I’m a fan of Portia Da Costa’s brand of erotica mostly because of her heroines. She writes really fun, strong heroines. The kind of girls I’d like to be friends with, have a drink at the local pub with, or watch chick flicks with while digging our way through a box of chocolates. I also like that she has a strong contemporary writing voice. So when I heard she was working on some Victorian-set erotic romances for Harlequin, I was immediately intrigued. Will her “voice” work as well in historical as it does in contemporary? And while the full-length historical won’t be out until 2012 (::sob::), Portia and Spice Briefs are tempting us with two naughty short stories while we’re stuck in the waiting room.
The Gentlewoman’s Predicament
1 May 10
Sofia Harewood’s first husband wasn’t much of a lover. Sofia might not be “worldly,” but she’s pretty sure that sex is supposed to be better. Some of her friends look particularly happy, and Sofia is determined to discover what she’s been missing out on. She finds help in the form of one A. Chamfleur, the proprietress of “Intimate Advice For Gentlewoman.” Already nervous about going to such an establishment, her uneasiness hits new heights when she discovers the A. stands for Ambrose and nothing like Amelia.
What I really liked about this story was that Sofia didn’t automatically assume that she must be “bad” at sex because her sex life with Husband #1 wasn’t all that grand. All she knows it that it should be “better” and there’s not needless time spent on her feeling inferior in the bedroom. If anything, her sessions with Monsieur Chamfleur bring out her sensual side! The sex scenes are tender and erotic. It would have felt out of character to have Sofia hanging from the chandelier after all, and her awakening is handled beautifully. The romance element in this story is pretty thin, but the ending is perfect and sets up the series nicely.
Sofia Harewood’s problem: finding a partner who can please her in the bedroom better than her disappointing first husband! She senses there should be so much more to lovemaking—and she’s determined to discover what she’s been missing.
Sofia’s mission takes her to A. Chamfleur, purveyor of “Intimate Advice to the Gentlewoman”…but the encounter is not at all what she had imagined. For A. Chamfleur turns out to be Monsieur Chamfleur—and he and his associates are more than willing to introduce Sofia to a new world of sensual delights….
The Gentlewoman’s Ravishment
1 June 10
Prudence Enderby has a healthy sex life with her husband, but that doesn’t mean she can’t have fantasies. Her favorite fantasy involves being kidnapped by a handsome brigand or pirate, so imagine her shock, when on the way home from her Ladies Sewing Circle, she’s kidnapped! The masked man who kidnaps her takes her back to his well-appointed home where pretty soon the wanton Prudence is having her secret fantasies fulfilled.
As a fan of erotic romance, I pretty much knew where this was going after reading the summary, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good story. The reader does have to be willing to roll with the fantasy element here, and also the fact that Prudence doesn’t do anything to try to escape. And really, who could blame the girl? The erotic elements here are extremely well-done, and while Prudence doesn’t need “awakening” – her wanton ways are hard to resist. Plenty of sizzle and another great ending.
“I’d love to be abducted and ravished by some handsome brigand or pirate…”
When the women of the Ladies’ Sewing Circle share their private fantasies, some are shocked by Mrs. Prudence Enderby’s secret desire. But Prudence cannot imagine life without such exotic daydreams—especially since they arouse her husband, too!
Yet Prudence never imagined she would actually be whisked off the street by a mysterious masked man who has his wicked way with her in a carriage. Taking her back to a boudoir appointed for pleasure, he continues to bring every one of her fantasies to life. But nothing could be more surprising than when Prudence finally learns who is behind this gentlewoman’s ravishment…
Both of these stories were quick, hot reads. Once again Da Costa employs first-person narrative, which further reinforces that sometimes the best erotic romance is all about the heroine’s journey. These are short stories, with short word counts, but the author does a nice job of including historical elements to give these tales a Victorian feel. Everything from the clothes to the furnishings. Certainly it’s hard to imagine nice Victorian ladies talking about naughty business at their sewing circle, but then again, maybe not? I wonder if it’s too late for me to learn needlepoint?
Overall Grade: B