Some Shorter Fare, pt. 1

I’ve recently read a few novellas. So, I’ve decided to write a few of them up. They have no connection other than their shorter length.

This post will include reviews of:

  • Juliana Ross’ “Improper Relations”
  • Tessa Dare’s “The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright” (from Three Weddings and a Murder)
  • Leigh LaValle’s “The Misbehaving Marquess” (from Three Weddings and a Murder)
  • Courtney Milan’s “The Lady Always Wins” (from Three Weddings and a Murder)
  • Carey Baldwin’s “Solomon’s Wisdom” (from Three Weddings and a Murder)

[Parts of this post are definitely NSFW!]

First, the very hot and steamy “Improper Relations” by Juliana Ross (4 out of 5 stars).

The description of the novella from Ross’ website:

When Hannah’s caught watching her late husband’s cousin debauch the maid in the library, she’s mortified—but also intrigued. An unpaid companion to his aunt, she’s used to being ignored.

The black sheep of the family, Leo has nothing but his good looks and noble birth to recommend him. Hannah ought to be appalled at what she’s witnessed, but there’s something about Leo that draws her to him.

When Leo claims he can prove that women can feel desire as passionately as men, Hannah is incredulous. Her own experiences have been uninspiring. Yet she can’t bring herself to refuse his audacious proposal when he offers to tutor her in the art of lovemaking. As the tantalizing, wicked lessons continue, she begins to fear she’s losing not just her inhibitions, but her heart as well. The poorest of relations, she has nothing to offer Leo but herself. Will it be enough when their erotic education ends?

I liked this story. A lot. Like many novellas, the overall story feels rushed in parts, especially at the end. Despite those problems in pacing, the attraction between Hannah and Leo works and the end of the story works well. I highly recommend it.

And the sex is HOT. HOT. HOT. And there is a lot of it packed into a novella. For example (you’re welcome):

He kicked off his breeches, and then he was kneeling between my legs, his hands on my breasts, rubbing, pinching, tormenting. I heard my voice begging him to kiss them, to come closer to me, to please, oh please, press against me.

“First tell me what you want,” he said, unmoved by my entreaties.

“I want you,” I moaned.

“What do you want from me, then?”

“What you said you’d do, before you went away.”

“And what was that? I won’t do anything more until you tell me.”

“I want you to take me,” I whispered.

“Come now, Hannah. You know I’m not a man for euphemisms. What do you want me to do?”

“I want you to fuck me.”

“Good girl. Spread your legs for me, nice and wide. Bend your knees a little. Yes, that’s it.”

He took hold of his cock, bracing his weight with his other arm, and I felt the head of it against the opening of my cunny.

This is Juliana Ross’ first published romance work. I look forward to what she does in the future.

____________________________

Next, the collection of novellas that was recently released: Three Weddings and a Murder.

From Tessa Dare’s website, which explains why these four authors came together for this volume:

This is a limited-time anthology we created to raise funds for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Santa Barbara this September. All profits (approximately $2 per copy sold) go to our team fundraising. More information about the 39-mile walk and our fundraising efforts can be found in our Press Kit. If you purchase the anthology, thank  you for bringing us one step closer to our goal. Direct donations via our Team Page are also very welcome!

To be short and sweet about it, I loved the three weddings. The murder? Not so much.

[The descriptions of the novellas all come from Goodreads]

1) “The Scandalous, Dissolute, No-Good Mr. Wright” by Tessa Dare (5 out of 5 stars)

Because of a foolish mistake in her youth, Miss Eliza Cade is not allowed “out” in Society until her three older sisters are wed. But while she’s trying to be good, Eliza keeps bumping elbows—and lips—with the notorious rake Harry Wright. The passions he stirs in her are so wrong…but she just can’t resist Mr. Wright.

I love Tessa Dare. Once again, she has taken wit and charm and folded them into an sweet story that had me on the edge of my seat until the very end. And at that end? I was feeling pure, pure joy.

Some excerpts:

“He certainly took his time proposing,” she said. “Snails mate faster than Farnsworths.” Georgie gave her a chastening look. “Eliza.” “Well, it’s true. I’ve watched.” “You’ve spied on Sir Roland?” “No, I’ve spied on snails.”

—-

“You asked what I want of you, Miss Eliza. It’s just this.” He came to stand before her. “I want you to know that there’s someone who sees you. The real you. The girl who can’t bring herself to plait her hair at night, because it pains her vanity. The girl who’d marry her sisters to tinkers and tailors, if it meant she could finally have a chance. The girl who longs to drive fast and free—to feel the sun on her face and the wind in her hair. The girl who’s clever enough to recognize a dangerous man when she sees one—but desperately wants him to kiss her anyway.”

—-

He had to touch her. With a trembling hand, he reached inside her dressing gown and cupped her breast through the gauzy lawn. She sucked in her breath, startled. He cursed himself. Brilliant, Harry. No kiss. No preamble. Just reach straight for the tit.

This was most certainly my favorite of the four stories in this volume.

2) “The Misbehaving Marquess,” by Leigh LaValle (4 out of 5 stars)

Having awaited the return of her husband for half a decade, Catherine Raybourne, the Marchioness of Foster, has no intention of reconciling with her misbehaving marquess. But when he insists he needs an heir—immediately—she must confront her own lingering desires. Can she protect her heart while attempting to win his once again?

As I have said in other places, there is something cathartic perhaps, triumphant maybe about two people overcoming giant self-made hurdles. I loved seeing these two people rekindle their never-lost but rather dormant love, deciding to move past their mistakes and hurt feelings, and bet on their future instead. Good stuff:

He turned her in his arms and claimed her mouth. Their first kiss in five years. She was soft and open and tasted of home. Of the very texture of his soul. She was everywhere. In his breath. In his blood. She always had been and always would be.

3) “The Lady Always Wins,” by Courtney Milan (4 out of 5 stars)

Railway financier Simon Davenant has waited seven years for a second chance with his childhood sweetheart and best friend. He isn’t about to let his impending financial ruin destroy the opportunity. This time, he’ll do anything he can to secure her hand in marriage—even if it means losing her heart for good.

Milan is queen of the novella, no? I didn’t think the pacing was wonderful and I’m not sure how much I believed the timing of the events (how quickly things went down after these characters had been apart for so many years). I appreciated that I did not see what was coming at the end until the last moment and was beyond pleased when it concluded how it did.

Ginny (Simon’s childhood sweetheart):

“But then, that is not what you were asking. What you really want to know was whether I missed you. And I missed you every single day. I tried not to—I didn’t want to be unfaithful in my marriage, even if it was only inside my skin. Nonetheless, on the days when I didn’t think your name, there was an unfillable void inside me. I kept hoping that you would marry so that I would know that what had been between us was over and done. But you didn’t. I went on for years, trying not to think of you.”

Also:

“I know what I said and I know what I did, but it’s always been you, Ginny.” He loosened his shirt, the only garment she’d left to him. “I want to make love to you. No more pretenses.”

“Oh, Simon,” she whispered. “You’ve never been a pretense.”

4) “Solomon’s Wisdom,” by Carey Baldwin (1 out of 5 stars)

Bad-boy-turned-pediatrician Charlie “Drex” Drexler returns to Tangleheart, Texas hoping to reconnect with his old flame – but Anna won’t cooperate, his dark past resurfaces, and his best friend’s baby disappears. How will Drex and Anna mend their broken hearts while dodging bullets and racing to bring baby home safely?

I did not like this story. I had to force myself through it and then was sad I did. People falling in love while simultaneously solving a crime that [SPOILER ALERT] was committed by their long-time friend. Also, domestic violence/child endangerment. It was too much for a novella. And it just didn’t come together for me.

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