This months TBR Challenge was Steamy reads (Erotic romance, erotica, something spicy!) and when I saw that I knew exactly which book I'd pull off of my shelves. I bought this one a while back (as I've met Sabrina at our So Cal blogger get-togethers) but I found I need to be in a certain mood for erotica. This was definitely steamy and was just the perfect book for this challenge.
What happens in Harridan House stays in Harridan House.
It is Regency London's most exclusive after-hours club, catering to the erotic fantasies of randy lords and inquisitive ladies, each discreetly masked to guard every delicious indiscretion. Under the proprietorship of the notorious Madame Rouge, virgins, rakes, bachelors, and courtesans intimately mingle, free of the suffocating moral rules and restraints imposed upon them by good society.
Harridan House: where forbidden pleasures always take place on silken sheets.
When I picked up the book I wasn't sure what to expect. It's actually a book with four historical erotic romance stories that all intertwine in some fashion.
Part I – Against the Wall
This was, I think, my favorite of all the stories. Carolina has witnessed, when she was just 12 years old, Lord Henry Bosworth tupping one of the maids at her fathers house when he was a guest. He saw her and after he sent the maid off they had a conversation. To say she was smitten from that time forward would be putting it mildly. Now she's 18 and in her first season when she finds herself in a library at a ball when Henry walks in with a woman. He notices her once again and send the other woman on her way. Henry and Carolina end up having a tryst there in the library and Henry is shocked when he finds out who she really is. It doesn't stop him, however, from seeking her out at her house time and again. Henry knows that Carolina is on the marriage market but doesn't think too much about it until he figures out that Carolina might be carrying his child.
This was a sexy, hot story that had me turning pages as fast as I could. I loved Henry and Carolina together and of course wanted them together forever. Sure Henry was that age old character who only wants one woman but has no clue that he's in love with her until the last dog bark, but it worked really well in this story.
We're introduced to Harridan House in a rather roundabout way in this story because it's a place that Carolina's father loves to frequent and at one point Henry takes Carolina on a tour of the house to view all of it's debauchery.
Part II – The Education of Lord Oakley
Lord Oakley was to marry Carolina from our first story but she jilts him for the man she loves – how dare she? Oakley had never heard of Harridan House but it was reported that Carolina had been seen there. He goes with his acquaintance, Sir Robert George, to check it all out but is a bit overwhelmed by it all...until he sees a goddess. He believes her to be dressed as Ampitrite, Poseidon's wife, and is immediately drawn to her.
Amphitrite is actually Maggie who is the widow of a barrister and cousin to Diana Blount who owns and runs Harridan House – though most know Diana as Madame Rouge. Maggie is visiting the house to see what all the talk is about when she meets Oakley. She too is visually smitten and the pair begin a sexual relationship but only when previously arranged and always with their masks on.
On night at a ball Maggie recognizes her lover and finds out who he really is. She makes a move to entice him into a relationship and eventually it works – but only after Amphitrite ends her trysts with Oakley.
Oakley eventually realizes he loves Maggie but it practically takes an anvil dropping on his head for him to figure out that Maggie and Amphitrite are the same woman. Really? Her eyes, her voice, her body, the sounds she makes when you have sex with her – none of this set off the old recognition meter in your head? *sigh* Men can be so dense sometimes! lol Despite Oakley's ignorance it was a lovely story also filled with steamy sex as well as romance.
Part III – Roses are Rouge
This is the story of Madame Rouge aka Diana Blount whose very elderly husband had left Harridan House to her in his will. Her deceased husband was a very sexual man and not always in a good way. He had taught Diana all the depravity of sex and apparently wanted her to continue after this death. Diana takes great care to cover her identity so that her reputation in society is not harmed. But Jason Blount – a relative of her husbands who inherited her husbands title knows about her and the house and disapproves greatly.
Jason is at sixes and sevens with Diana. He's wanted her from the moment he saw her but he hates that she runs the House. The pair eventually work out their differences enough to spend time together after the season while in Brighton. Diana even starts to think that maybe she can have a normal life...and one with Jason. One horrible event with an opium high friend has Diana returning to London thinking that she can never have a normal life. But what is Diana's life and how exactly can she live it without Jason in it.
My second favorite story in the book this was very erotic but had less actual sex involved. It was the verbal erotica between Jason and Diana that was so enticing. I felt horrible for Diana after the incident in Brighton and the fact that it had an effect on the relationship between her and Jason but it made the story that much better.
Part IV – A Maid for the Taking
The final story in the book was about a lady's maid who worked for Madame Rouge at Harridan House, Lucy. When Diana wasn't around Lucy would dress like Madame Rouge and play the part – per Diana's request. The strictest rule for Lucy was to take no lovers from the House under the guise of Madame Rouge. Lucy is breaks this rule with Sir Robert George and they become lovers.
Robert finds out in a strange way that Lucy isn't actually the real Madame Rouge but he still wants the woman. He makes her his mistress and ends up spending more time with Lucy at her house than he does his own. He considers, quite seriously, taking a wife but he can't seem to get Lucy off of his mind.
This was a cute story that I knew would end in a love match but I found it highly unlikely. Lucy, after all, was a maid. I liked the way that Robert worked it all out in his head but this was the least reality based story of the bunch.
Overall I liked the book. I thought the stories were done quite well for being as short as they were and it hit the spot in the erotic department. I also loved that as bold and steamy all of the stories were they were also quite heavy on the romance – which we all know I love.