One wicked night . . .
Lady Portia Ellerslie, dearest confidante to Queen Victoria and a woman of impeccable breeding, normally wouldn’t dream of dallying in Aphrodite’s Club, London’s most exclusive and erotic bordello. But one lonely night she finds something enticing about the idea of a wild encounter in the notorious hothouse. Donning a daring, dangerously low-cut scarlet dress and a veil to mask her identity, she arrives at the club ready to succumb to the torrid desires raging inside her . . . and is shocked to find herself gazing into the eyes of Marcus Worthorne, the man she swooned over at seventeen.
Could lead to a lifetime of ecstasy . . .
Back then, Marcus barely knew she was alive, but now he’s about to make her most wanton fantasies come true. Portia’s proper life is about to change forever . . . because for Marcus one night with the lady in red could never be enough.
This book sounded pretty good when I first picked it up. I didn’t know it was one of a series and I didn’t expect a heavy handed dollop of Victorian court intrigue and Victorian race ideals. Marcus and Portia are an ok couple. Plenty of steam, though for some reason the horizontal stuff is put in detail at the beginning of the story and glossed over more and more by the end. In fact, the intrigue starts to overshadow the love story.
Since Portia is a beloved public persona (the “angel in widow’s weeds” due to her first husband being the Nation’s Hero, much beloved by Victoria), she knows she can’t have a public affair. She’s supposed to overly honor her husband’s memory. Gag me please with people over dramatizing of the proper woman’s place in Victorian England. Even Victoria wants Portia to be the perennial widow in half mourning. We all know what color Victoria wore the last half of her life after Prince Albert died.
Portia is way to trained to do her duty and what is expected rather than seek her own happiness. Even though she sneaks out often to meet Marcus. She does have a rebellious streak, but that’s more due to the fact that she seems to be addicted to the sex with Marcus. He’s addicted to the sex with her, as well. He is a self proclaimed “master lover”, and though he’s a cocky and rather arrogant sort of guy, he thinks that women fawn over him for his lovemaking skills more than his sparkling personality. Yawn. This probably isn’t said all that often, but this hero did some things that were TSTL. Arrogant man.
It was obvious and annoying that Marcus is supposed to represent the freer earlier era and Portia that the repression of the Victorian Era stifles someone’s true self. The villain, Arnold Gillingham, being the racist of the piece, is cartoonish and not worth the attention the author gives him too much time to indulge into his inner dialogue. The reader can tell he’s a bad, rather insane man and any time spent on his point of view I skimmed through.
With history like assassination attempts on Victoria, the idolization of Regency and Napoleonic heroes in Victoria’s reign and the racist ideas like “England for the English”, there wasn’t much room for a love story. What time Marcus and Portia did have was nice, and it kept me reading, but when it was interrupted or cut short to talk about Victoria (who was written like a petty, selfish biddy and not as the young, vibrant Queen she was in 1850) made this a less than enjoyable read.