My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
It’s been a while I’ve a Karryn Gerrard book so I had to remedy this immediately. Her latest offering is a historical romance, book 1 of the Hornsby Brothers series, Bold Seduction. It’s a short story between a Madame of a brothel and (OMG hear me scream) a virgin hero! If you know me, much like those hunky Highlanders, virgin heroes are also my favorites, as are the gigolos. Don’t ask me why, I’m just weird that way.
Philomena, or Phil as she goes by, is the Madame of a posh brothel. One day, she’s approached by two of her regular patrons about an assignment, more of a birthday gift for a recluse friend, she can’t help but wonder. Who remains a virgin at 30? A member of the nobility nonetheless! In Philomena’s 10+ yrs in this profession, she has yet to come by a virgin peer, so the whole thing snags her attention right away. These two young men wanted to send one her girls as a ‘birthday gift’ to his castle, situated in a remote area. It was as much a good-natured joke as it was their intention to help their friend, hoping he’d finally join the rank (if you know what I mean). The price they offered is quite good, so Philomena herself becomes tempted to take up on the job.
Though she hasn’t been with a man for the past couple of years since she’s started her own brothel, being weary of it all, Philomena has been eagerly waiting to retire and finally settle down as soon as she can manage to gather a good enough nest egg to see through her purpose. At 32, she can’t hope for more. Now, this new development will definitely add to that venture of hers! Besides, this is such unique a situation that Phil thought she herself better handle the young man’s initiation into the carnal activities. With that in mind, Philomena starts her journey, hoping to be done with the whole business 2 days at best.
If only she knew that her life was about to change and for good.
Spenser Hornsby is the third son of a Duke; the queer one that no one seems to get at all. He’s a scholar to boots, very intelligent and his days are spent in studies and research. From a young age, Spencer was different than his two elder brothers, Harrison and Tremaine. We aren’t introduced to anyone of Spencer’s family in this story, but only as mentioned by Spencer himself. His family loves him and he returns the feelings, however Spencer prefers to live alone. He doesn’t want any disruptions to his routine-d, familiar lifestyle. More precisely, he can’t stand the disruption which causes him to lose his temper. In his childhood, he had these crying bouts because of which, once, his father was advised to send him to an asylum. The Duke was incensed at the very suggestions of it. However, the damage was done to Spencer’s own reputation. He became known as not only queer, but also the mad son of the Duke. Years of such sh!t was another reason why he preferred to stay hidden away in this remote castle that was given to him by his father, buried in the pile of old, dusty tomes and research.
Of course, Spencer knows about sex. If anything, his brothers’ bragging about their conquests has livened up quite a few drunken nights when Spencer spend time with them. He also had some ideas about the goings on since both Harrison and Tremaine would try and give him lessons on what to do to a lady to make her moan and scream. Both brothers though never mocked him, only wanted to help. And though they didn’t understand Spencer all that much, they loved him and had always been protective of him and his ‘odd’ ways. I loved that there was no pressure from them on Spencer to prove his ‘manliness’ in the sack.
It goes without saying that Spencer’s social skill is atrocious. I did wonder when had he become such friends with those two guys who went to Philomena about the whole thing because Spencer rarely ever ventured out of his familiar, known surrounding, which is why he was a virgin probably, as was due to the fact that people(or women) thought him ‘odd’. Either way, he always thought he’d rather research on the notion of carnal activities rather than taking part in it. He thought was that type of man who’d never know love or that sort of affection from a woman because of how he was. Because he’d been told he’s not good looking or charming enough. But Philomena was on her way to change it all, which would inevitably disrupt Spencer’s world in the most pleasurable way.
The starting of the story was rather fun. When Phil finally arrived at the blasted castle bumping on a wooden cart that set her a$$ hurting, she finds the castle in shambles. There were no servants to speak of but a drunken old biddy who up and leaves the moment she spies on Philomena, all righteous that she won’t ‘wait on a prossie’. Not that Philomena cared a whit! The farmer, owner of said cart, brings up (it’s that remote an area) food and other supplies for Spencer once a week. Even the temptation of a bribe won’t work on this guy, so Philomena gathers she’s stuck here for a week instead of 2 days that she’d initially planned.
Then there was her introduction to the man of the house, whom she finds in his man-cave of every activity; his library. She rather hears his deep and beautiful voice first and it strikes somewhere deep within (among other things ;)) that Philomena thinks if his voice can get that type of reaction out of her, it can’t be all bad. With that she finds that a bit of her earlier doubts melting away. But wait a min., if he’s all alone, who the hell is he talking to? Turns out, the man not only talks to himself while he’s working on his research, but also to his dogs, Theodora and Justinian. Upon viewing him though Philomena begins to have second thoughts. He looked unkempt, with a shave as if he didn’t want to waste his time on grooming himself when he can do more research! Like it or not, some things were going to change in that household if ‘Phil’ was going to spend a week here, taking charge, as it was quite painfully obvious that the master of the house had no interest in it.
Philomena not only starts taking care of the kitchen and the food, both cleaning and making, she also makes a point of Spencer needing to bathe and shave. Once he’s cleaned up though she’s quite happy with her handiwork. It seems underneath all that facial hair, there lives quite a handsome man with a pair of gorgeous blue eyes. Oh, Philomena can barely wait to go on ahead with her ‘assignment’ now! Even though sex had always been a chore, indeed this may yet prove to be a very interesting improvement.
Even though Spencer was rather dumbfounded at first to find the exact cause of Philomena’s presence in his home, he recovers swiftly. Then, he’s reluctant due to his own vulnerabilities not knowing where it’d lead. Even then he can’t deny her certain womanly charms that he’d failed to notice in any female species before now. Or maybe it’s just her that’s causing all that lusty thoughts in his head! Spence can’t say what is it exactly but it’s obvious his body knows what it wants. And it wants Philomena.
From that point on, there starts a comfortable little friendship between them, surprising yet not at all unwanted. I was glad that they didn’t jump into bed right away. It took a few days for both Philomena and Spencer to get acquainted with each-other in trying to find footing and a balance in their budding relationship. It becomes obvious then, that even though they have differences in their opinions, they get along quite nicely. Together. As if they’re already a couple! There was no question that they liked each-other very much. That realization brings forth another dilemma, especially for Philomena. She’s here on a ‘job’ to see through. She’s supposed to be leaving soon after that. Most important of all, he’s the son of a Duke so she can’t be having secret hopes that there might be something like an attachment forming between them, as there’s no way that can lead to anything special however much they like each-other’s company!
Spencer, on the other hand, had different outlook on it all. As their relationship deepens and he’s finally, a ‘man’ (if you can say that), thanks to Philomena, things undoubtedly begin to change in his world. It’s as if the center of it has been shifted to make room for someone new; a woman no less. He’s surprised to find how comfortable he is with her on such a short acquaintance that Spencer simply can’t let go of her. How important was the fact that Philomena didn’t threaten his comfort zone. Being with her also made Spencer realize just how lonely he’d been all these years. This also made me realize just how important a change this was to him. Spencer didn’t have the harsh reality marring his thoughts so he was instantly in love with Philomena despite her background. Now, all he had to do is to convince her that his feelings are real.
Easier said than done because Philomena’s reality was much different than Spencer’s own. Though she was from a good family, she became an orphan early in her life which changed her circumstances forever. The story of her becoming a prostitute was rather sad because that wasn’t supposed to be her fate if things didn’t go bad. Though she had maintained a standard in her profession always, no matter what, Philomena knew none of these would matter to the society. So when Spencer finally acknowledges his feelings, all she wants is to run far away from here. Yet in her heart she knew she had fallen too. She didn’t want to hurt Spencer, yet saw no viable options either. Her reluctance would cause quite a bit of rift between them as she was quite convinced it was a very bad idea. I couldn’t blame her for her thoughts, really.
Somehow they must overcome it all to give love a chance...
Honestly, the only complaint in the story I had was the rush in the romance. I enjoyed the idea behind the story so much, it would’ve made me happier if this was longer and had a few more chapters portraying Philomena and Spencer weathering the glares of the society. It seemed too easy in the end, though I’m glad that they acknowledged it wouldn’t be easy for them but they still wanted to be together nonetheless.
Now I’m quite eagerly waiting for Spencer’s brothers’ stories, which I’m sure would be the next installments. 3.5 stars and recommended if you’re looking for something steamy and quick (no innuendo intended... no, seriously! ;p).