Alexander William Baxendale, the earl of Hawksford, used to a very big man. Quite literally. His girth made him only popular with his friends. Despite his weight, he considered his life to be charmed until he meets Miss Charlotte Jane Sutton. He quickly realizes winning the girl of his dreams isn’t the same as eating chocolate. When she rejects him and breaks his heart, he decides the best revenge is becoming the man of every woman’s dreams. Unfortunately, he creates a name for himself even he isn’t ready to embrace. Soon, far more than just Charlotte is knocking on his door. Will he survive his own revenge? He isn’t so sure.
WARNING: This book contains strong language and sexual content that may cause respectable people to swoon.
DEAR READER: Having recently acquired the rights back to this playful, naughty book, I decided to do far more than slap a new cover on it. Even if you’ve read Lord of Pleasure, you’ll find since its original publication back in 2009, this book has undergone a metamorphosis. This revamped second edition has countless new scenes, both romantic and hilarious in nature, which were added throughout the book in an effort to make you feel like you’re reading it for the first time.
Source: Review copy from the author via NetGalley
Well, this turned out darker than I expected. This is my fourth book from this series (I started with #3, read #5, then #1) and I think it’s safe to say you can read it in whatever order you like. However, while most of the others have been largely fun with a side order of silly (well, Master of Pleasure not as much), this one surprised me. There is still plenty of fun, not least from Alexander’s family, but Charlotte has a lot of demons to fight, thanks to one incident in her teenage years: rape.
If this is a problem or a trigger for you, please be warned because the psychological effects of that act plays a very large role in how Charlotte views pleasure.
I actually think this was handled really well, because what Charlotte went through – and her subsequent mess of a marriage – has left her very confused about how pleasure works and what she wants from that side of life. It would be too easy to brand her as disturbed or wrong, but she isn’t. And I loved how both Madame (of the school) and Alex work so hard to show her that she isn’t wrong, she just needs to accept why she feels this way and learn to face her demons head on. The BDSM aspects of this book are pretty light, but a few boundaries are definitely pushed, so if this isn’t your thing, you probably won’t enjoy these scenes.
This isn’t everything this book is about, of course, but it plays and increasingly important role in how the romance between Charlotte and Alex plays out. Right from the very beginning, when she’s a pushy shopgirl with dubious intentions (for mostly good reasons… sort of) and Alex is an insecure, overweight young man who has a very problematic relationship with food. I loved their first few interactions, when they’re both young and damaged and not quite realising the full effect they are having on each other. It doesn’t end well, of course, because there are eleven years between the first few chapters and the bulk of the book. Still, it helps to establish the kind of people they truly are deep down, once you get past the surface gloss.
Which is helpful, because the next time we see Alex he is a very different man indeed. Beautiful, strong and very much in demand with the ladies, he has worked hard to overcome his younger demons and turn himself into the sort of man no one would ever turn down. Which means he fits in perfectly with his risqué family – or he did, until he inherited the earldom and tried to turn respectable in order to marry his sisters off. I love Alex’s family, especially his younger sisters – particularly morbid little Mary. They’re all completely barking, but vibrant and eclectic. True, there are times when I don’t think his mother is particularly helpful or understanding of what Alex is trying to do, and seeing his oldest sister Caroline again just reminded me how much she annoyed me in Lady of Pleasure.
Because that book runs concurrent to this one (I think most of the books in the series do), I did feel a lot of overlap of scenes, though seen from a different perspective. Fine if you haven’t read that one yet, but definitely noticeable. It’s not a problem, I actually quite enjoyed knowing what was happening long before Alex had a clue, and the scenes at the school added a much needed touch of levity to the darker aspects of the romance. However, it did leave me with with distinct feelings of déjà vu which could be distracting.
Which is a shame because it took away from the main romance, which was both beautiful and horrible at times. The way Alex tries so hard to treat Charlotte as a lady, and the way she likewise feels like he isn’t treating her as a woman because of her past. It is sexy and sensual, and there’s never a time when Charlotte is made to feel uncomfortable, but poor Alex is the one who is pushed firmly out of his comfort zone. It’s a tricky situation and I really appreciated how things were slowly and steadily resolved. There’s no quick fix here, but it doesn’t always make for the easiest of reads.
Away from the sex the romance is at times teasing and sweet and at others fairly infuriating. Both Alex and Charlotte had trying moments, but there’s such a high potential for them to do each other the world of good that I forgave them their foolish actions while waiting for everything to sort itself out. Although, one particular scene towards the end felt more like it had been thrown in to tie in with other books in the series rather than as a genuine part of this one. Having read it from a different perspective in Mistress of Pleasure, I can say that it definitely fits more with that book than this one. As fun as the connections are, I think they can get too much after a while.
So while this is definitely another enjoyable installment of this series, do be aware that it’s a touch darker than others in this mostly light, fun series. However, if you don’t mind a little emotional turmoil with your Regency romps, then you might well enjoy this. Just don’t be fooled by the blurb, because this is less to do with Alex’s weight than Charlotte’s demons. It’s still thoroughly enjoyable, though, and I look forward to filling in my reading gaps for the rest of the series soon.
Lord of Pleasure is Out Now!
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