The Harlot (Taskill Witches, #1) - Saskia Walker My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

I’ve been meaning to read The Harlot from the day it came out but knowing what might be inside (yah, I love spoilerish reviews :p), I was putting it off. Finally, I’ve done it! Have to say, it wasn’t as ‘scary’ as I thought. My choice in kink runs quite tamed, ‘vanilla’ as some will term it but I really liked this book. The Harlot was all about Jessie I think. I had confusions over Gregor at times but he was totally drool-worthy! The plot of paranormal wasn’t anything unexpected, yet it kept my attentions, made me stick to the plot. I had a lot of 1sts in this book, one being this is my 1st Saskia Walker book. I really enjoyed her writing style (even though some words made me giggle :p)- the whole plotting, the setting in the backdrop of the 18th century witch-hunt and so on.

Jessie is a streetwalker. I mean a REAL one in every sense, a prostitute without any nonsense, one who doesn’t even know her real age. She’s been one for quite sometimes now and enjoys her line of work. Ok, I’m generally not very fond of prostitute heroines, mostly because I don’t condone this profession but in Jessie, I found someone very honest and real. Also, I liked the fact that she wasn’t a jaded individual, even though, time and again it was hard for me to believe that after seeing and experiencing so much horror and... well, just think, she’s a prostitute who walks the street in search of clients. When Gregor saw her, she was in a catfight with another prostitute over a prospective client and she wasn’t even aware that in the process she was giving the people around her little glimpses from her backside! So yes, this little fact got to me time to time and made a few things about her unbelievable. But that didn’t mar my fun. I already told you how she and Gregor met. Jessie’s past has been a haunted one, with her mother being hanged and burned for being a witch. Sad thing was, like so many other accusations, she wasn’t an innocent because Jessie’s mother knew magic and passed it on to her three offsprings. Jessie’s dad up and left her when she was pregnant with Jessie and her twin Maisi. I’m not sure if they married but they lived in the Highlands before but coming to the Lowlands in search of her father was what led to her mother’s death. Before this happened, her mother taught them all bits and pieces of magic to help themselves when necessary. There was no harm in it but the ‘normal’ people, of course, were afraid of magic and those who knew it and would kill anyone who was accused of witchcraft. Jessie has had to deal with her personal vulnerabilities, lost both Maisi and Lennox, the older brother very young, just after their mother’s death, when they were put with various foster families. Jessie’s foster family didn’t treat her well, never educated her. Funny because the man was a school teacher but took Jessie in because he was forced to do so. His wife was scared of Jessie. At first, Jessie didn’t know. She was virtually a slave who worked and was treated like one. But, she never liked it and magic was flowing through her veins. One day, she just ran away because she eavesdropped on the man and his wife. Her mother never taught them to hide their natural instincts because their kind is always one with the nature. So sex comes as a part of that natural existence. We never get to learn when or how or who was her 1st but she gave into it as her body craved it. She liked living in woods, meeting with her own kind for a while but the time was also bad so she had to come up with a way to stay out of suspicion. No one gives prostitutes much thought and she likes having sex... the result is what she is today. She also wants to save enough coins, venture to Highlands again and find Maisi and Lennox someday.

Gregor just landed on Scotland from his own ship after 11 yrs. He is rich and able but his only plan is to have revenge on the man who destroyed his father and his own life. Now, a sailor has only one place to visit after he’s docked from his prolonged and arduous journey on the sea. Gregor is no stranger to a life like that. But when he sees Jessie fighting and had a glimpse of her ‘delectable buttocks’, he wanted her. Then when he learns of her notorious title as “The Harlot of Dundee”, he promptly decides she’ll do for his purpose. Soon, the other prostitute, in anger and jealousy, starts labeling Jessie a witch, even though Jessie helped that woman before when she was sick. Soon the bailie arrived and took her to the tollbooth. Gregor soon took the chance, stole the cassock of a priest from a nearby Church and went into the tollbooth. He told the guard he’s here to talk to the harlot about her sins and stuffs. The guard gave no trouble, let him in and gave them time, shutting the door from outside. Jessie didn’t know who it was until he spoke to her, told her he’d help escaping her if she does him a favor. Of course, a favor to Jessie means sex. She promptly started working her ‘skills’, even though Gregor didn’t explain the said favor. But, he won’t say no to a lusty tumble and gave in. Well, here came me *heehee* for the 1st time because I liked the way they conversed. It was supposed to feel dirty because to Jessie and Gregor, such situation is not new. Yah, I mean casual sex, which I don’t really care for. Yet, I thought they connected. And then they had a really hot quickie. After that, Gregor asked the guard to open the door and then tackled the man and ran with Jessie. She thought she had earned her freedom and wanted to leave when they were out but Gregor reminded her he never explained what he really wanted. That the sex was her idea not his (yah right! :p). He then explains his plan to her and blackmails her saying she can’t reside in Dundee anymore because now she’s a ‘runaway witch harlot’! Anyway, after much cajoling and the promise of a big purse of money, Jessie saw reasons and went with Gregor. I did like their banters and conversations etc. I don’t know but most of the times, those came off kinda sweet.

They reach in Fife after quite a long journey where Gregor took a room in a very subdued inn. He obviously didn’t want to be known, lest his enemy learns of it and comes after him. His enemies, the Wallaces are infamous in these parts; both father Ivor, a power hungry lecherous man, Gregor’s enemy and Forbes, his gambler son. Craigduff, where Gregor and the Wallaces are from is close to Fife. Gregor introduces Jessie as his ward to the alewife who runs the inn. Gregor means to teach Jessie of his enemy’s ways so that she can seduce the man, earn his confidence and learn about the lands he wants to sell. Gregor wants to buy off his estate, Strathbahn from Ivor Wallace and look after it. I liked their tutoring sessions as Gregor came off as a dominant man who expects to be obeyed (being a ship’s captain and all that I guess) but he never was demeaning or nasty to Jessie. Sure he wasn’t warm and mushy to her because he knew she’s just a prostitute to meet an end. I would’ve been pissed (even though his reasons were logical) but I was also very interested to see how SW would bring these two together. I liked the way he made a wild Jessie to learn to obey him through his words and yes of course, with his manly tool! :p It was some teaching session. But at first, Gregor didn’t want to have sex. He thought he’s gotta prepare her for her mission and that’s all. Even then he knew it’d be really tough for him not to give in. Jessie, on the other hand, was kinda wild for him already. She already liked Gregor and wanted him like no other man. She never ever experienced a connection, the like she feels with Gregor. At first, she was on with her mission to get the money and if possible, a few good tumble with the man. She already used her magic to get out of the room where Gregor locked her up when he went out to meet people and investigate his situation and explored her surrounding. She just couldn’t not do it since she’s very curious by nature and bores easily. This exploration gives her very little clue of the man. She looks through his chests and so on, loves rolling on the bed where it smells of him. She just loves it and plans to seduce him again. But Gregor isn’t an easy conquest but when he does, he’s gooood! On a day of her exploration, she spies on two men in the next room, which was ajar and watches a full fledged M/M coupling. Er, here comes another of my first, my 1st official M/M sex scene *enter a little heehee here too :p*. I think I liked it and didn’t freak out as I originally thought I would. I think SW handled it rather well. At that point I thought this scene was totally pointless since the two men had nothing to do with the actual plot. (on the aside, she did got off later lying on Gregor’s bed and imagining it was him :p) Soon, Jessie and Gregor become lovers once more. Gregor did work her well and before long she was totally obeying (reasonably that is) Gregor’s tutoring on the seduction of his enemy. This did bring on some excellent scenes fraught with sexual tensions.

There’s this maidservant, Morag, who’d come to see to Jessie’s needs. There was one scene where Jessie was taking a bath and Morag was helping her. I was surprised that Gregor watcher her bathing (and she baiting him with provocative glances) when Morag was present. You know, they were supposed to be guardian-ward. But Morag seemed to be the open and bold sort herself so she never cared. Then soon, I got to learn why. In the meantime, Gregor has been around, met a childhood friend, asked around about new lands for sale etc. but his search wasn’t not very fruitful. He knows his ship will come back in about 6 months so he had to get on with the plan ASAP. Yet, as the day passed by, taking Jessie to his enemy’s lair felt like a wrong thing to do because he was already feeling something different for her. Jessie wasn’t the usual type of prostitute, of which he’s had plenty in his lifetime. She is smart and very special in her own way. As example, there was a scene where Jessie was mad at him for something (and a bit vulnerable because she knew she was falling for Gregor) so she asked him to talk about the ‘women’ in his life. Gregor did, with quite a graphic detail. Er, I didn’t like it really but Jessie did and they had steamy sex afterwards (that I liked immensely :p). Yet, I understood her dilemma and a need to be with Gregor. I think it was also because lovemaking with Gregor made her more powerful and alive. On one of his visits to the village, Gregor ordered dresses for her. The day he brought those back, Jessie was very happy to have something nice. You can guess, she never ever had anything nice in her life. The dress in which Gregor brought her here was dirty and torn, so was her boots. He borrowed a few dresses from Morag for the time being. Now, Gregor wants Jessie to wear a special one so he calls Morag to help her. Everything was going fine when suddenly, they were exchanging words and Jessie felt the urge to prove him that she can seduce anyone, anytime. Er, I wished it didn’t happen this way because she did something with Morag which turned me off totally. I don’t like F/F and I thought this part was wholly unnecessary. Then she comes to Gregor, who was watching and has sex with him while Morag was watching... Holy cow! Not me cuppa for sure! These two scenes, I so wish, weren’t there in the book. I was already happy with Gregor and Jessie’s enthusiasms for themselves!

Then, one day, Gregor takes her to have a look at Wallace’s place. He draws maps and shows her what to do. Jessie takes a tour and places enchantment to make her way smooth. Gregor didn’t know still but he felt uneasy about Jessie’s safekeeping. Then he takes her to Strathbahn. The memory floods back and Gregor tells her what happened to his father, how Ivor Wallace orchestrated his father’s downfall, bought his lands and threw it on his face that it was all his doing. Ashamed, his father hanged himself. After the revelation, Gregor becomes very broody and distant and Jessie panicked. She tries to reach out to him but he wouldn’t talk and keeps ignoring her. After 2days, an upset Jessie goes downstairs, where she meets an excise man, James Grant (one from the M/M scene). He looks like a nice guy so Jessie talks to him. Gregor, coming out of his drunken stupor, finds Jessie gone and goes down in a possessive rage. He gets angry to find her laughing and touching the man. He kinda drags her upstairs, binds her on the bed and gives her a thorough rogering *heehee*. Jessie tells him later that Mr. Grant isn’t interested in women. At night, as they sleep together, Gregor learns of her nightmares and Jessie later tells him about her mother (but not the truth) and her past. This kinda marked their relationship as something other than sex; that they were beyond ‘just lust’ at this point. But, there’s a mission awaits and the next day, Jessie is ready for their journey.

Jessie enters the house as an innocent hired help (as planned) quite easily. Her enchantment worked and the house was in chaos. A helping hand is most welcome. Soon she meets a few other unsavory characters in the house. But, she’s yet to meet Ivor Wallace. At midnight, she meets Gregor and imparts whatever information she gained. They wander to the forest and makes love. Here, in the dark night, Gregor sees something about Jessie while they make love that defied his imagination. Her body glowed like phosphorus and her eyes were more purple than blue. He saw it once, in another incident but it went away so quickly that thought it was his imagination. Gregor is kinda scared and hesitates. But when Jessie begs him not to stop, he gives in. Later, Jessie tells him about it all. Gregor was not happy to think that she might’ve worked her magic on him (his feelings for her deepening, which he thought was totally unreasonable) but Jessie vehemently denies it. Anyway, she’s happy that Gregor doesn’t see it as a hindrance to whatever relationship they’d forged because to Jessie, surely there can’t be a future between them. She’s a prostitute after all. You know, this kind of vulnerabilities and yearning from Jessie felt kinda out of place knowing her profession but I didn’t let it rule my mind. She was always thinking she has to move on, find new protector when Gregor leaves and yet, she can’t bring herself to think of another man touching her, not even her mission Ivor Wallace. Even she knew how stupid that sounded! But she wanted to help Gregor and make him happy and for that, she needs to seduce Ivor Wallace.

Now, Gregor no longer wanted Jessie to whore herself anymore, not even for this mission. He was planning new things and his new found feelings for her, which surfaced now that she’s absent in the inn and he missed her very much. After learning about her powers, Gregor was more worried- what if they learn of it too and kill her? Poor guy, I felt his feelings were very genuine. Meantime, he also has a talk to the excise man Grant. Grant approached him before but Gregor, not wanting to be known around here, denied knowing him. This time he accedes that he remembers Grant who was a relative to Gregor’s mother’s cousin Margaret and met when they were younger. Jessie, meanwhile, meets Ivor Wallace when he comes to her room at night the ‘have a look’ at the new servant girl. He’s an unsavory character all right. Jessie feels it in her bones. But the housekeeper, who it seems has a history with the master of the house, appoints herself as Jessie’s guardian angel and always there to save her. But, it won’t do, so Jessie tries doing a few of the tricks Gregor taught her to gain Ivor Wallace’s attentions and it proves fruitful. At night, Gregor isn’t at all happy to learn this, even though he should be totally overjoyed. Jessie tells him she won’t have to sleep with Wallace because she can manipulate him with her magic. She’s very warmed by Gregor’s possessive streak and the emotion for her that he can’t control anymore. Jessie already knew she’d fallen in love and it only makes her wanna dream about a future together, whatever it entails. The next day, Gregor is restless because of his concern for Jessie so he goes out sooner than expected and visits his mother’s grave. There Margaret, who is now very old and frail, meets him and recognizes him on the spot. He agrees to walk her home and then goes in. It brought back a lot of memories for Gregor because when his mother died, he was very young and Margaret, a spinster, took care of him as her own. From her, he actually learns of a shocking revelation about his parentage and he was so shocked that he’s late to meet Jessie. In the Wallace’s house, Jessie is upset and a bit vulnerable not finding Gregor in their meeting place. But when she goes back in, the danger finds her there...

I loved what happened afterwards and how Gregor reacted and saved Jessie. I’m glad that their HEA was believable and SW was able to convince me that odd couples like Gregor and Jessie can also find love and dream of a better future. I felt there might be sequels. So would Jessie find her siblings? Would we see books for them too? I’m very interested about the prospect and would definitely love it. There’s a novella, Their Private Arrangement, connecting to this book which I’m gonna read next. Overall, a pretty good read. I’m gladly giving this book a 4 star and look forward to give more SW books a try later.


Just read (Feb, 2012) SW’s recent blog post. It seems like The Harlot is going to be under the series Taskill Witches and a 2nd book is coming in the early 2013 called The Libertine. Can't wait!