are looking for titled Brits to wed. At a party, Sherrie is introduced to Jack, the Earl of PenMartyn. When she sees him, she is instantly, powerfully drawn to him. He reminds of her of someone she’s sure he can’t be, Cullum Rourke, the pirate who, nine years ago, saved her from Malaysian slavers only to take her for himself.
Jack, though, knows instantly that Sherrie Hamilton is his Scheherazade, the eighteen year old girl (he was twenty-four) he had to have from the moment he saw her and whom he kept for three months. Jack’s and Sherrie’s past is shown in flashbacks and each and every one of them is infused with desire and pure passion. Here’s the scene when they first speak. Jack has just freed Sherrie from a cage where she’d been imprisoned by slavers who planned to sell her white-skinned virginity for a great price.
His men gathered around as he pulled the girl out for a closer look.“Thank you!” she said.“Don’t.”Their gazes met, locked, then she looked away, her cheeks bright red. He knew what she’d seen in his eyes. After a long moment she laughed, the tone musical, as clear and sharp as the salt wind that caught the sound and blew it out to sea. It was a brave laugh, slightly mad, defiant, yet reflecting the fear he’d seen in her blue eyes. Beautiful eyes set in a perfect oval face. It had been a long time since he’d seen a blue-eyed woman. Longer still since he’d had one.He moved closer as he touched her cheek. He breathed in the scent of her as he ran his thumb across the ugly blue-green bruise that marked where someone had hit her. Her skin was warm, soft, flawless. Only a fool would mar it. He wanted to touch it, taste it everywhere, possess it.“You’re not here to rescue me, are you?”“No.”She laughed again. The bright, bitter sound enchanted him. This was not a weak, hysterical spirit. There was nothing fragile to her beauty, despite the exquisite perfection of form and face. She laughed in hell, and that made her priceless to him.He ran his fingers through her hair. “The price of innocence,” he said, “is what someone is willing to pay to destroy it.”
Jack makes a devil’s bargain with Sherrie. He won’t sell her himself in exchange for her being his willing slave for a month. He takes her to his cabin, she demands they both bathe, they do, and then he begins to touch her.
“You’ll grow to crave it.” Their bodies were perfectly fitted together, skin on skin, but he rose to his knees as he spoke so he could look at her. He hadn’t had her yet. He hadn’t even begun to have her yet, though he’d spent a long time touching her, tasting her, before laying her down on the bed. He’d never waited so long to take a woman before, never wanted to savor like this, to wait and make the roaring need grow into consuming fire. It was agonizing.He wanted to see the agony and the fire in her eyes before granting them both any release.So, instead of burying himself inside her, he made himself wait, watch, speak. Her hair was spread out in heavy gold waves across the pillows. Her creamy skin gleamed with a faint sheen of sweat, pale against the black silk bed coverings. He cupped her breasts, smiled as the peaks rose at the soft brush of his thumbs. Her breasts were full and so very soft. He watched avidly as her hands curled at her sides, bunching the black silk in her fists. The triumph of making her want him shot through him, hot as lust, almost as satisfying. “You crave me already.”
She does indeed and the two spend—shown in flashbacks—three months as obsessive lovers. Then, one night, Jack sends Sherrie away. She doesn’t know why he makes her leave; he doesn’t know she’s pregnant with his child. Nine years later, Sherrie hates Cullum, not because he raped her but because he abandoned her. Because of Cullum, she married another man—fortunately he managed to get himself shot in a card game early in their marriage—in order to give her daughter legitimacy. Because of Cullum, she’s lost all desire for men—she’s felt nothing from a man’s touch since the day Cullum sent her away.
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