From the BLURB:
Young widow Passion Dare thought she'd never love again. But a handsome earl has been pursuing her- and after a lifetime of propriety, Passion ponders throwing caution to the wind. After several heady encounters, the pair must face blackmail, learn a shocking truth-and choose between duty and desire.
Passion Elizabeth Dare was widowed at a young age, and with her widowhood came freedom. Freedom from a loveless marriage and her husband’s indifference, and freedom from the cruel irony of her name... But Passion’s mourning-period is soon over, and her Aunt Matty insists she venture to London for her debut as a widower out of mourning. While in London Passion wants to explore the grand Crystal Palace exhibit and spend time with her dear cousin Charlotte. But Aunt Matty is determined to see Passion betrothed (again).
Meanwhile, Mark Randolph Hawkmore is in a waking nightmare. He has just discovered that his beloved younger brother, Matthew, is in fact his half-brother... and a lady from his mother’s past is threatening blackmail if Mark doesn’t wed her daughter and give the family a title. Between breaking the news to his brother that he is a gardener’s bastard and succumbing to his mother’s scandal, Mark is between a rock and a hard place.
The story opens at the Crystal Palace in London’s Hyde Park, 1851. The Crystal Palace was a great exhibition of the industrial revolution and modernization. It is also where Passion Dare and Mark Hawkmore share their first steamy encounter. They literally bump into one another while wandering the Crystal Palace... and then share a delicious romp behind a Gothic screen in an act of pure erotic voyeurism. With Mark, Passion discovers all that was missing from her marriage... and though Mark is a notorious rake and womanizer, he cannot bear the thought of having just one encounter with this mysterious woman in black.
Crystal Palace exhibit
What unfolds between these two is a delicious and scandalous affair that plays out in plain sight and then behind closed doors. . . an affair that will be their undoing, as Mark is caught amidst his own blackmail scandal that will eventually impact Passion. . .
I kept hearing about Lisa Valdez’s debut book, the first of what will be four books in the ‘Passion Quartet’ historical romance series. This book came out in 2005 and has remained a rite-of-passage for lovers of historical romance. And now I can understand why.
Valdez’s book is the dark chocolate and forbidden fruit of the historical romance genre. The sex scenes are graphic. I don’t mean they’re blush-worthy for the Victoria-era ton setting - I mean that Valdez writes intense erotica that is so explicit it’s educational! Her sex scenes could quite comfortably be transported into a modern-day erotica novel and fit right in. Wow. Just ‘wow’. I kept reading Amazon reviews in which the reviewer commented (whether gratefully or negatively) on the graphic nature of the sex. . . but I wasn’t prepared.
That’s not to say that the sex scenes are enjoyable purely for their thrilling titillation. . . Valdez has expertly and beautifully crafted sensuous scenes of intense eroticism. The first, voyeuristic, coupling of Passion and Mark is wonderful for its originality. A sex scene amidst the hubbub of a Hyde Park exhibit – wonderful! But what I loved about the sex scenes was how Valdez marked the couple’s growing affection and infatuation through them. . . from their scandalous public pairing to when they decided to move their rendezvous’ to their private apartments and embark on a slower and more carnal affair. Brilliant.
Lisa Valdez’s debut may be notorious for the blush-worthy sex scenes. . . but it’d be a crime to suggest that it is only the sex scenes that hold any value in the novel. The romance itself is glorious. Mark and Passion have one of the best romance’s I have ever read – and part of the brilliance lies in the foreboding.
Mark’s blackmail plot coincides to his affair with Passion. . . and as their blossoming love unfolds, so too does the darker sub-plot that will eventually unravel their affair. There’s a fair amount of tragedy to Mark and Passion’s romance as it coincides with Mark’s forced engagement. . . but any sadness just heightens the ‘will-they-or-won’t-they?’ to grand proportions, so that by book’s end I was crying and blubbering because I honestly didn’t know if these two would get a happy ending;
“Tell me something,” she saidI have been warned that Ms Valdez’s second book in the series wasn’t very well-received (at all!). There was a very big gap between first book, ‘Passion’, and the second book, ‘Patience’. ‘Passion’ came out in 2005, and ‘Patience’ came out in April 2010. That’s a very long wait for fans – and I do wonder if some of the animosity towards the second book was simply fans disgruntled at having to wait so very long? Regardless, Valdez has me hooked on her writing and I will venture into the second book, but perhaps with lowered expectation?
He tipped her chin up to look at him. His cheeks were wet. “I shall think of you every day, a thousand times a day. I shall dream of you at night and speak your name when I wake. I shall relive every moment we ever spent together, and I shall invent ones we didn’t.” He held her face between his hands. “I shall write to you and speak only of us. I shall tell you every adventure we share and recount the ways we make love. And in such a way, I shall create a life with you.”
Passion closed her eyes on her tears.
Regardless, Lisa Valdez’s debut book is exquisite. It stands as an incredible feat of fancy in the historical romance genre, but also serves up blushing brilliance for the ‘hardcore’ sex scenes. . . Superb, and a must-read for lovers of historical romance.