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The Illicit Love of a Courtesan

(Marlow Intrigues #2)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  308 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Trapped under the reign of a cruel keeper, Ellen Harding longs to be free. Under his oppression, her soul and conscience have died while her body lives on, fulfilling his dissolute desires. She is empty—a vessel—deaf to the voice of morality and blind to shame.

When her eyes are drawn to a beautiful man for no other reason than his looks, she imagines what it would be like
Kindle Edition, 260 pages
Published October 3rd 2013 by HarperImpulse (first published February 26th 2013)
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3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  308 ratings  ·  81 reviews

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Carol *Young at Heart Oldie*
Jun 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I loved this passionate, intense and engrossing romance. Jane Lark brings such emotional depth to the story and a gift for breathing life into her characters.

… if God judged a woman with such a pure, good heart as hers, for deeds that were forced upon her, then in his opinion, God was an ass.

I feel so much sympathy for Ellen, trapped in a sordid existence with an abusive and manipulative protector with no way out. Sometimes, I would catch a glimpse of the vulnerable woman beneath the hard, prote
May 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: series-book-1
Great start...then downhill :(
Feb 28, 2014 added it
The Illicit Love of a Courtesan is one of the most promising debut novels I have read, and Jane Lark is going to find this a hard act to follow.

Lord Edward Marlow is that rare beast, honourable, kind and uncaring of societies opinions; up against the highest odds he determines to help Ellen Harding escape from years of beatings, fear, and worse, her own self loathing. He vows to help her without any thought of the opinions of others. He braves the wrath of the highest, including his own family,
Marguerite Kaye
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I found the opening chapters of this story very difficult. Ellen, the heroine is a courtesan, just as the title says, but unlike some period romances featuring 'professional' women, this one ddn't shy away from how Ellen earned her living. So when, right at the start, she is handed over by her protector in payment for a debt, to Edward, the man destined to become the hero, I felt pretty uncomfortable. They have sex. Of course they have sex, that's what Ellen does, and of course Edward enjoys it ...more
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're in the slumps of late and are looking for a new author, I'm more than happy to point out to you Jane Lark and her début novel `Illicit Love'.

She just blew me away with this romantic, sensual and heartbreaking story of true love. This story truly makes you believe that true love can conquer all obstacles in its path.

Jane Lark creates a pair of lovers that are refreshingly honest in their desires of each other, and that in itself is unique.

Everything about this novel impressed. The uniqu
Cari Sury (Girl+Book Love Blog)
See more of my reviews at!

This book sucked me in and wouldn’t let me out! I was intrigued by the blurb, but the beginning of the book got my attention. This book is incredibly well written and beautifully worded. I can’t imagine the research and time that went into making this book sound so authentic to the time. This book was also quite emotionally taxing. My heart hurt for the characters and the problems they were facing. This book also seemed “epic” to me…I’m not sure tha
Jun 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful, well written historical love story. Ellen is the mistress of an older very domineering man. They are at a gaming hall and he is playing cards. She knows that he is cheating. Her eyes meet the man across the table that he is betting against, Edward. She tries to warn him that the game is fixed. Somehow, Edward understands her message and calls the man out. When the man is shown to be a cheat he offers his mistress to the other man for an hour's use. Edward negotiates for 2 hours and ...more
Oct 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Arc copy via netgalley
This was a sweet story. Ellen rescued from being a mistress then we discover she is a dukes daughter. Having gone against her fathers wishes he disowns her telling everyone she died. Stole her son, she finds her rescuer in lord Edward. This book was ok. I read in the authors bio, she took 10 years to write this? If so I am not overly impressed. Sure it was written well, great characters, but reminds me of another historical fiction story...this drags a bit, found myself loo
Sorcha O'Dowd
A wonderful break from the real world, ‘Illicit Love’ is a beautiful story of the strength of love in the face of adversity and the importance of the bond of family. There is so much that I love about this story but can’t talk about in case it spoils the story development for potential readers, but I will say that this is a superbly written book. I absolutely adored Jane Lark’s writing style, and I am in awe at how beautifully the descriptive prose flowed throughout the novel.

‘Illicit Love’ is v
Jeannie Zelos
Oct 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Illicit Love of a Courtesan. Jane Lark.

ARC received via Netgalley.
Sometimes I enjoy a foray into the gentle romances, with a historical setting, and this one appealed so...
Ellen, what a lovely heroine. She's been through so much, and is stuck in a lifestyle she hates but has no way out. Then, out with her keeper one evening, she meets Lord Edward Marlow. Edward has a fascination for her, with one glance she sees in him everything she'd love to have. He's equally smitten, and when the chance
A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher and Fiction Addiction book tours in exchange for an honest review.
Actual Rating: 2.5 stars

Once in awhile I really enjoy a good Regency historical romance. I didn’t know much about what this story was about before reading; but I’m glad at least it fulfilled my expectations in the sense it was a good romance, albeit a predictable one.

We meet Eleanor, who is a courtesan. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a whore. We don’t know how she got
May 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Darkly romantic and full of deeply buried secrets, this book was absolutely fantastic! Illicit Love was a different historical romance, but one that I adored.

The idea for this book was different. A lady forced into being a courtesan to a brutal man? That's a new one for me. And I absolutely loved that about it. This book took on a daunted plot and totally pulled it off.

Ellen was remarkably strong. A single mistake in her past created a chain reaction that ruined her life. And, at the end, she wa
Literati Literature Lovers
Ellen Harding was a beautiful woman who was sold into an abusive relationship that she couldn’t escape nor felt she was good enough to try. Edward Marlow was a handsome, strong, and loving man and after seeing her, wanted Ellen for himself. Edward was her salvation.

After having had a taste of Edward, Ellen felt like she deserved better; she hadn’t felt worthy of anything good in a long time.

She walked away, snapping shut her fan and then holding it to her chest. Her heart thumping, she weaved a
Jane Hunt
Nov 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Illicit Love of a Courtesan (Marlow Intrigues, #1) by Jane Lark

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'The Illicit Love of a Courtesan' is Ellen's poignant battle to overcome the abuse she suffered after husband's death at Waterloo. Her emotional rebirth necessitates self-forgiveness and trust of others before she accepts the love which will restore her humanity and self-worth. Numerous obstacles plague her life in the form of cruel men and society's unforgiving strictures. To find her happy ever after she must harness her fears
Suze Lavender
Aug 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ellen is a harlot and even though she isn't living this life by choice there's nothing she can do to escape it. Lord Gainsborough is a terrible man who beats her, who blackmails her and who's cruel to her, but he owns her and she has to stay. Ellen is a stunning beauty, but that isn't the only reason Gainsborough is keeping her. He isn't prepared to lose her and to make sure that doesn't happen he's willing to go far. In a weak moment at a card game he loses her to Edward Marlow for two hours. T ...more
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love this story!

I was so happy this book was an eBook, because buying the eBook was the quickest way to get the words under my eyeballs. :) And am I ever glad I did! Not only is the plot itself amazing, but Jane Lark does an amazing job of helping the reader to understand her characters, either through offering background information, intimating their inner thoughts, or showing us how they react to things outside their control. The two main characters become emotionally bare with one another, vu
J.B (Debbie)
May 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Set in Regency England, the book's main character Ellen Harding is trapped in an arrangement that means she is nothing more than a rich man's plaything. Life's cruel set of circumstances have left her living a life she hates and leaves her being used and abused and nothing more than a commodity. Of course she wants for nothing, as the mistress of Lord Gainsborough, a savage brute of a man. But at what cost? This is a life she is desperate to escape. But, just what does Gainsborough hold over he
Andrea Guy
This is a unique historical. It isn't often you get the story from the eyes of women who is someone's mistress. However in this cast her protector isn't much of one.

So right from the start this is a book that is different.

Jane has created characters that you really feel for. Ellen has had a rough life to end up where she is right now, and you have to be rooting for her. You want her to have just a little bit of happiness in her life and Edward....ah...Edward. He is truly one of the best heroes I
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ellen Harding, mistress to her cruel keeper, feels empty and alone. Will the arrival and forbidden love to Edward make her come alive again or will her past secrets catch up with her?

What a brilliant read!! Jane Lark has an incredible talent to draw the reader in from the first page onwards. It usually always takes me a while to get used to a book and to get to know its characters, but Illicit Love captured me immediately.

I straight away warmed to Ellen. She has gone through so much and deserves
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay so I am NOT a big fan of historical romances but Illicit Love is so beautifully written it was a rare jewel I ran across that just warmed my heart and reeled me in. Ellen pulls at my heartstrings with what she is having to go thru with Lord Gainsborough and then to find love and joy at the same time with Edward and having to sneak around always a chance of getting caught and punished for her betrayals. Edward was a perfect gentleman who I instantly took a liking to especially when he called ...more
Sep 01, 2014 rated it liked it
I thought this story was written very well but quite a few things just weren't quite right. I found it very difficult to believe in how nice Edward and his circle of friends are. It seemed very black and white between the 'baddies' and the 'goodies'. Ellen herself should have been renamed Saint Ellen as it seemed she had no character flaws whatsoever, this was especially unbelievable given what had happened to her.

The beginning of the book has so much emotion as Ellen and Edward are looking at
I am not the biggest fan of historical romances; however, authors like Jane Lark and books like Illicit Love are fast changing my mind – and I’m beginning to wonder what I’ve been missing.

This is a pure, unadulterated romance read that ticks all the required boxes: well-written, great plot, dramatic, believable obstacles, beautiful protagonists and an aristocratic setting. Ellen and Edward are one of the best romance couples (move over Twilight, there’s a new Ed in town) I’ve come across in a lo
Apr 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This lovely debut piqued my interest from the start; according to the author's web site, it's inspired by real-life courtesan Harriette Wilson. I love history and literature and I was intrigued by the point of view and story of a reluctant mistress. A woman who, by circumstances beyond her choosing, falls into the role of mistress to survive when her father turns his back on her after a runaway marriage he disapproved of. The writing is beautiful and the story sweet yet sensual. My favorite thin ...more
Illicit Love and I started off on the wrong foot. The first scene was so familiar to me, I thought it would be a lot like the other historical romances I read, but Lark blew me out of the water. The unique kindness of her romantic hero isn't something I find in fiction, romantic or otherwise. Edward had no problem putting aside his own concerns, his worries, his problems to help Ellen take care of hers. The instant magic and chemistry between the the rest of my review at The Canon!
M Engram
Jun 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love readying stories about this time period and this book was no exception. This is a true tale of good winning out over evil and love concouring all! I loved the characters of Ellen and Edward and how they fell in love so easily. He didn't care about her past and loved her anyway. They endured hard times but in the end their love helped them though. She regained the love of her family and started another of their own. Beautiful love story taking me back to years way before our time.
May 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finished
Jane pens "Illicit Love" in a well written plot filled with drama and romance. I loved the chemistry between the characters which were very well written and realistic. A truly fantastic read that will captivate you from the start and should be on the TBR list of all historic romance lovers.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the author which was provided for an honest review.
Sweets Books
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
It was good! I actually read this one after book 2, so it was nice to see how Edward & Ellen got together! True, their beginning was more scandalous than any other …… but it was also their story and no one else's! Overall I enjoyed it and loved all the characters, well except Gainsborough's character that is! ;-)

Till next time ~ Sweets Books
Billie Jo
Just happened across this book and, unlike most new authors I've read, this one was wonderful! The story is a bit like Pretty Woman meets Ever After: A Cinderella Story. The way Jane Lark writes you can't help but be swept away by the story. I will definitely be watching for new releases by Ms. Lark!
Wendy Jones
Oct 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
Loved this book. Great characters and beautiful writing. A slightly shorter epilogue and it would have been perfect.
DNF 1/4 through. Was bored and not interested. The abuse the heroine takes at the hands of the villain is overkill.
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Jane is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance, and a Kindle top 25 bestselling author.

She began her first historical novel at sixteen, but a life full of adversity derailed her as she lives with the restrictions of Ankylosing Spondylitis.

When she finally completed a novel it was because she was determined not to reach forty still saying, I want to write.


Other books in the series

Marlow Intrigues (1 - 10 of 12 books)
  • The Lost Love of a Soldier (Marlow Intrigues #1)
  • Capturing the Earl's Love (Marlow Intrigues, #2.5)
  • The Passionate Love of a Rake (Marlow Intrigues, #3)
  • The Desperate Love of a Lord (Marlow Intrigues, #3.5)
  • The Scandalous Love of a Duke (Marlow Intrigues, #4)
  • The Dangerous Love of a Rogue (Marlow Intrigues #5)
  • The Jealous Love of a Scoundrel (The Marlow Intrigues #5.5)
  • The Persuasive Love of a Libertine (Marlow Intrigues #5.75)
  • The Secret Love of a Gentleman (Marlow Intrigues #6)
  • The Reckless Love Of An Heir (Marlow Intrigues #7)