Improper Relations

Juliana Ross
Improper Relations
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Carina Press
Release Date
April 2012
Erotic Romance, Historical Romance

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?

Book Review by Bridget (reviewer)
Apr 21, 2012   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
210 people found the following review helpful
IMPROPER RELATIONS is a wonderfully entertaining, engrossing short story with enough heat to smolder and enough feeling to completely capture the heart. Best of all, as this is Juliana Ross' debut, I have high hopes that there are even greater pleasures to come!

A young but very poor widow, Hannah is left with no choice but to come and live in the home of her husband's Aunt Augusta as an unpaid companion. It's a safe life, but drab and passionless. And Hannah has never questioned it until the day that she finds herself caught in the library, watching while Leo, her cousin-by-marriage, indulges in the most carnal of meetings with one of the household maids.

The experience, needless to say, is a shock for Hannah, not simply because she never dreamed that men and women could both enjoy the act so intensely. Until he caught her staring, Leo never gave Hannah a second glance. The black sheep of the family, Leo is the despair of his mother, but the one person whose presence could awaken something in Hannah's heart. And when he offers to show her the same pleasure, to teach all the pleasures that her husband never did, there is no way she can possibly refuse. But when the lessons get out of hand, and the hearts become as involved as their bodies, how will Hannah choose between protecting Leo and fighting for the man she has come to love?

It's near impossible not to fall in love with Leo, his free-spirited outlook on life and his remarkably open-minded approach to pleasure. It was clear early on (even if she refused to see it) that Hannah was far more than a passing fancy. As someone who has been overlooked and underestimated himself, no doubt Leo could see all the fire and enthusiasm that her late husband had nearly quashed.

Hannah could easily have been a timid student, or at the control of Leo's whims during their lessons. Instead, her desires drove the plot, and the passion grew wilder and steamier as the story progressed.

Though perhaps not a classic beauty, and seriously confined by her near-servant status in the house, Hannah is still bold and honest, and my sympathy for her awkward position at the story's beginning swiftly turned to respect. In the end, she is true to herself and the man she loves, and rewarded tenfold for it.

I was very impressed by the way the tone of the story changed as Hannah became increasingly familiar with Leo and her own body. Her first encounter, as a spectator, is genuinely (and intentionally) uncomfortable, both because of her awkward position and because she clearly doesn't have the language to describe or understand what she is seeing in the library. But as she comes to know Leo and to explore all the pleasures that they can give to each other, the narrative picks up in speed, heat and in heart.

I loved the way this story blended a rather modern approach toward our hero and heroine's heady relationship, while keeping very true to the spirit of the best 19th-century love stories. There are notes of Jane Eyre in Hannah's outlook and resilient courage, some great Romantic pining, passion and secrets abounding, and some fascinating historical details, most notably with Leo and his more private details. This was a short story done right, and really hope that there is more to come from Juliana Ross soon!
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