Friday, November 6, 2015

NOVELLA REVIEW: "Harlot" by Victoria Dahl

For Ages 18+ (Language, Sensuality)
Erotic Historical Romance -- Western

Self-Published -- Published on October 26, 2015
eARC, 123 pages
Read in October 2015
Received from Netgalley


Childhood Sweethearts, Scandalous Heroine, Self-Made Hero, Revenge Plot

He came home to marry an angel...
After working in the gold fields of California for two years, Caleb Hightower has come home to marry his childhood sweetheart, Jessica Willoughby. But when he returns, Caleb learns his refined bride-to-be is now a whore. Enraged by her betrayal, he can’t reconcile this shameless woman with the sweet innocent he once deeply loved—but Caleb knows what to do with a harlot. He’s determined to get everything from her that she’s sold to other men. And he’s prepared to pay for the pleasure of his revenge.

But all he found was sin.
Left penniless after her father’s death, Jess made a deal with a devil. Now she must face her first love, whose scorn is no match for her regret. To make amends, she’ll let Caleb quench his rage with her body. Their bargain strips them down to searing passion and naked vulnerability, and Jess can still glimpse her loving Caleb buried deep inside this rough cowboy. In the end, an unbearable truth emerges that could push them toward forgiveness…or could destroy their fragile bond forever.

"Jessica wasn't a whore."

I received a free copy of this book from Victoria Dahl via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Victoria Dahl is currently one of my favorite contemporary romance authors, but I actually discovered her when she was writing historicals.  So I was ecstatic when she announced that she was returning to that genre, specifically with a western erotic romance.

Harlot is the tale of reunited childhood sweethearts who must deal with the changes that have occurred to one another since they last met.  Caleb had been in love with Jessica for years and went off to earn a fortune in California so he could marry her.  But, his triumphant return is derailed when he discovers that she is no longer the refined innocent he left behind.  In frustration, he decides to take revenge on Jessica by treating her like the "whore" he believes her to be, but the tides are quickly turned on him when he learns the truth.

My favorite part about this story was Jessica.  As a young woman, she had everything that her heart desires including a boy who loved her.  But, after Caleb left and her father died, she learned how false her impression of her life was.  A moment of desperation forced her into a difficult situation which has had ramifications on her life and reputation.  What I loved the most about Jessica was her survival instinct and her intelligence.  She hasn't had it easy the past few years and doesn't let Caleb get away with treating her like a whore very long.  Her big speech had me nodding my head vigorously and cheering loudly by the end.

Caleb was much more difficult for me to root for.  I understood that he was a man of his time, that the situation he came back to was just another way that he felt like his life was spiraling out of control, and that both he and Jessica were being manipulated by others.  But, his initial coarse treatment of Jessica rubbed me the wrong way from the beginning.  I am all for the hero going through a journey like this, but the page length didn't allow for his redemption to occur at a more natural pace.  It just seemed very abrupt and not as developed so I never really liked or cared about Caleb getting his happy ending.

Since this is an erotic romance, I, of course, have the mention the sex.  It is plentiful (especially for such a short story) yet I never felt like it was just there for spiciness's sake.  Victoria Dahl is a master at using sex scenes to show character development and that happened in Harlot especially for Jessica.  I do have to admit that, because of my feelings on Caleb's character, I found the first sex scene to be difficult to read though it is made clear that Jessica would not be doing this if she didn't want to.

I had high expectations for Harlot and most of them were met.  The story moved along at a decent pace, the heroine was wonderful, and the sex was well-written.  I just wish that I hadn't spent most of my reading time wanting to bash the hero over the head every time he opened his mouth.  I do hope that Victoria Dahl continues to write historical romances because I love her voice in any and all genres.  I would especially love to see a novella featuring Jessica's friends, Melisande and Bill.

"A prick ain't filled with poison," Melisande muttered.  "It's just spunk.  Men walk around full of it and look how pleased they are with themselves."

Goodreads -- Author Website

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1 comment:

  1. I just loved Taking the Heat, but this book just does not appeal to me. I'm sure I would have been so annoyed with the hero, too.


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