Austenesque and romance writer Janet Mullany dives headfirst into erotica genre in her latest release, Hidden Paradise.
Warning: Dear readers, please avert your eyes if your genteel sensibilities are offended by a romance novel that might be classified in the same arena as Fifty Shades of Gray.
Disturbingly, the book opens in the throes of a ribald sex scene – without even a “how do you do” – only to be awoken by a phone call from a friend in England! Thusly, we are finally introduced to the recently widowed Louisa Connelly, Jane Austen expert, who is to be the honored guest at Paradise Hall, an English resort and spa, catering to the Austen enthusiast. Hmmmmmm? Sound vaguely reminiscent of Shannon Hale’s bestseller, Austenland? However, dressing up in authentic Regency-style clothing and experiencing everything Austen in a real Georgian country manor – similarities end there. For one, Paradise Hall is no secret, exclusive get-away as the proprietors are most assuredly determined in getting the word out to potential guests… Enter Mac Salazar, handsome, lusty journalist whose middle name just happens to be Darcy!
Although, it has only been a few months into her mourning, Lou escapes her Montana ranch, and accepts to give a trial run of the place and give her Jane Austen stamp of “authenticity” for her friends and proprietors, Peter and Chris. Moreover, she hopes to encounter her late husband’s shade in the very place they had once planned to visit together. But almost within the first few hours of being on the property, she realizes that this experience might be a bit more eye opening than she first expected when she secrets upon a couple coitus a la vache. And she stays to watch! Later when she is formally introduced, it doesn’t take Einstein to surmise Mac Darcy Salazar is the resident lothario, noting that his historically accurate britches betray his virile reflex constitutionally inclined to passion. “‘It’s an interesting concept, time travel with no chance of getting stuck in the past, or treading on a bug and changing the course of history.’ ‘It’s a very sexy period.’ She was halfway down another glass now and the room was beginning to take on a subtle, mellow glow that was half sunset, half alcohol. ‘Mainly because in popular culture, of course. People say there’s no sex in Austen. They’re wrong. Her books are full of sex, but it’s all subsex. Subtext.’ ‘That’s the champagne talking.’” p. 40. Lou, willing Paradise Hall as all fantasy and nothing more, is determined what better place to satiate her own pangs of lust. And loneliness. It just so happens that Mac happens to be charming. Smart. And unbeknownst to the world around him, in search of something more substantial than romp after romp.
And what would a Georgian country manor be without a handsome footman, or three? The story is full of romance: guests with other guests, guests with employees, employees with employees – all of accommodating morals; the occasional menage et trois; and an abundance of modern sense and sensuality. “Look, Lou, was that it? A quick snog?” “You know where my room is.” The worlds tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop herself. It all seemed so uncomplicated, all of the sudden – she liked him, she desired him, and in a week or so she’d go back to the States and he’d go to Cambridge at the end of the summer.” p. 99. The “Upstairs Downstairs” style narration, told from the different characters’ points of view, flows seamlessly and keeps you turning pages.
Just as I thought that this was your basic run of the mill, decadent Harlequin fluff, Mullany would throw a story twist or two, derailing my predictions and re-igniting my interest. Under the floorboards of this ancient house, amidst centuries of dust, Lou unearths the words “Passion” and “Inconstancy” – two words written in Austen’s own hand that are certain to rock the literary world and change everything we know or have surmised about our dear Jane. And another discovery, that just as poignantly changes all she has known and loved!
Hidden Paradise is a well-developed story from beginning to end with lots of steam for the wanton reader. My feminine sensibilities were not despoiled in any way by the reading of this lascivious romance. However, some of you who choose to yield to this amusing, amorous tale might prefer to either cover the book with a plain brown wrapper or simply turn back the cover. I however just told my loved ones, “Avert your eyes… Nothing to see here.” Blush-blush. I think if you enjoyed Linda Berdoll’s Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife, then I am confident you can manage the adult content in Hidden Paradise – perfect fireside indulgence for these brisk, autumnal days.
4.5 out of 5 Steamy Stars
Hidden Paradise, by Janet Mullany
Trade paperback (320) pages
© 2012 Christina Boyd, Austenprose