Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)
Trapped under the reign of a cruel keeper, Ellen Harding longs to be free. Under his oppression, her soul and conscience have died while her body lives on, fulfilling his dissolute desires. She is empty—a vessel—deaf to the voice of morality and blind to shame.
When her eyes are drawn to a beautiful man for no other reason than his looks, she imagines what it would be like to escape her chains for a night by giving her body to him.
But Edward Marlow is kind and gentle when he touches her, and her subconscious whispers, this man could be her salvation. Yet how can he help her when she has secrets which prevent her freedom?
Edward is restless, lonely, and a little angry with his lot in life—it is his only excuse for being drawn to another man’s mistress. The woman’s dark hair and pale eyes are striking, and he cannot take his gaze off her while she watches him over the top of a fan with an illicit intent in her eyes.
Once he’s known her, he cannot forget her, and once he’s seen the evidence of her supposed benefactor’s brutality, he wants to help her. But how can he when she will not run any more than she will speak of her past?
When a desperate Ellen finally relents and shocks Edward from his sleep, he doesn’t hesitate, he helps her flee. He just doesn’t know he’s running headlong into the secrets of her past.
I loved this passionate, intense and engrossing romance. Jane Lark brings such emotional depth to the story and a gift for breathing life into her characters.
… if God judged a woman with such a pure, good heart as hers, for deeds that were forced upon her, then in his opinion, God was an ass.
I feel so much sympathy for Ellen, trapped in a sordid existence with an abusive and manipulative protector with no way out. Sometimes, I would catch a glimpse of the vulnerable woman beneath the hard, protective shell…a woman who still dreams of a happy-ever-after although she knows it can never be.
…no matter what Edward said or what she thought, he could not rescue her from this life and nor could he take back the intervening years of pain.
It was so satisfying to watch Ellen slowly regain her self-esteem and, through Edward’s steadfast love, have the courage to face her father and take back the life which should have been hers. Seeing her overwhelming love for her son, John, was so touching.
She loved him, his patience, his kindness—his determination.
Edward is a true hero. His love for Ellen never falters and he will do anything to protect her and restore her to the life she deserves.
He’d vowed to give it back to her—that time—the life she’d lost.
I adore him for making Ellen challenge all the assumptions she has accepted about her own worth and see the woman she truly is.
Ellen and Edward’s romance is full of ups and downs and Ms Lark captures all the charming, heartrending, poignant, passionate and joyous moments so beautifully. What really shines through is the unshakeable love that they share.
I admit to being intrigued by Edward’s brother, Robert. He is downright unpleasant at first, insulting Ellen and baiting Edward so much that they almost come to blows. But I got the sense that there is something in Robert’s past that has made him who is.He does redeem himself when he comes to Ellen’s defense when she is threatened by Gainsborough. Luckily, the next book in the series, The Passionate Love of a Rake, tells Robert’s story.
The reunion between Ellen and her sisters is heart-warming and I love how the sisters and their husbands all rally round to support Ellen in any way possible. Gainsborough may be a loathsome toad but the Duke of Pembroke, Ellen’s father, is an outright bastard. It was bad enough that he spurned his daughter and made her mother and sisters believe she was dead, but when the full extent of his betrayal is revealed, I would gladly have seen him horsewhipped.
With its passionate and sensual love story, memorable characters, compelling plot and great writing, I can highly recommend THE ILLICIT LOVE OF A COURTESAN to lovers of Historical Romance.
REVIEW RATING: 5/5 Stars
SENSUALITY RATING: HOT
Read April 2014
The Marlow Intrigues series (click on cover for more details):