An exotic world-weary woman from the east who has been used and tossed aside by men and a broken, embittered battle-weary Irish nobleman are placed together by the very Devil himself. This was a story I’ve been waiting for since the fates of these two people came to my notice in the last book.
This Georgian era romance series has captivated me since I read Ned’s story in a Wild Night’s Bride and met Ludovic the Devil DeVere along with his fiery Diana. As the series progressed, other characters emerged with Salime being one of the most captivating and enigmatic of them all. I was thrilled to finally get her story and it was with great curiosity I tried to imagine that Simon ‘Sin’ Singleton would be her hero.
Salime was rescued by DeVere from a poor Constantinople brothel where her fate would have been that of a harshly used slave and he freed her to come to London with him to have a successful livelihood as a coveted exotic courtesan. She had a very painful history that was never quite fully explained. Now due to another courtesan’s jealousy she has had to leave her secure position and needs DeVere’s rescue once again.
Simon, who was a happy go lucky young man in love with love and pursued his poetry and women instead of the serious vocation his parents wanted of him, was sent off to war by an enraged parent so that the army would do it’s job and turn out a responsible man of a playboy. Unfortunately, he was wounded, captured, presumed dead and his old self was lost from six years of horrific imprisonment and deprivation. He is a shell of his old self and hates what he has become. His old friends are determined to help him find his way back to life particularly DeVere who makes arrangements that he hopes will heal Simon.
Salime agrees to DeVere’s request that she install herself in his townhouse and take care of his friend. He makes it clear that Simon’s illness is not physical, but he still needs Salime to help him heal. Salime agrees and sets out to rouse Simon using all her exotic erotic skills. The gaunt rough looking man she encounters rebuffs all her attempts and it shakes her confidence. She sees the hunger for her in Simon’s eyes and knows he is fighting torments that only he can understand. At first, she sought to help Simon for DeVere’s sake, but now she wants to help him for his own because she has come to care for him. He is the first man who wanted to know her as a person and cared that her needs are met first.
Simon is ashamed of his reaction to the beautiful woman and the lush eastern-style apartments of the townhouse. It is a fantasy come to life and he truly wants to be with Salime, but his hatred of being touched, being around other people and his disgust with his new crippling disfigurements are hard to overcome. Then after he slowly accepts Salime as his companion, he wants more than the physical with her. He wants all of her, but she holds herself back refusing to relinquish control or share her real person and her history with him. She doesn’t believe in love. Simon is determined to show her that love is real and he feels it for her.
When reality returns in the form of his father’s last days, Simon must go to his family home and take up his new responsibilities as head of the house. Salime is shaken by her feelings for Simon and takes the opportunity to slip away. He says he wants for them to always be together, but Salime knows that a nobleman like Simon could not be with a known courtesan and society’s condemnation would ruin Simon and any love they had for each other. With her gone, Simon would move on to someone better suited and she would move on to a quiet retirement. Salime disappears out of Simon’s life.
This one was even better than I anticipated. The plot was strong both in character development and the development of the relationship. They both fall into love quickly enough- just a bit too quickly for me to be honest. I went with it because that didn’t mean instant clear skies, unicorns and rainbows. In fact, declarations of love bring on the major conflict in the whole book.
The pace of the story is slow and seductive through most of the book when the two are hidden away at DeVere’s townhouse in near isolation, but then when things switch up so does the pace. I liked how this section is told well, but not drawn out. There seems to be an insurmountable barrier when it comes to their class differences, but I enjoyed how the author creatively got things out of that corner. The end of the story just had me grinning from ear to ear. I loved the surprises they had in store for each other.
As to the characters, I was most impressed with the depth and development in them. I wasn’t really into the younger Simon that was introduced in his prequel story, but this older more mature Simon was totally captivating. At first, he was rather piteous, but as he spent time with Salime he healed and gained focus. He now cared about his family and his inheritance. He took pride in things again and wanted to be a man Salime could respect and admire. I love that he understood Salime better than she understood herself. He knew to push her and make her feel. He wanted her to let loose when they came together in passion and wouldn’t let her try to manipulate things with her skills during their lovemaking. He helped her just as much as she helped him.
Salime was interesting. Her whole life had been shaped by her past more so than many people. To be what she was trained for, she had learned to tuck her own hopes, feelings and dreams down deep to become a coldly professional pleasure slave to men. This existence made her only believe love was for stories and poetry, but not for real life and certainly not for her. Simon might have been broken by being a prisoner, but she was just as broken too. They were equals on a fundamental level.
The tie-ins to DeVere and Diana’s story were great. I loved how this one paralleled the previous story, A Devil’s Touch, perfectly. This leads me to say that this one really shouldn’t be read in isolation. The many references to the other story will drive the reader batty if encountered without knowing it and really, it’s just a deeper and richer story to have what came before.
So all in all, this was an engaging reading experience and I recommend this book and the whole series to those who enjoy Georgian era historical romance with an authentic and yet erotic feel.
My thanks to the author for providing the book in exchange for my honest review thoughts.