-Publishers Weekly on Bespelling Jane Austen
"A hot, spicy adventure you shouldn¹t miss!" -RT BookReviews on Tell Me More
Louisa Connelly, a recently widowed Jane Austen scholar, needs some relief from her stifling world. When a friend calls to offer her a temporary escape from her Montana ranch, she is whisked into a dizzying world of sumptuous food, flowing wine and endless temptation.
She's an honored guest at Paradise Hall, an English resort boasting the full experience of an authentic Georgian country-house weekend. Liveried servants tend to every need of houseguests clad in meticulous period costume: snug breeches, low-cut silken gowns and negligible undergarments.
It's Mac Salazar, a journalist immersing himself fully, deeply, lustily in the naughty pleasures of upstairs-downstairs dalliances, who piques Louisa's curiosityand libidomost. He's a dilettante straight out of a novel: uninhibited, unapologetic and nearly insatiable. But Lou's not romantic about this much, at least: Paradise Hall is a gorgeous fantasy, nothing more. A lover like Mac is pure fiction. And the real world beckons .
-Publishers Weekly on Bespelling Jane Austen
"A hot, spicy adventure you shouldn¹t miss!" -RT BookReviews on Tell Me More
She would not answer the phone.
Not now, when she was coming awake to the slide of skin against skin, coming awake to the possibility of coming, sleepy and lazy, his cock prodding against her.
"Yes, like that," she said. Or maybe he said it. Maybe they both did, finely tuned to each other, reading minds and touches.
"Tell me to open my legs." That was her, quite definitely. He liked it when she gave orders, or when she talked dirty and got crude, because she didn't do it all the time. There was an element of surprise, of the unexpected, and he reciprocated with his own sort of crude roughness. Sometimes, afterward, she'd find red welts on her breasts from his stubbleshe'd remember much later in the day, when her bra rubbed against the abraded skin.
She'd feel what he did next later, toothe push of his fingers inside her before she was quite ready. At least, she thought she wasn't, but he knew her better than she knew herself and laughed softly when she gasped in surprise and shock. Gasping and greedy, both of them now, and then the shock of cold air seeped in from outside as he lifted the quilt and climbed on top of her. Again, she thought she wasn't ready, but she was. Quite definitely ready.
Don't answer the phone. Ignore it. If they really want to talk, they'll call back later.
"Shove it inside me. Hard." She told him what to do, but she was helpless and at his mercy as he hoisted her legs onto his shoulders.
He caught and held the moment, extending it with exquisite care. His cock reared high, thick and ready, but he slowed to look at her pussy.
"Pretty," he murmured. "Pretty."
She loved him for thinking her pussy was pretty when it was flushed and wet and the seam swelled apart into a crevice. Sometimes she heard the tiny crack it made as it swelled and opened, a sound like a small kiss, as he kissed her or even just looked at her, sometimes hours before they'd even touched or undressed. She could melt with that special look across a room full of people, or just the two of them alone, a look that said tonight, or in the next ten minutes, I am going to fuck you good.
His eyes gleamed with anticipation.
She raised her hips and told him again to shove it in her hard, like this was the last time, so this time it had to count, it had to be worthwhile. He slid his hand up his shaft, almost as though he was unaware of his action.
But he knew exactly what he was doing, conscious of every moment, every scent and touch and sound. And he knew precisely the effects each small movement had on her.
Words and her imagination were her allies now, shifting the power back to her. She whispered to him to do it now, now. She would allow him to pretend she was one of his hot little undergraduates, like the one who'd let her legs fall apart, oh so casually, revealing a narrow band of thong, while he was teaching. Because in real life, when that had actually happened, he'd looked once and then away, and wondered if he'd imagined it. At home, he was slightly embarrassed, more embarrassed by his excitement, as he related the tale.
In the safety of their bed, where anything could happen, she whispered to him that this time he would look again. And again. He would watch a strap of her sundress fall, a pink tongue emerge to lick glossy lips. With absolute precision, in a suddenly empty auditorium, her hand, tipped with shiny bloodred nails, would undo his zipper and release his cock.
The fucking phone again, shrilling in her ear, ripping the moment away from her. She rolled across the wide expanse of empty bed to grab the receiver. "What?"
"You need to have some fun, Loulou."
But she had been having fun, even if it was only a dream. "Don't call me Loulou." Grumpy, half-asleep, she shifted the phone to her other ear and turned to look at the clock. "You do realize it's half past six?"
"Half past one here, Lou. Nuncheon time. Rise and shine."
"Oh, shut up, Chris." She contemplated briefly the indignity of her namea name that suggested either a toilet, a cancan dancer, or one of Jane Austen's mildly unlikeable characters, the fickle poetry groupie Louisa Musgrove. The room was dim and cold with the quiet silvery quality that suggested freshly fallen snow.
"So come on over and play with us."
"Peter, of course. The daft old queen has started interviewing footmen. We want to get a historically correct matched sethire them like buying a team of horses, same height and coloring. Some quite delicious possibilities, darling. Other friends from London and the States are joining us, as well. A journalist, Viv, our terrifying costume person, a lovely lady who'll teach us manners and act as chaperonenot that you need one, you're so well behavedand some very handsome men."
"It sounds like a gay wet dream. All those tight pants and high collars."
"Some of the men, and with you specifically in mind, are straight. It's up to you to find out who."
She sat up in bed, pulling the comforter around her neck, and hoped the stove wasn't out downstairs. "So long as they know first. I'm not some sort of guide into sexual preference."
"And the house, honey. Oh, the house is magnificent. Georgian splendor, original plasterwork, minimal plumbing and electricity. Except for the kitchen, which is all set up for fabulous, historically authentic food"
"Lard and butter"
"And dozens of eggs. Huge amounts of red meat. The first salads of the season, exotic fruit from the greenhousesthat is, in a few years. We're buying in at the moment. Do come. We need our Austen expert on hand. We'll put the sparkle back in your eyes and gunk in your arteries."
"I don't know. I don't know what I want to do." She got out of bed and padded across the room. She had no curtains or blinds. You didn't need them when you looked straight out across the Rockies, at a pristine white wilderness and a blue sky. "I can't get away until the snow's gone."
"Oh, to be in England now that April's here. Come over in June. We'll have staff then."
"Stop it, you vile seducer."
"That's my girl. Peter sends kisses. Must run. But you'll think about it, promise?"
Chris's voice turned serious. "Lou, he's gone. We loved him, too. Come back into the land of the living. Come and have fun and adventures in Paradise. Kiss kiss. Bye-eee." He ended the call with the curious upward breathy farewell she'd noticed on the phone with other English people.
Lou pulled on a pair of thick socks and a sweater and jeans lined with flannel over her pajamas and headed downstairs. The stove was lit, barely. She coaxed it into life with some choice morsels of wood, placed a kettle on to boil for coffee and let the dogs out. They frisked in the fresh snow with great enthusiasm as though they hadn't done the same thing every morning for the past five months.
She picked up the picture of Julian with the dogs that she'd taken last summer and smiled back at him while running through the list of chores for the day. Muck out and feed Maisie the Morgan horse, oatmeal for breakfast, drive the tractor out with hay for the cattle, ski up to see Julian, ski back home, have a sandwich, shower, do some work, dinner. Read. Bed. Obligatory session with vibrator to stop things atrophying, and another day would be over.
"So, you big jerk." She stood in the meadow where she'd scattered Julian's ashes last fall when the aspens were a glory of gold and the sheltered hollow still had a few wildflowers in bloom. "I still miss you, but you know what? I'm beginning to forget bits of you. I forgot what your penis looks like, so I had to go online and find some. Don't think I enjoyed it. Some of them were quite grotesque. You'd think if they were that butt ugly the owner would edit them into something better, but I guess it's like no one thinks their baby is ugly. Or perhaps dicks are like snowflakesall basically the same but each one is different. Speaking of snow, we got some last night. Again.
"I went into your studio yesterday and looked at your stuff. I still haven't cleared anything out. I wish you'd come haunt me. You won't haunt me in the studio, you won't haunt me in bedwhat use are you anyway? Here I am increasing my carbon footprint with a plug-in vibrator because you won't manifest. The dogs would like to see you again, too.
"Chris called this morning, trying to get me over for Paradise Hall's trial run in the summer. Remember when I wrote the copy for the website and brochure? I'll be doing another version soon. He's planning to open officially with a big Christmas bash, taking things slow. Right now things are pretty primitive in the house. He's already lusting after footmen."
A chill breath of wind whipped the snow at her feet into a miniature funnel.
"Is that you, finally coming around to haunt me?" She sighed. "I've got to go. Things to do. You had some fucking nerve, dying and leaving me with all this. I worry about stuff, whether the roof will be okay, whether I have enough oil to last the cold weather, where the phone number for the feed guy is, veterinarian bills. All the piddling little things. And you know you never threw a damn thing away and it's all junk. I keep finding old envelopes with your to-do lists on them, printouts of emailsWhy?
"Oh, good. I'm in the anger stage of grieving. I'm progressing. But you know what? I don't want closure. I don't want to forget. I want you back."
She brushed away a tear, startlingly hot in the cold air, from her eye. She didn't want tears freezing on her face. She waited for something, a sign, but nothing happened.
She whistled to the dogs and slowly, clumsilyJulian would have managed his skis with so much more graceturned around and launched herself upon the two lines that cut through the snow, back to the empty house.
Maybe, just maybe, Julian might come to her again at Paradise Hall.
Janet Mullany was raised in England by half of an amateur string quartet and now lives near Washington, DC. Persecuted from an early age for reading too much, she still loves books and is an avid and eclectic reader. In addition to writing, she has worked as an archaeologist, classical music radio announcer, arts administrator, and for a small press.
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From the moment I read this book's synopsis I knew I was in for something unexpected. As a fan of Jane Austen and the Regency era I'm accustomed to books featuring this time period to be sensual but not blatantly sexual. Hidden Paradise is in your face hot, steamy, and sexually adventurous. This book would make Jane Austen blush! Louisa Connelly is visiting friends in England to get over the grief of her husband's death by immersing herself in the fantasy Regency world created for the paying public. At first she's surprised by the openly sexual assignations going on around her but soon finds herself drawn to journalist Mac Salazar. After a few steamy encounters she backs off over guilt for putting the past behind her. She just wanted fun but got serious declarations from him that she was unprepared for. Instead she goes for the naive Rob who's got family issues but is drawn to the older and teacher-like Lou. Her time with him is clearly for fun. After an out of the blue revelation about her dead husband she runs back home to completely purge herself of the past and it's then that she opens her heart to the possibilities Mac offers, if only she can decide what to do with Rob who's come home with her. Louisa's personality fluctuated from prim schoolteacher to naughty seductress so I never felt like I had a true understanding of her character. It seemed like men to her were merely a substitute for her dead husband. Even after the revelation and her admission to Mac of her true feelings I still didn't feel that she could love anyone. Her and Mac's relationship (as well as her and Rob's) relationship felt superficial and based only on sex. I applaud her reawakening but never felt a connection to her. Mac came off as being a hound dog. His first introduction involved him and another female and he spent time with almost every female character or at least watching them in compromising positions. He's a journalist but we see him doing his job only once or twice. He'd much rather spend the time chasing after Lou. It seemed unrealistic for him to have such strong feelings for Lou so early on considering that they spent so little time alone together outside the bedroom. Him chasing Lou all the way across the ocean was a romantic gesture that I hope bodes well for their feature. Rob was a character that stood out in that we saw the difficult family life that he was desperate to overcome. I applaud his loyalty to his family and the seriousness by which he treats the sexual encounters. He's actually looking for love and knows that sex doesn't always lead to something long-lasting. I wish the story had revolved around him more since he was the most likable and fully fleshed-out character of the whole story. This was a story full of erotic encounters taking place in the setting of a sensual Regency manor. Seeing the primly dressed guests in such erotic encounters certainly grabs the reader's attention and sets a heart pounding pace. At times it felt that the sexual encounters overwhelmed the story which didn't leave much room for character development. Fans of erotica will definitely be drawn to this book and others wanting an escape into a steamy fantasy world will also want to pick this up and add Janet Mullany to their list of go-to authors for escapism.
Oh. My. Goodness. Where to start? First, the plot. It was decent but not spectacular, and had many aspects of some unbelievability. The idea of starting an Austen-based vacationland isn't a new one (at least in literature; I'd imagine there are real-life ones out there, if I'd care to torture myself and look into yet another vacation I can't afford), though I hadn't seen one before that was so clearly based on its guests really being able to--ahem--enjoy themselves while there. For the most part Lou's mindset as a young, recently widowed heroine was pretty well done, though ***SLIGHT SPOILER HERE**** it did bother me that in the end Lou's healing was helped out a great deal by a discovery she made about her late husband. I really wish there were more books which dealt with surviving widowed spouses who move on from first marriages that were good, solid, loving ones. It's a personal bias, I know, and of course writing the other kind has got to be a lot easier for a writer. It makes the whole moving on with one's life bit so much easier and less messy. But I digress...***SPOILER OVER*** Second, the...um...extracurricular activities. There really is just about every kind you can imagine in this book, described in great detail, and literally from the very first page. If that's what you're looking for, you're in luck. If it's going to bother you, then you should probably keep on looking. Finally, the Austen angle. It was definitely a side aspect of this novel, apart from its setting. There is one tiny little part that deals with a possible "real" Austen link, though I was fairly ambivalent about that plot thread. It definitely worked well as a convenient tie-in to Lou's life, but beyond that it didn't do a whole lot for this reader. Overall, it was a quick read that I did enjoy though I'm not sure I'd read it again--though I probably will look into other books by the author since I did enjoy her writing style. Really, the cover says a lot about this one. If it makes you cringe, you probably shouldn't read it.
Having read and enjoyed Janet Mullany's regency set historical romantic comedies, I was intrigued to see she'd written a contemporary romantic novel with erotic undertones for Harlequin. I was pleasantly surprised. Louisa "Lou"Connelly is a Jane Austen scholar who is getting over the heart breaking loss of her husband of a few months. To help break the monotony of her grief, her two friends, Phillip and Chris, invite her to Paradise Hall in England, where re-enactments of Austen's time take place, but with a licentious twist. There are a number of candidates, but there is something about journalist Mac Darcy Salazar and head footman Rob, who make Lou want to break out of her corset and live a little. Reading erotica written by an author I had only associated with light romantic historical comedies was interesting. I thought she did a great job with it. There was plenty of hot steamy scenes and a little bit of types of kink without it being really hard core. Not being a huge fan of erotica, this book is one of the few that entertained and had a story line. It wasn't just one random romp after another.