Within the circles of British intelligence, Benedict, Lord Keyes, is known for his cold brilliance and strict military demeanor. Yet this icy exterior masks a man of smoldering passion and scorching sexuality who will do anything to keep his past a secret. . .
Miss Malinda Keyes refuses to be intimidated by Lord Keyes. In fact, she enjoys a good battle, especially one of erotic wiles and carnal cunning. Determined to expose his lordship’s past, she will use every wanton weapon in her arsenal to tease and tempt this sinner into the ultimate sensual surrender. . .
I’m not normally one for reading erotic romance. I have nothing against the genre – I’ve just tended to leave it to one side as I had the impression that the majority of the books given that label contained wall-to-wall sex and no plot. I have no objection to wall-to-wall-and-other-flat-surfaces – sex; but I like books to have a decent story as well, so I’ve tended to give the more erotic tales a wide berth.
But August’s TBR prompt is Luscious Love Scenes – erotica or a sensual read. The majority of the books I read contain sex scenes, but this is a reading challenge, so I decided to step outside my comfort zone and try an erotic romance. The problem is that I don’t own any – but a recent browse through NetGalley brought me Tempting a Sinner by Kate Pearce, which seemed like just the ticket.
It’s the second full-length novel (there’s also a prequel novella) in Ms Pearce’s Sinners’ Club series, so called because the club itself, while operating as a gentleman’s club – which, unsually, allows female members – also provides a discreet environment for those employed by the government in sensitive positions to blow off steam, and to “explore their sexuality” (probably in other ‘sensitive positions’! And oh, God, it’s going to be difficult to write this review without indulging in double-entendres and “ooh, matron!” jokes!)
First things first then – there is plenty of sex in the book of various persuasions. M/F, F/F, M/M, M/F/M, F/M/F, sex toys, voyeurism, group sex, a bit of light bondage… something for everyone! It’s well-written, and it’s hot; and it fortunately stays the right side of the thin line that runs between “hawt” and “funny”, which can be quite a difficult thing to do, so kudos to the author for that. Props to her, too, for not having her protagonists have sex at stupid times; there’s none of this – “we’re being chased by the bad guys, but we must shag, NOW!” nonsense.
The story centres around Lord Benedict Keyes and his estranged wife, who haven’t seen each other in the eighteen years since their youthful marriage. Both were “army brats”, although from opposite sides of the tracks.
Benedict is the son of a marquess while Malinda’s father was a common soldier, but the pair more or less grew up together because both families followed the drum. I always enjoy a story where the central couple are friends before they become romantically involved, and while we don’t see much of them as children and adolescents, an undercurrent of deep friendship permeates the book, and the reader gets a very strong sense of the fact that here are two people who knew each other very well – so much so that even though they have both changed in the intervening years, they are still able to discern the other’s thoughts and emotions. It’s that deep connection between the two protagonists which surprised me most about the book, because I really hadn’t expected to find something like that in the pages of an erotic romance.
Benedict and Malinda’s marriage was a hasty one following the sudden death of her father while on assignment in Spain. They are very much in love, but the marquess is furious that his son has married a “nobody” and immediately separates the pair by telling Malinda a whopping great lie that has her haring off the day after the wedding. He lies to Benedict, too, telling him that Malinda has accepted money in return for agreeing to an annulment – as a way to ensure that he will never seek her out.
Both characters are therefore starting from points of extreme suspicion and distrust when they finally meet again, and Ms Pearce does a very good job in portraying those emotions and in breaking down their barriers gradually, so that their eventual reconciliation happens at a realistic pace. Because this is an erotic romance, the fact that Benedict and Mally are conflicted about their feelings for each other doesn’t prevent them from jumping into bed frequently, but the author very clearly establishes the difference between the physical and the emotional. Both characters at some point, use sex as a means of manipulation and in order to gain the upper hand, but there are also some very tender, intimate moments that provide real insight into their relationship and are, in a way, far sexier than any amount of bonking could ever be. For example, in this scene, after Benedict has brought Malinda back to London from the country and they have been discussing the plan of action for dealing with Benedict’s father, who they suspect may be behind a plot to harm Malinda, they are preparing for bed like any other long-married couple.
He sat to remove his boots and took off his breeches then his shirt. His body gleamed so enticingly in the candlelight that Malinda had to look away. He climbed into bed beside her and blew out the candle.
“Tomorrow, we should look for a maid for you.”
“Are you tired of having to deal with my corset?”
“No, I can’t say that will ever become a chore.”
She stared up at the canopy above their heads. “I cannot afford a maid.”
He sighed. “Let’s not argue about this again. You sought my protection and I need you to look respectable. Having me as your ladies’ maid will not suffice.”
“I’m perfectly capable of looking after myself.”
“I know that. But you aren’t used to London society.”
She snorted. “You’re afraid I’ll show you up.”
He moved so suddenly that she found herself underneath him. “Your inferiority complex is showing.”
“Which is why we never would have succeeded as a married couple. Society will never accept a peer married to a common sergeant’s daughter.”
“Good Lord, you sound just like my father.” He gave her a tiny shake. “Peers have married actresses and known whores. The entire royal family is a scandal. No one would give a damn. The only person who cares about it is you.”
“Go away, Benedict.”
She flopped onto her back. “Are you ever going to stop talking?”
“Probably not. I do some of my best thinking just before I fall asleep.”
“This isn’t ‘thinking’; it’s rambling.”
There is a strong sense of connection between them outside the bedroom, too, as they work together to solve an eighteen year-old mystery surrounding the disappearance of a valuable military shipment which is closely linked to both families. Both principals are strongly characterised, even during the sex scenes when they don’t suddenly have personality transplants and become different people. They tease, they jibe, they fight – they treat each other out of bed in much the same way as they do in it. I will admit to sometimes thinking that their sexual preferences seemed a little at odds with the way I was starting to see them, however. Benedict, for example, is a man with a sterling reputation for loyalty and honour, as well as one who is utterly ruthless and dedicated to his work. He’s handsome (naturally!), can be very charming and has a softer side that he allows nobody to see, and I couldn’t quite reconcile that man with the one who ties his wife to a chair and then uses sex toys to stimulate himself while he masturbates in front of her!
But this is an erotic romance, so I’m prepared to go with the flow on things like that! :P
I enjoyed the book and may read others by this author at some point. I don’t think I’m going to go hunting out erotic romances by the bucket-load, as I suspect I’ve been lucky with finding one with a satisfyingly complex plot in addition to well-drawn characters, lots of hot sex and a convincing second-chance romance. If you enjoy a good mystery combined with some down ‘n’ dirty lovin’, then Tempting a Sinner is definitely worth a look.