Release Date: 23 April 2012
Number of pages: novella
Publisher: Carina Press
Source: ebook provided by author for review
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Audible
Grade: 4.5 stars
Goodreads appetizer: Dorset, 1858
When Hannah's caught watching her late husband's cousin debauch the maid in the library, she's mortified -- but also intrigued. An unpaid companion to his aunt, she's used to being ignored.
The black sheep of the family, Leo has nothing but his good looks and noble birth to recommend him. Hannah ought to be appalled at what she's witnessed, but there's something about Leo that draws her to him.
When Leo claims he can prove that women can feel desire as passionately as men, Hannah is incredulous. Her own experiences have been uninspiring. Yet she can't bring herself to refuse his audacious proposal when he offers to tutor her in the art of lovemaking. As the tantalizing, wicked lessons continue, she begins to fear she's losing not just her inhibitions, but her heart as well. The poorest of relations, she has nothing to offer Leo but herself. Will it be enough when their erotic education ends
Review originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.
My Thoughts: I will shamelessly admit that I started reading Improper Relations because of its beautiful and sensually suggestive cover, and let me tell you that this is a little gem of story you shouldn't miss out on!
I have heard that there are several historical romances exploring the trope of initiation of the young and clueless widow into the pleasures of the flesh, but I haven't read any such novels yet so I can't compare them to Improper Relations. I can only tell you that this book is an extrordinary story.
It is told in the first person narrative by Hannah, which in my opinion was a double risk Juliana Ross took: first of all telling an erotica story in the first person makes finding the balance between including the reader but not making them feeling voyeuristic quite perilous, and then the even bigger challenge of channelling a 19th century sexually inexperienced widow and making her story authentic and believable. And Juliana Ross excelled on both accounts.
If I had to pick the first thing that comes to mind about Improper Relations it is how authentic it read. I was amazed how its language style, the heroine's vocabulary and approach to sex and intimacy, her belief regarding the role of men and women in pleasure/duty were all historically accurate and authentic. It managed to transport me back in time and made me feel as I were really there in Victorian England witnessing Hannah's sexual and emotional awakening.
Cousin Leo leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, his expression grave. “They did you a great wrong, you know. Your mother and my cousin.”
“That is unfair—”
“Because they were wrong. No woman should ever feel she has to submit. No woman should have to grit her teeth and endure her husband’s attentions. Lovemaking is meant to be enjoyable, for men and women.”
Hannah is a very likable and relatable heroine. Her reluctance and timidity battling with her natural curiosity were believable and real, and the way her curiosity wins over her shyness endeared her to me even more. It took me a bit more time to figure out and take a liking to Leo. At first he appears to be the typical rakish rogue, the Victorian playboy who doesn't care about anything but "drinking, gambling and wenching". But the more we get a glimpse of his tender and thoughtful side through the way he treats and initiates Hannah into experiencing pleasure revealed he was much more than the first façade led the reader to believe.
Leo is truly an inventive and most patient teacher, all their sexual encounters are focused around Hannah, he takes her sexual education at her pace and only progresses further upon her approval. But do not be mistaken: their bedroom scenes are not merely tender and sighing lovemakings, oh no. Leo is much more complex than that: besides his consideration for Hannah and while not forcing her hand he shocks her plenty with his dirty talk and revelation of sexual customs. The seduction scenes between them are always hot and titillating, making the reader just as affected as Hannah.
Although Improper Relations is a short novella the development of the characters' relationship is not rushed. The ending is predictable but it brings that necessary HEA vital to us romance lovers.
I loved both parts of Improper Relations, the scorching sexual initiation of Hannah and the gently budding romance between her and Leo were equally wonderful and both left a lasting impression.
Verdict: I found Improper Relations a delightful surprise. It is sweet, it is sexy and most certainly addictive. You will devour it in a couple hours and immediately stalk Juliana Ross' website to be able to read more.
Cover: 10/10 - I get goosebumps and sigh just looking at it!